$1.25M grant won by Build Change
Kaden Sefcovic, 8, gives his Green Lantern kite a flight Monday near Argo Park in Denver's Globeville neighborhood with the temperature in the 60s. Cooler, wetter weather is expected for most of the rest of the week. Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Denver-based Build Change was already helping communities in emerging nations affected by earthquakes rebuild safer homes. So in 2014, the nonprofit decided to take it to the next level: retrofit homes to withstand disasters before they strike, saving lives in the process.
The move made sense — it’s already well known in the industry that investing $1 in prevention saves $7 in disaster response, Build Change founder and CEO Elizabeth Hausler said. But the nonprofit ran into a problem — that initial $1 was harder to get than the nonprofit expected.
“The reality of the disaster/ aid world is it’s a lot easier to raise money after a disaster, after a house collapsed, and sadly people have been injured or killed,” Hausler said. “You’d think there’d be more investment in prevention, but it doesn’t happen as much as we thought.”
But Build Change is about to get a whole bunch of prevention dollars.
The Skoll Foundation announced Monday that Build Change is the recipient of its $1.25 million grant for social entrepreneurship, which the nonprofit will put toward its prevention programs. Three other organizations will also receive awards during the April 5 ceremony. The foundation’s founder and chairman, Jeff Skoll, was the first president of eBay.
“The Skoll Award is so prestigious in the social entrepreneur community that it’s such an honor,” Hausler said. “It’s also a validation. It feels like it’s a validation of our progress so far.”
Starting in 2004, Build Change focused its first 10 years on changing how the relief community helps homeowners after earthquakes. But for its next 10 years, the nonprofit decided to focus on prevention, expanding to include areas impacted by typhoons and adding schools to the list.
Build Change works with governments to develop building standards if none exist. It trains everyone involved in construction — whether that’s the homeowner or brick maker — on how to build a safe structure that’s locally sourced, culturally appropriate, low cost and safe. The nonprofit also works with partners to provide access to funding.
It works in six countries: Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Haiti, Colombia and Guatemala.
Build Change has provided technical assistance to 50,000 homes and a handful of schools, whether that is by designing the structure or training the builder, Hausler said. It’s trained 25,000 people in basic construction and created 12,000 jobs, she added.
“It is possible to build an affordable, disasterresilient home that’s comfortable for people to live in,” Hausler said. “It is possible to prevent this problem from happening.”