Ana María Gutiérrez

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Ana María Gutiérrez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Ana Maria Gutierrez is equipping rural communities in Colombia to improve their own living conditions, tying them closer to their environments in a situation causing many to move away. In areas with insufficient infrastructure, waste management, and housing (over 1 million units are lacking across Colombia) her Organizmo foundation identifies local leaders and offers training in architectural techniques and other solutions. Her approach is one that places value on the knowledge and resources at hand, changing perceptions that local or recycled building materials and traditional cultures are inferior to those outside. Organizmo training also emphasizes the symbiotic relationship residents have with their environment and finding solutions that reduce the communities’ environmental footprint. Finally, the approach is one that is driven by the community. Local leaders share the new skills they have learned and determine how they will use them to carry out new projects that change the community’s lifestyle.

Through her Organizmo training center and in the communities themselves, Ana María is working with local leaders to identify the problems they want to tackle. Then, after they develop their own community action plan, Ana María plugs in partners ranging from universities to the government to other foundations to support the plan with needed expertise and resources. Meanwhile, the community leaders receive Organizmo training in construction and other community development techniques as they implement the plan. In this way, the leaders learn as they go and pull in other community members. The actual construction becomes a platform for community interaction, directed by local leaders who are multipliers of the techniques they learn. Organizmo continues to offer open workshops during and after the community projects to encourage the new habits of ownership and relationships to the environment.

In collaboration with universities, the Organizmo training center, and international partnerships and volunteers, Ana Maria is proving that given the skills, rural communities can solve their own infrastructure problems. She has already trained 1200 people in her development and bioconstruction techniques who have taken those skills across Colombia and to 8 other countries; universities in Colombia are incorporating her approach into their architecture curriculums; and her Laboratory for Social Housing documents and continues to develop the techniques. In the meantime, the local leaders are transforming their neighbors’ habits and thereby their communities to make them places people want to stay.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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