Francesco Piazzesi

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Mexico
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Francesco Piazzesi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Through his program, Échale a tu casa! (Give your house a go!), Francesco has created a community-based model to help Mexican families at the bottom of the pyramid build their own homes. Échale is designed to bring community organization to the commonplace practice of self-construction in rural areas, in which families generally fend for themselves rather than work together. The centerpiece of the model is a local housing committee appointed by each community that assumes responsibility for the project along with the professional support of the Échale team. All construction work is done collectively, with teams of neighbors pooling their labor to help each other build their homes. Échale’s social franchise replication model—which Francesco is now beginning to pilot—is also community-based, with local leaders assuming supervisory roles over multiple community construction projects in exchange for a commission.

Another key element of Échale’s approach is the financing model via a legal structure known as a sociedad financiera comunitaria (community financial society) or SOFINCO in Spanish. Families who put their savings into a SOFINCO fund are essentially buying owner’s shares in that fund, allowing their savings to be leveraged as a financial guarantee to obtain loans from the government or private banks. This overcomes the biggest financial barrier that families at the bottom of the pyramid face in Mexico: The inability to furnish a financial guarantee for credit. The SOFINCO funds, which are managed by the local community housing committee, can be combined with federal housing subsidies to finance an Échale self-construction project in that particular community.

The final innovative component of Francesco’s model is the use of adobe blocks as the primary building material. Using special equipment known as an Adopress machine, participating families can create adobe blocks quickly and easily using locally sourced dirt. In addition to being much more aesthetically pleasing than the cheap, low-quality materials that are traditionally used in self-construction, the resulting adobe blocks (known as Adoblock) are also light, resistant, and environmentally friendly. Since the Adopress machines are simple to operate with minimal supervision, community members can assume responsibility for nearly the entire building process from raw materials to finished homes.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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