Juan Diego Calisto Aguirre

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Juan Diego Calisto Aguirre was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Juan Diego Calisto is starting a citizen movement in the poorest and most marginalized urban communities in Peru. His organization, Ruwasunchis, is based on the four values of community, humility, commitment, and openness to change. Unlike other programs that deal with one or two aspects of marginalized communities, Juan Diego’s approach is comprehensive and starts at the roots. By training community leaders from a very young age, he “raises” them to be changemakers in the community, ultimately receiving the prestigious designation of Tarpuq – “one that plants.” In that way, the very DNA of the community is changing as the Tarpuq become role models and multipliers of the skills and values they have learned.
The Ruwasunchis model works with each age group, offering age-appropriate workshops in the realms of personal, professional, and family life. Running throughout all workshops is an emphasis on overcoming the many barriers in the community, as well as creativity. While most community development projects focus on the effects of poverty, Juan Diego’s model works to prevent it, seeding new habits and integrating them closely with families. By working with all family members (and ages) on a Personal Development Plan (PCP), he meets community members where they are, but involves them continuously in the process of iteration. From the womb to old age, the Ruwasunchi activities develop both values and skills, while also generating income.
All along, Juan Diego’s model treats the community residents as change agents, capable of improving their own situation and training others to do the same. By strengthening social fabric, Ruwashunchi is making it easier for external allies to help. Volunteers, businesses, and other partners join in to support the communities, providing channels to push change forward. In this way, Ruwashunchi is institutionalizing the formation of new role models, and accelerating change by setting a baseline of activated citizens to attract and engage other allies.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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