It started with an earthquake
In 2015 a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Millions of families lost their homes and livelihoods and the earthquake hit the poorest the hardest, pushing women, children, and vulnerable groups deeper into debt and extreme poverty.
Social entreprenuers Björn Söderberg & Bina Shrestha were working to help poor families rebuild their homes. We worked side-by-side with affected families, and they all dreamed of better income and safe homes to live in. But there were no jobs, and they could not afford a new house. We realized that the only way to rebuild on the scale needed in remote villages is to empower the locals to build by themselves using local materials. We interviewed several families, all of them were dreaming of living in a brick house. But no one could afford it
We started Build up Nepal to help them fulfill that dream. Build up Nepal’s mission is to make bricks Eco-friendly and affordable for poor families.
Low cost housing - through local micro enterprises
We soon realized that the most effective way to build in remote rural areas is to empower local entrepreneurs. They know the area, the people and can operate a micro enterprise very effectively. In their area they can operate and build cheaper and more effective than any large construction company or NGO. The entrepreneur invests in the machine, set-up and materials and we support with training, quality assurance and long term support. Each enterprise acts as a sustainable economic engine in the village creating jobs, building new houses and resilience over the long term. Our job is to help them succeed.
Average impact per enterprise each year:
– 15 low-cost houses
– 10-12 jobs in the village
– Saving 70-tons of CO2 emissions
Björn Söderberg - social entreprenuer
Our co-founder Björn Söderberg grew up in sweden. He came to Nepal at age 19 with a dream to make a difference.
He started Watabaran – a paper recycling company working to create jobs for unemployed orphans and youth. Björn is a social entreprenuer with a passion to develop solutions for poor disadvantaged families and fight climate change. He has a unique ability to see solutions instead of problems (even in the aftermath of a natural disaster) and to go from idea to action in very short time.
He also founded a Bio-fuel company (Watabaran Bio-fuel pvt ltd) to replace fossil fuels and prevent deforestation in the himalayas and WebSearch Professional pvt ltd an IT company working to build web and mobile solutions for sustainable development, and swedish company Fair Enterprise Network working with CSR to show how sustainable is profitable.
Working to build social business in Nepal for 18 years I have learned that making a difference is very hard. Money does not solve deep rooted problems. The idea that seemed so great never quite works in practice.
Real change is difficult. It takes time. You make mistakes and fail. You try again, and again when all logic tells you to give up. You keep on working day-and-night changing that idea, adapting it, evolving. Then slowly you start making a difference.
If you want to make a difference – Never ever give up.
Bina Shrestha - social entreprenuer
Bina Shrestha has developed deep determination and grit to overcome challenges as a female entrepreneur in South Asia. She was running a deep-cleaning company i Kathmandu working to empower cleaners and women when the earthquake hit.
“It was heart-wrenching to see women and children living in shelterless places. People were sitting outside of their houses that were razed to the ground. We had to do something”.
Bina has a 6th sense for busines strategy always keeping the long term goals and visions in mind.
She was recently awarded the Waizlitz Global Citizen award for her outstanding work empowering women and rebuilding Nepal.
A scalable model to fight poverty build houses and micro-enterprises
Build up Nepal is committed to developing an effective and scalable model as this is the only way to build housing and fight poverty on the scale required. When starting out we were only four people in the company. Initially our co-founder Björn Söderberg was spending most of my time in the field, testing and failing, developing new approaches until we had a proof-of-concept. Initially we worked with NGOs as our partners, but we quickly realised that fully funded NGO-projects are not scalable and often lack local ownership.
We pivoted and started focusing on working directly with rural entrepreneurs and communities. The entrepreneurs/community invests in the machine and initial training and we support them over 12 months with house designs, stakeholder mobilisation and quality assurance to help the enterprise succeed. In 2017 we supported the government of Nepal to approve the Interlocking Brick technology in Nepal and since then we have scaled rapidly, supporting 250 entrepreneurs and communities to build more than 6000 houses.
Build up Nepal now consists of a strong team of 21 social entrepreneurs, engineers, builders and community mobilisers all committed to expand our work and impact across Nepal and Asia. Many NGOs (Oxfam, Practical Action, DFAT etc.) have chosen to invest in our model to catalyse sustained impact. We have already established the model as a mainstream construction model in core earthquake affected areas, now working to scale the model across Nepal and the region, focusing on poor rural communities where lack of housing and poverty is widespread.