Roxana Fabris is a Mexican entrepreneur and the President of Construyendo y Creciendo, an enterprise that focuses on creating economic opportunities for construction workers and other vulnerable populations. From a young age, Roxana had an entrepreneurial spirit and a versatile career in the housing industry, real estate development, infrastructure, and the construction industry. With a unique, energetic style of leadership, Roxana is an excellent example of what can be achieved when women take the lead.
In an interview with PerceptivX, Roxana shares her unique perspective on the industry and how she plans to expand her business further. Below are the highlights.
Creating an equitable and prosperous world
Roxana Fabris: “For more than 20 years my professional experience has been linked to the real estate and construction sectors, through the company I founded in 2002, Centro Urbano, a think tank focused on communication and consulting in these industries. In this context, I have participated as a columnist in various newspapers, magazines, websites, and other media, given conferences, and edited more than 50 books, including three for UN-Habitat. Throughout my career, I have learned very closely about the obstacles and limitations that construction workers face. For this reason, in 2014, I became involved in the work of Construyendo y Creciendo and since 2017, I have been its President. The name Construyendo y Creciendo, Building and Growing, proposed by the founder of the organization, José Shabot, perfectly describes our mission and objective: as our students, construction workers, build better cities, they grow by building a better future, for them and their families. As a non-profit organization, Construyendo y Creciendo (Building and Growing) through education and training, seeks to increase the human development and quality of life of construction workers and, with this, have a positive impact on the development of this industry. It is focused on raising the levels of human development of construction workers and other vulnerable populations, to improve their quality of life and, through this, contribute to the development and growth of Mexico. Construyendo y Creciendo (Building and Growing) began activities in 2006. Our headquarters are in Mexico City, but we have a presence in 24 states of the Mexican Republic, especially in the North, Center, and South regions of the country, where we have installed close to 200 study classrooms. We have impacted more than 3,500 people who attended in the classrooms of 2022, of which 65% were enrolled in an Education for Employability service. Due to the success of our Aulas a Distancia project, we were the first Foundation to receive the 2021 UNESCO-Confucius Prize for Literacy, which honors the Distance Learning program. Throughout 16 years, we have impacted the lives of more than 30,000 people, and managed to indirectly benefit more than 120,000.”
Excellence is the goal
Roxana Fabris: “The success of our model lies in the installation of study classrooms within construction sites or in well-located public spaces so that workers and other members of the community can have access to free, quality education with a constructivist approach. The educational process is personalized, taking into account the interests and context of each student, whom we seek to turn into Change makers, who promote the importance of education and training among their close circle, their families, and communities. In this way, our impact multiplies and generates sustainable change. Our educational proposal is comprehensive, addressing three main axes: academic education, job training with a focus on employability, and human development so that those who pass through our classrooms become better students, better workers, and above all, better human beings and better citizens. Construyendo y Creciendo (Building and Growing) seeks to raise levels of Human Development in construction workers and their environment through education and training. Through our activities, we support different Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, especially Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work & Economic Growth, and Reduced Inequalities.”
A unique model
Roxana Fabris: “In Construyendo y Creciendo, students don’t go to school; school goes to them. This is done through the installation of classrooms within construction sites, where workers can study before or after their workday. With this, we managed to overcome the main obstacles that this adult population has to continue studying: education is free and is available in their workplace, with the support of their employers. Our methodology considers the context and interests of each student and takes advantage of their knowledge, which facilitates the conclusion of the studies. That is why our graduation rate is higher than the national average. Construyendo y Creciendo works hand in hand with real estate developers, builders, and industry suppliers, becoming the social arm of this industry with which we collaborate to promote a more responsible and sustainable sector.”
Empowering lives. Empowering future
Roxana Fabris: “The construction industry is the third largest contributor to Mexico’s GDP, at close to 14%. It is also one of the sectors that generates the most employment in the country, and yet it represents the second economic sector with the greatest educational gap: 10% of masons are still illiterate, and only 47% of construction workers have completed some level of education. They come from the poorest states in Mexico, which generates other problems associated with migration and discrimination. By offering them free education and training through study rooms inside construction sites, we help them overcome the main obstacles to continuing their studies: time, money, and distance. In our classrooms, workers can learn to read and write, complete their basic education studies, learn the use of technology, receive training in trades, obtain information on health and the management of emotions, and attend courses and workshops on avoiding violence. We especially focus on the development of women in construction, who, despite having a higher level of education, occupy the lowest positions and earn much less income than men. Thanks to education and training, workers can increase their professional development, access more dignified and better-paid jobs, and have a positive impact on their families and communities. With this, in addition to building better cities, they build a better future for themselves.”
Failure is an opportunity in disguise
Roxana Fabris: “I do not believe that failure exists; only opportunities for learning and improvement. Every challenge we face leads us to learn lessons to do our job better. The closure of our classrooms as a result of the pandemic led us to expand our model and accelerate the development of distance education. It was not a failure, it was a great opportunity to develop our creativity to solve a major problem for ourselves as an organization, but mainly a problem for our students who would no longer have opportunities to continue studying and excel. When a student does not immediately achieve an educational goal, we invite him to analyze what he has learned along the way and how he has benefited from the process. If they saw this as a failure, our job would not serve their future development. Each unfulfilled objective, more than a failure, is an opportunity for improvement and growth.”
More about Roxana
Roxana Fabris: “I read, prepare myself, and listen, outside and inside the organization. Every day, in every circumstance, I look at all sides of a problem I’m facing, asking myself if it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. I try to surround myself with the best possible team and listen to them to solve problems with the widest possible range of solutions. I always ask and remind myself WHY I do what I do; beyond how, the key question is WHY. My main passion is traveling and getting to know other places and cultures, which has also allowed me to value my own reality. I also enjoy reading because it is another way of traveling and getting to know other worlds, times, characters, and realities. Something interesting has happened in my career: my whole family has been dedicated to education, and perhaps out of rebellion, I decided to study something completely different: architecture. A field that, I thought, would allow me to transcend through built work. I dedicate myself to offering education to construction workers, and I am convinced that there will not be a more noble way to transcend.”
The growth model
Roxana Fabris: “One of the challenges that I am most excited about is being able to take our model to other countries that face similar situations of lag. Likewise, to be able to serve other sectors and industries, especially agriculture and maquila workers. It motivates me to be able to significantly impact the human development indicators in this industry and the country in general, which we already did thanks to the UNESCO Prize: to become a benchmark in the world on how to offer education to vulnerable populations.
In the next few years, we will be focused on expanding our model nationally and internationally and continuing to develop a distance education model that can be accessible to those with little access and technological knowledge.”