Taking it to the street

Taking it to the street

Lately I’ve been exploring  some really interesting projects and organisations that have a focus on community and empowering young people to get out there and change their environment. Encouraging learning by doing. I’ve compliled a list of the projects I’ve discovered so far, here’s Part 1. They are definitely worth checking out!

building hero project 4

The Building Hero project

Building Hero Project in Philadelphia empowers young people to be community change makers and leaders, by educating them in design and entrepreneurship. The group meet a couple of weekday afternoons at the department of Making + Doing in West Philadelphia. They aim to make their neighbourhoods better places to live through design, so public spaces are central to the program. The ‘heroes’ learn through designing, making and selling products that improve public spaces, homes and everyday lives.  For example one bench was originally designed to be put in neighbourhoods that lacked public space. A really simple way to transform public space.

The Building Hero project has an interesting and highly sustainable funding model. They sell the products designed on their highly successful Etsy store. The money raised from the Etsy store means that they are able to fund the program, covering material and tool costs, pay a Building Hero and help the program grow.

project m

Project M 

Started in Alabama, Project M goes by the tag line “thinking wrong”. Inspired by architect Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio, graphic designer John Bielenberg started the program to inspire designers,and creatives from a range fo fields to use their work to positively impact communities.

Similar to the Building Hero Project participants are encouraged to experience being social entrepreneurs by going out there and making. Not to wait for permission or a project. . The sessions run for two- four weeks with a groups of 10 people, and there are shorter projects 48 hour “blitzes”. The groups have to identify a problem and solve it. By finding something that is meaningful, something they are passionate about and figure out a way to do it. The resulting projects include Pie Lab, a space for conversation and design. It started small as with Project M members standing in a street corner and handing out slices of pie to passers-by with the idea to spur community and conversation, one slice at a time. It has since grown to a local cafe with a space for designers.

Tog studio
Tog Studio is a live-build summer school, started by Scottish architecture and engineering graduates to meet the gaps in traditional education. The emphasis is on practical building skills and collaboration on real life projects in beautiful locations.

Tog is a gaelic word that means ‘build’ ‘raise’ educate and ‘excite’. Their projects aim to inspire self builders, in 2013 the team built a boathouse for the Tiree Maritime trust.

I find these projects so inspiring. Their real life problem solving initiatives and balance of education, action and entrepreneurship is wonderful to see and the positive impacts they are making in their communities.


If you know of other interesting projects let me know and I’ll check them out! And keep an eye out for Part 2 🙂


Before I die… Public Art Project

Before I die… Public Art Project

Before I die is an interactive public art project, initiated by Candy Chang that invites people to share their personal aspirations in public space.

How did it get started?
Candy been making work exploring ways to share more with her neighbours using simple tools. The death of a loved one really affected her and made her think hard about death. So she decided to start this experiment creating an anonymous place to help restore perspective and connect with her neighbours.
alt= Before I die 
Why? What change are they trying to make/ believe in/ problem trying to solve?
Before I die… seeks to turn public/ shared space into a place for reflection and connection. To reflect on life and share contemplations and aspirations.

How are they doing this? what is the process?
It is done by turning walls into giant chalkboards, with the stencilled question, “before I die….” They have created a toolkit, and the project has spread worldwide.
What is the impact? 

It turns “neglected spaces into constructive ones”.

Who is it?
The project was started by Candy Chang and has since gone global.

9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design

9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design

alt= 9PIDwomen

Image via… Impact Design Hub

9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design.

Inspiring article on Architizer about the women who are changing the world through public interest design. From teaching young girls to weld, to designing prisons and working in impoverished settlements. I will definitely be exploring their work and finding out more about why and how they do it. Keep an eye on this space!
Emily Pilloton: Founder and Executive Director of Project H Design
Julia King: Sanitation specialist working in India’s informal settlements and the Architecture Journal’s 2014 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year
Erin McGurn: Co-Founder & Executive Director of SCALEAfrica
Liz Ogbu: Social design innovator and consultant who tackles “wicked social problems”
Marika Shioiri-Clark: Co-founder of MASS Design Group and Principal at SOSHL Studio
Emilie Taylor: Senior Program Coordinator and Design/Build Manager at Tulane City Center
Chelina Odbert: Co-founder and Executive Director of Kounkuey Design Initiative
Deanna VanBuren: Principal and Design Director of FOURM Design Studio and 2013 Loeb Fellow at Harvard GSD
Broken City Lab, Calgary, Canada

Broken City Lab, Calgary, Canada

Broken City Lab is a project in Calgary, Canada run by an artist led interdisciplinary collective and no profit. They used a range of projects, events, workshops and interventions to explore their locality. With a focus on research and social practice to generate works that critique, annotate and re-imagine the cities they encountered.
One of their projects was Urban Discovery, where they went around the city over a week, in a camper van making explorations and discoveries of the cities narrative. I love the idea of going round the city and engaging with people in their environment. Another thing that is great was the simple materials they used, like post it notes, blackboards.
Their blog is great so check it out! 🙂
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