The Building Hero Project,Our Community Design Leadership Program For Young Adults In Philly

Posted on May 16th, 2013 at 6:22 pm by in Our Work

The Building Hero Project,Our Community Design Leadership Program For Young Adults In Philly

The Building Hero Project is Public Workshop’s young adult community design leadership program through which we are growing an army of empowered and skilled young adult leaders and change agents who are able to help make their neighborhoods and Philadelphia better places to live through design. Every year a diverse team of 16-25 year olds from across the City will hone their design, fabrication, marketing, collaboration, and leadership skills by launching a micro-business to design, build, market, and sell one product that improves public spaces, schools, or neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The 2013 team–our first team–is focusing on creating benches. 


The Building Hero Project is an outgrowth of Tiny WPA, a program initiated by Public Workshop that places young adults at the forefront of stimulating community engagement and civic innovation in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) by empowering them to design and build improvements to their schools, public spaces, and the micro-infrastructure in their neighborhoods. Every one of our Tiny WPA projects acts as a mini-bootcamp, identifying young adults who are even more passionate and hungry than most to have a positive impact on their neighborhood and city. For us to truly be able to support and leverage this growing number of young adults into being effective leaders and civic design innovators in their communities, we need a self-sustaining mechanism for providing more focused leadership training, skill building, and team building than our on-the ground projects typically allow. With our new making-oriented civic innovation workshop, The Department of Making + Doing, we are now able to bring these young adults from across Philadelphia together and provide the space, tools, and sense of ‘team’ that helps create a ‘culture of greatness’, ultimately empowering them to do great things in our city.


Our inaugural team has been meeting regularly on a weekly basis since the end of March and is in the process of refining the design of their benches; tweaking their bench building process to be more participatory while still resulting in a beautiful product; developing business plans and other business infrastructure; testing their building process by teaching others how to create the benches, including execs from Leadership Philadelphia; creating a variety of self-funding mechanisms (including a Kickstarter Campaign); developing a web presence and social media campaign; bench-bombing public spaces to raise awareness, conduct market research, and get feedback; and starting to identify, and reaching out to local experts for help.

EVERYTHING is being bootstrapped. Public Workshop isn’t getting paid, the Building Heroes aren’t getting paid……..we all believe in this so much, we are all simply doing everything we can to make it happen.


Want to support or help out The Building Heroes?

The team is already on its way, creating simple yet savvy fundraising mechanisms such as this ingenious donation wall but they could really use the following:

Monetary donations for: pizza and bus/subway travel
Monetary or tool donations: two cordless drills, orbital sander, planer, joiner, japanese saws, tape measurers, belt sander, clamps
Expertise: video production, modern furniture business, business development, marketing
Materials: sand paper, wood, paint, stains, and polyurethane
Social media cheerleaders for their project + upcoming Kickstarter campaign

Interested in helping out or visiting the team? Send me an email and I will put you in touch with one of The Building Heroes:


Who are our incredible 2013 Building Heroes? 

Wynn Geary (Science Leadership Academy)
Alexa Eddy (Science Leadership Academy)
Raheem Reeder (George Washington High School)
Margaret Waters (Lincoln Tech)
Coby Unger (Philadelphia University)
James Bonney (Philadelphia University)
Meghan Talarowski (University of Pennsylvania)
Brandon Klevence (University of the Arts)
Kimi Marriott
Ila Kumar (Germantown Friends)

Are you interested in being a Building Hero in the future? Send us an email:










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