Client People’s Emergency Center
With the support of Cognizant and ArtPlace through the Department of Making + Doing, Public Workshop worked with seven teens from our client, People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in 2014 to co-design solutions that would make their work as ‘Community Connectors’ more effective. Through a quick design research process, they decided that they wanted to strengthen communication in the neighborhood by creating a community message board; improve volunteerism at PEC by developing a laser-cut pop-up trophy; creating branding and related sweat and t-shirts to make the team recognizable when distributing information in the neighborhood; and preventing regular shopping bag collapse at PEC’s food pantry that they help run by developing reusable bags that also encourage civic engagement. Over the course of six months, the team co-designed and developed a variety of solutions. Given bad weather during much of the design period, the team did not use Public Workshop’s typical full-scale rapid-prototyping method, instead using small models to develop ideas before refining them onsite months later during the build process. The laser cut trophies went through many, many iterations to find the right legibility, ease of use and durable materials. It was distributed at various points throughout the year as thank you’s to volunteers. While the bag never moved beyond a series of prototypes there is still an intention to develop a final version in the future–at the time the team was lacking a true sewing expert to help see the design through. That being said, a big success was the team co-developing branding for the bag and apparel, understanding the power of clearly presented statements coupled with their actions as a mechanism for inspiring others in their neighborhood.
The final design-build construction process led by the PEC Community Connectors, Public Workshop staff and our Building Hero Project team members, engaged hundreds of people in creating the iconic shelter and message board. Through the teen’s leadership, the lot was transformed into a community maker space, particularly leading to a group of 7-10 year olds not only routinely helping build but using scraps from the project to build their own structures and even ‘models’ of their extended families. And it was just young kids who got involved. On a daily basis there were female teenage Building Heroes like Tiarra and Tamira teaching un-handy local handymen or semi-homeless women how to build. The project is notable for not only the number of people who participated and stopped their cars in the midst of rush hour traffic to cheer for the team but the multitudes of people in the neighborhood who routinely stated how they want and need many more projects like this one. It is also remarkable that the project resulted in contractors trying to hire some of the teens away and nearby small business owners soliciting the team for small design/fabrication improvements to their businesses. Many participants in this project who got involved simply by walking past the site also took on key roles in the creation of the mini-park and playground a few blocks away that we started with our client, PEC, in November 2014.