Searching for Necessity

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© 2013 – 2104


“How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.” – R. Buckminster Fuller


Searching for Necessity: People Making a Difference in Cities Across the U.S.

Designed by: Tomorrow Today In Partnership with: Little Things Labs; The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation; The Footprint Foundation; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.














In the summer of 2013, we had the good fortune to visit eleven American cities and connect with the lead visionaries at thirty places of civic, cultural and social innovation. We set out to uncover the following:

leaders who are rethinking the way traditional systems operate in cities, we hope to also spark a deeper conversation around the emerging trends, overlapping themes and noticeable gaps in the developing field of civic innovation.

1. What special practices can be discovered in urban innovation epicenters that may be replicable, scalable and transformative?

It is useful to note that we chose our locations of study based on personal interest. We were most curious about projects working to advance cities by investing directly in people and place. Most of these projects are inherently focused on solving a problem or seizing an opportunity. We explored nonprofits, for-profits, startups and hybrid models. In most cases we were able to speak directly with the founder or lead visionary behind the work. We spent 3–6 days in each city, leaving room in our schedule to explore other noteworthy projects suggested by of our interviewees.

2. How are emerging projects influencing traditional institutions, public policy and city futures? 3. What urban phenomena are producing above average results and return on investment? During this three-month period, we listened as visionaries explained their work in detail. The result was a copious amount of notes, images and audio files and a wealth of insight. With this book we have chosen to zoom into twelve cases, extracting key learnings from each. Though our distillation process has been rigorous, we’ve resisted the urge to articulate a single model of civic innovation, instead allowing each case to demonstrate the range of models working on the ground today. While our main purpose is to highlight inspired



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1. Glass House Collective | Chattanooga, TN

5. Makeshift Society | San Francisco, CA

Glass House Collective brings life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life. Entrepreneurial and beta-minded, Glass House gathers diverse teams of talent to revitalize a historic neighborhood in Chattanooga.

Makeshift Society fosters creativity, collaboration and community through a co-working space/clubhouse, innovative programming and support for freelancers and small business owners in San Francisco. Makeshift emphasizes peer learning and mentoring and aims to create an environment that enables everyone to make, learn, teach and think.

2. CreateHere | Chattanooga, TN CreateHere was a five-year initiative that advanced arts, economic, and cultural development in the urban core. The CreateHere team put creative processes to work to connect locals around pressing issues, including safety, education, jobs and talent retention. Projects included a leadership development fellowship, a small business planning course, a grants program for creatives and Stand, the world’s largest community visioning effort.

3. 5M | San Francisco, CA

6. SPUR | San Francisco, CA Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area. In May 2009, the opening of the 14,500-square-foot SPUR Urban Center launched a major new chapter in the life of the organization and in civic planning in San Francisco. Located in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district, the Urban Center provides a common ground for citizens to come together in fruitful, forward-thinking conversation.

The 5M Project is a creative development in downtown San Francisco designed to catalyze innovative ideas that are building the economy and strengthening communities. Artists, makers, students, entrepreneurs, activists and local food advocates use the space to exchange ideas, prototype, launch companies, source funding and access new markets, generating enormous value through shared resources for everyone who participates.

7. d.School | Stanford, CA

4. [Freespace] | San Francisco, CA

8. ZERO1 | San Jose, CA

Freespace was a temporary, experimental cultural space in the heart of San Francisco, encouraging individuals from diverse backgrounds to reimagine the urban experience by activating an empty building in creative ways. Over the course of two months, the Freespace team aimed to demonstrate that civic improvement and community building are possible when people simply have a space to come together, share, collaborate and create.

ZERO1 is where art meets technology to shape the future. Working with some of the most fertile and creative minds from the worlds of art, science, design, architecture and technology, ZERO1 produces the ZERO1 Biennial, an international showcase of work at the nexus of art and technology and the ZERO1 Fellowship program where principles of artistic creativity are applied to realworld innovation challenges.

The d.School is a hub for innovators at Stanford University. Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, the sciences and education work together to take on the world’s messy problems, developing a process for producing creative solutions to complex challenges.



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9. Two Bit Circus | Los Angeles, CA

12. cityLAB | Pittsburgh, PA

Two Bit Circus is a think tank and talent magnet building products at the crossroads of amusement and education. The interdisciplinary team strives to make entertainment more enriching and education more fun. Endeavors include: attractions that increase traffic and revenue for public venues, large-scale, cause-based events that are impossible to forget and original content that has already gathered millions of loyal followers online.

CityLAB is a nonprofit that performs experiments in the city. Experiments are chosen to seed economic development, generate buzz, and effect positive change in the city, from inside and out.

10. Big Car | Indianapolis, IN Big Car brings art to people and people to art, sparking creativity in lives to transform communities. As an adaptive and flexible cultural organization, Big Car draws together people of all backgrounds to promote and perpetuate creativity, invigorate public places and support better neighborhoods.

11. People for Urban Progress | Indianapolis, IN People for Urban Progress is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that advances connectivity, environmental awareness, and good design. PUP rescues discarded materials, hacking and redesigning them for public benefit. These locally-designed goods fund big projects and big ideas that improve Indianapolis’ urban spaces. Simply put, we make goods for good.

13. Saxifrage School | Pittsburgh, PA The Saxifrage School is a higher education laboratory working to lower costs, rethink the college campus and reconcile disciplines. By simplifying the transaction between teacher and student, building student responsibility and operating a non-traditional campus, Saxifrage School is working to significantly lower education costs to about one-sixth that of some comparable programs.

14. New Urban Mechanics | Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics pilots experiments that offer the potential to radically improve the quality of city services. To design, conduct and evaluate pilot projects in these areas, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics builds partnerships between constituents, academics, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and city staff.

15. Next City | Philadelphia, PA Next City is a nonprofit media organization dedicated to connecting cities and informing the people who work to improve them. Next City provides daily online coverage of public policy and current affairs from an urbanist perspective and produces events including an annual urban leadership conference.



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16. NextFab | Philadelphia, PA

19. Be Social Change | New York, NY

NextFab is a membership-based, high-tech workshop and prototyping center. Located in a 21,000-square-foot facility, the former custom iron workshop has been reconfigured into an engine of tomorrow’s creative economy featuring a collaboration space with cutting edge tools, expert staffing, 3D printers, computer-controlled machine tools, software, electronic workbenches, classes, workshops and friendly and affordable consulting services.

Be Social Change is a passionate team of community builders on a mission to educate and connect the next generation of social entrepreneurs, empowering them with knowledge, skills and a supporting community. The result is the creation of careers and organizations making bold and innovative social impact.

17. Philadelphia Social Innovation Lab | Philadelphia, PA

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement. CUP collaborates with designers, educators, advocates, students and communities to make educational tools that demystify complex policy and planning issues.

The Philadelphia Social Innovations Lab is committed to promoting and nurturing innovation for social impact. Operating during a 15-week period, the Lab leads participants through the components and competencies of social innovations and innovators, building the infrastructure necessary to position their service, program or product idea.

18. Hidden City | Philadelphia, PA Hidden City Philadelphia pulls back the curtain on the city’s most remarkable places connecting them to new people, functions and resources. Celebrating the power of place and inspiring local action, Hidden City produces a web magazine and hosts immersive city tours and events including the Hidden City Festival, a festival that presents massive sculptural installations, participatory social experiments and dynamic music performances in hidden places throughout the city.

20. Center for Urban Pedagogy | Brooklyn, NY

21. Centre for Social Innovation | New York, NY The Centre for Social Innovation is home to a diverse community of people and organizations that are creating a better world. Part co-working space, part community center and part incubator for people and organizations that are changing the world, CSI provides its members with the spaces, relationships and knowledge they need to translate ideas to impact.

22. STORY | New York, NY Located in Manhattan’s burgeoning new retail corridor of 10th Avenue, STORY is a retail space that has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store. Every four to eight weeks, STORY changes out all of its merchandise design and fixtures, reinventing the store around a different story-based theme.



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23. The Trust for Governors Island | New York, NY

25. Matter | New Orleans, LA

Governors Island is a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor. For almost two centuries, Governors Island was a military base—home to the U.S. Army and later the Coast Guard­—and closed to the public. The City of New York, now responsible for the Island, created the Trust for Governors Island, an organization charged with its operations, planning and redevelopment. The Trust is transforming Governors Island into a destination with great public space as well as educational, not-for-profit and commercial facilities.

Matter is a New Orleans-based industrial design and consulting studio, uniquely focused on raising awareness and funding initiatives that advance social change. A portion of all proceeds from product sales flow to causes that impact the health, happiness, and sustainability of communities both locally and nationally. Matter’s inaugural project—the BirdProject—makes and sells bird-shaped glycerin soaps to help fund groups working on oil spill cleanup related to the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster.

24. St. Claude Main Street | New Orleans, LA

26. Artspace | New Orleans, LA

St. Claude Main Street promotes and supports an economically thriving and culturally rich crossroads of historic communities. A nonprofit organization run by an all-volunteer board, St. Claude Main Street works within the larger St. Claude Cultural District, developing and facilitating a variety of programs and projects including community visioning surveys, business development workshops, facade improvement grants, a dynamic night market and other temporary cultural events.

Artspace is America’s leader in arts-driven community transformation. With headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington, DC, Artspace runs a network of 33 affordable arts facilities in 13 states. Representing a $500 million investment in America’s arts infrastructure, Artspace facilities provide more than 1,100 affordable live/ work units for artists and their families as well as a million square feet of nonresidential space for artists, arts organizations and creative enterprises.

27. Washington Park Arts Incubator | Chicago, IL The Arts Incubator is home to UChicago’s Arts and Public Life initiative, which builds creative connections on Chicago’s South Side. Envisioned by artist Theaster Gates, the Arts Incubator is housed within a restored 1920s building and provides space for artist residencies and community-based arts projects, as well as exhibitions, performances and talks.



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Figures: 1. Freespace, a temporary space in San Francisco, CA. 2. Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles, CA. 3. BrunoWorks, a co-working space in Pittsburgh, PA. 4. NextFab in Philadelphia, PA. 5. A pop-up installation on Governors Island in New York. 6. The bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, LA. 7. S pontaneous Interventions exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center.

28. Firebelly University | Chicago, IL Firebelly University is a real world alternative to an MBA, teaching sociallyconscious designers to use their passion and skills to make a more just society. Firebelly University teaches invaluable skills that mold emerging designers into savvy leader capable of starting their own studio, nonprofit or enterprise.

29. D:hive | Detroit, MI The D:hive is a storefront and welcome center in Detroit’s Central Business District that helps people find places to live, great work opportunities, ways to engage and how to better build their businesses in the city.

30. Ponyride | Detroit, MI Ponyride is a study to see how the foreclosure crisis can have a positive impact on Detroit communities. Housed in a 30,000-square-foot warehouse, Ponyride provides cheap space for socially-conscious artists and entrepreneurs to share work, knowledge, resources and networks in Detroit.




















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“ Not everything is about innovation. It also matters what your follow through is like, and there are a lot of efforts in this world that fall down on implementation. Don’t make the mistake of valuing new ideas over implementation.” – Gabe Metcalf, SPUR “ Clarify your vision from the outset. Vision should be reflective of need, personal interest and capacity... We’re not trying to be too broad in our mission and focus. We’re not trying to do everything. Our model is to connect people to resources that already exist. What’s missing in the social space is often the connecting tissue. We’re tying people to resources that are already out there.” – Eli Malinsky, CSI

Nuts and Bolts Every city has challenges. Issues span from outmoded infrastructure to inefficient government, disengaged youth, generational poverty and everything in between. The need for innovation—introducing better methods into established systems—is evident. We began our research using the term “civic innovation” to define the broad range of projects and platforms being developed to tackle challenges around the country, and the term “innovator” to identify the individuals guiding this work. Yet neither of these words seemed to register with the people we interviewed. Most did not readily identify with the terms when describing their projects, even if their work is in fact introducing a new idea or method into an outdated system.

Seen and Heard While each project/lab certainly has it’s own distinct mission, focus and goals, what struck us was the degree to which similar tools, processes, principles, lessons and challenges emerged among the projects profiled. The vocabulary used to describe the work varied, but the core approaches were remarkably the same. While most visionaries could effectively articulate the heart of their work, many struggled to connect their practice to a broader field or discipline. This was not a



“ Innovation means doing things different. There isn’t innovation without disruption. It’s not really innovation if nothing changes.” – Jeff Friedman, New Urban Mechanics

surprise given the number of terms used to define the murky sphere of social good work. Nomenclature aside, we recognize that the boundaries between established (and establishing) disciplines are in flux. Yet to be a successful practitioner in transitional times, one must be able to identify how his or her work fits into the greater narrative, in this case the narrative of positive civic advancement. Times like these require diligent self-reflection. While this may come naturally for seasoned professionals, emerging visionaries often struggle to see the forest through the trees. This makes documenting, packaging and sharing successful practices an afterthought. When sharing does occur, it tends to focus on the endgame without much detail about the methods of approach. We hear the successes and see the glory shots, but rarely do we come to understand and learn from the pitfalls and failures that occurred along the way. Of course, spend any amount of time with these practitioners and you will hear a remarkably different story.

Room for More Innovative practices are happening all around us. Determined individuals are sidestepping the status quo to develop creative solutions that address the myriad challenges our cities face. The question remains of how to effectively share, measure, replicate and scale these practices. A move towards a more

succinct, commonly understood language or set of terminologies to define the work seems like a good place to start. But beyond that, we need better ways to model what works and set apart what doesn’t. Moreover, we need to push existing organizations to see the value of packaging their processes and to develop more practical ways for visionaries to come together and share these practices. (It’s worth noting that many visionaries interviewed throughout the course of our research expressed a desire to connect with others working in different cities on similar challenges. Visionaries want to share their lessons and processes but they want to do so in meaningful ways and face-to-face). We see a wealth of opportunity among these emerging disciplines of civic practice. In the face of challenge, creative individuals are increasingly inclined and able to put their skills to work to shape a better future for cities. This engagement at the individual level can serve first as a precursor and then as a driver for widescale urban transformation—but only if the right structures of support are built and maintained for the long haul. If innovation is truly opportunistic, then we must be intentional about creating ways to expand this work. Right people, right place, right time. There are gaps to be filled, dots to be connected and foundations to be poured. We pioneer forward knowing that the work we do today will be invaluable to generations tomorrow.




“You have to have a process for bringing new people in. It’s a critical part of the regeneration process—making sure that we get people with the right energy and talent.” – Gabe Metcalf, SPUR “The people are key. This work is for the entrepreneurial and self-starters. You have to find the people who have the ability to be agile and not demand ownership over their ideas.”

Nuts and Bolts Creative people are often drawn to opportunities that allow them to put their skills to work to solve complex challenges. When a visionary identifies an opportunity related to a specific place, skill or personal interest, he or she begins exploring possible solutions, often finding unique intersections among circumstances that others might bypass. Problem-solving is attractive to people with a pioneering or entrepreneurial spirit— those who are comfortable taking a leap, experimenting, failing and learning from those failures.

– Jeff Friedman, New Urban Mechanics

Seen and Heard Many of the visionaries interviewed are “serial entrepreneurs.” Most have owned businesses in the past and have cultivated broad skill sets through work and personal experience. From jewelry designers to circus performers, visionaries have a sense of “blue-sky” dreaming but also understand the importance of implementation and follow through. Their unexpected life experiences and “jack of all trade” backgrounds allow them to curate experiences that others cannot.



“ Staff is held to a very high standard. It’s all hands on deck. Everyone picks up garbage, including me.” – Leslie Koch, Governor’s Island

Visionaries often attribute organization and project success to their talented teams. While each lab or project has specific needs, there are a few key team roles that emerged consistently across many of our interviews. They are: Curator – develops programs, projects, core team, space Connector – builds relationships with partners, community members, city leaders, other individuals Manager – coordinates logistics, programs, financials Communicator – oversees all messaging, media, storytelling In early stages of development, one or two people will fill all of these roles. While this has been the case with many of the organizations interviewed, most visionaries recognize that this is not a sustainable model in the long run. For most, the addition of organizational talent has been gradual. This slow growth is often attributed to both financial and time constraints; however, when asked, most visionaries suggest that gradual team expansion (rather than hasty hiring) has been the best approach.

months to determine talent fit. As organizational and project needs shift, the most effective teams change accordingly. A majority of the organizations interviewed are building talent programs to offer a unique educational experience for young creatives. In recent years, it has become increasingly valuable for individuals to find opportunities that help them expand their portfolios and acquire additional leadership training. While fellowship models vary between organizations, most are focused on fostering the development of young talent, allowing them to explore their creative potential within a defined set of boundaries. Other models are focused on advancing mid-level talent. These programs enable talent to strengthen their expertise, engage in bold work or change fields and alter the direction of their careers.

Visionaries also understand that flexibility is important in the hiring process. Unpaid interns and contractors are brought on after they’ve worked with the organization on small projects. Visionaries note that they need between one week and several



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“ You can’t learn what you need about someone in 30 minutes. Our favorite interview question is: What are your side projects?” – Two Bit Circus

Talent Models Apprenticeships The Washington Park Arts Incubator started a Design Apprenticeship Program for youth and teens who live in the greater South Side Chicago area. DAP’s 10-week pilot program was tested with 10 teens who experienced ways to improve their community and neighborhood by creating site-specific architectural solutions. Students walked away from the experience learning hard skills related to carpentry, landscape, and design, while being paid for their time. Residencies In partnership with the University of Chicago, the Washington Park Arts Incubator facilitates a 10-month residency with mid-level, Chicago-based social practice artists. Still in its pilot year, artists are given 600 square feet of studio space in the Arts Incubator building and have access to many resources at the University. Artists receive a $10,000 stipend ($1K a month) to be in residence. Fellowships Working in partnership with corporations and cultural institutions, ZERO1 fellows are charged with developing lines of artistic research and production in response to specific innovation challenges. The program, still in its first year, was

piloted with support from Adobe, Google and the City of San Jose. Fellow honorariums range from $10,000 to $100,000. Design Challenges/Competitions The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) pairs renowned design talent—like Candy Chang and Oliver Munday—with local advocacy groups to work collectively on a variety of visual design projects. Design fellows are hired on a projectby-project basis and work with advocacy leaders to create data visualizations, educational toolkits and marketing materials that address a specific civic challenge. Designers receive an honorarium for their work. Alternative Education Firebelly University teaches participants how to take their social enterprise from idea to action. Participants invest $6,000 in the program as seed funding. They run a startup design studio for nine months and learn the ins and outs of running asmall business. Participants receive $1,000 monthly stipends and share a percentage of the startup’s monthly revenue. The Makers Institute is a year-long program that intends to create the next generation of serial entrepreneurs. A project of Be Social Change, the Makers Institute is an in-person and online learning platform focused on building a pipeline of entrepreneurial problem solvers tackling the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.



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Memberships Centre for Social Innovation offers community memberships that allow individuals to access unique knowledge-building opportunities and social capital. Members receive office/desk space, an intranet profile and invitations to CSI exclusive events and programs.

Biggest Barriers •

One or two individuals playing every role in the operation

O n-boarding


in individuals by providing funding for educational/ career advancement and dream projects

Grant funding to organizations for capacity building


Create experiences for knowledge transfer among peer circles

Share and grow a local/national fellowship index

knowledge transfer opportunities between emerging and experienced talent

the best talent, while remaining flexible

in hiring •

Taking a risk on young talent

Compensating high-level talent for their work

eeping communication open between senior and junior K team members Showcasing current projects and ideas to public

Figures: 1. Washington Arts Incubator Design Apprenticeship program woodshop. 2. The Center for Urban Pedagogy’s Making Policy Public program. 3. ZERO1 Innovation Fellows program.




Nuts and Bolts Leading visionaries understand that dreaming up an idea is only half the battle. They understand that the real work comes to bear in the messy space between the abstract project brief and the concrete demand for outcomes. Moving from idea to action is rarely a linear process and often transpires through a series of iterative steps. In situations where there exists no ready template for a solution, answers are unlikely to appear by just thinking harder. Visionaries find ways to move forward and produce useful feedback, which usually means developing a proposition that can be tested, adjusted and tested again. Working within a predetermined framework allows visionaries to stay on course—advancing their ideas further, quicker.

Seen and Heard Very few of the organizations interviewed were able to clearly articulate their process, i.e. the steps they take to move an idea towards action. Though most organizations are certainly moving through a series of steps to make the work happen, there are communication barriers when it comes to articulating a formula.

Some describe their process by using metaphors or language from other disciplines. Michael Bricker from People for Urban Progress describes his process in film terms, i.e. pre-production, production and post-production. Michael explained that for each stage of the film process one brings in the best of the best for an intense, focused period. Michael has been thinking about how to reorganize PUP’s work into something similar. While it was difficult to capture clear process steps from most organizations, many visionaries seemed to be advancing their ideas by using a formula close to the following: Identify Challenge – Visionaries almost always begin their work by identifying a problem or opportunity. In smaller cities, or those with less infrastructure, work is often driven by the understanding that “no one else is going to do it.” Find Partners – Most visionaries identify their partners early on, and suggest that relationship building is a crucial component to their work, i.e. “thousands of face-to-face meetings.” Seek Funding – Funding has been cited as the greatest challenge among most organizations, often referenced as the part in the process where many ideas lose steam. Do Research – Many visionaries were unfamiliar with other models similar to theirs. When asked about sources of inspiration, many seemed to be looking outside their focused discipline for unexpected parallels or intersections. For example,



“ When projects come up, we usually just respond with our gut. We need a process or tool to better help us determine which projects we do and don’t do.” – Michael Bricker, People for Urban Progress

Jamie Austin, programming director for ZERO1, explained how she’s been looking closely at venture capital models to better inform her work with artist fellowships. Similarly, Jeff Friedman of New Urban Mechanics is considering what it would look like to put proven customer service constructs to work in cities to better determine what people want/need. He notes, “If Target can leverage technology to better determine what their customers want/are buying, why can’t cities.”

Biggest Barriers

Collecting data and measuring outcomes

Test Idea – Starting small and prototyping quickly, then learning from this focused process, was lauded as a critical step in the work of most groups.

Securing funding for prototyping and experimentation

Packaging proven tools and solutions

Evaluate Solution – Analyzing impact and documenting both intended and unintended outcomes was discussed by most as a key step. However, many visionaries suggest that evaluation can be difficult. This is due, in part, to not having the proper tools, resources or capacity to collect and measure data. Package Work – The most successful organizations understand the value of good design and impactful storytelling, and recognize that different audiences (public, funders, etc.) require different forms of visual/verbal communication.

T alking about process and identifying steps taken to advance work R esearching and connecting with organizations doing similar work

Opportunities •

Model well-documented and well-articulated action steps

Connect visionaries working on similar challenges

Drive process-focused dialogue

Fund materials/equipment used for prototyping

Fund the creation of “how-to guides” or “toolkits”

Pair designers with visionaries to package solutions

Provide tools for collecting data and measuring outcomes




“ If you are going to build something awesome, it needs five ingredients that affect environment, people, and experiences. You have to understand the local history of the place. Know the context and read between the lines. You won’t be able to weave into the fabric unless you get it.” – Alex Michel, 5M “ The community will sniff it out if you’re not authentic. Nobody is handing out business cards here.” – Eli Malinsky, CSI

Nuts and Bolts Many visionaries craft early project plans in coffee shops, bars and living rooms or at lunch counters—all natural hubs of connectivity that allow for ideation and collaboration. However, over time visionaries realize the need to have a dedicated space for brainstorming, making and inventing. A physical space sets the tone. Architecting a comfortable, productive environment for team members is important. Community naturally develops as people start to feel at home in a space. Authentic relationships are formed, allowing members to exchange ideas, collaborate with ease, locate services and access new knowledge.

Seen and Heard Because for-profit and nonprofit strategies are often blended together, shared spaces are becoming incredibly popular. Co-work space enables diverse organizations and individuals to connect, giving them the chance to work together, share knowledge and develop systemic solutions to issues they’re trying to address. The following design ingredients were important to all of the shared spaces we visited and can be considered when building physical environments, teams, and/or creative experiences:



“ Real Estate is now becoming available in desk-size parcels.” – Bryan Boyer, Helsinki Design Lab

Light – create transparency and visibility

Biggest Barriers

History – understand the context of place

Needing space or outgrowing current space

Diversity – curate unexpected intersections

Understanding neighborhood context

Density – encourage frequent interactions and experiences

Creating flexible zones for diverse activities

Flexibility – be adaptable

Curating people in the space to set tone

Openness – design for permeability and foster communication

Finding space for brainstorming and prototyping

Shared spaces that acknowledge these design ingredients tend to be far more welcoming. Spaces that are well-designed and sensitive to specific building features and architectural elements are noted to be more inviting. Small, intentional design decisions can significantly impact the behavior of users. Community zones are incredibly important for promoting activity and interaction between team members and the public. Kitchens and living rooms are often positioned at the heart of shared spaces to build relationships and increase networking opportunities. Several organization’s spaces are animated by the team on a regular basis. Special events and programs require that architectural elements be flexible and easily moved around.

B uilding space (physical) and community (networks) simultaneously

Opportunities •

C reate shared spaces for co-working and collaborating Design unique spaces that address light, openness, flexibility, diversity, density and history

• C urate unique experiences and networking opportunities for team members, participants and the public •


Provide space for brainstorming and prototyping ideas


“ Shared space is the bedrock of our model. We say yes to about 90% of the applicants who apply, but people have to contribute to the community. We don’t monitor that officially; we just set the tone and watch the relationships form and unfold.” – Eli Malinsky, Centre for Social Innovation



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“ I t is impossible to maintain insularity and keep entirely to yourself when you can’t help but overhear your neighbor’s conversations...and you know that they can’t help overhearing yours.” – Eli Malinsky, Centre for Social Innovation



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“ There is much wisdom in the old adage that bonds are forged and friendships formed over the breaking of bread. It was over shared meals and communal lunches that CSI’s early members first developed connections to one another.” – Eli Malinsky, Centre for Social Innovation

Figures: 1–3. Centre for Social Innovation, New York City, NY. 4–5. The Hub, San Francisco, CA. 6–9. T he d.School at Stanford University. 10. W ashington Park Arts Incubator, Chicago, IL.



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“ The visual way the Lab manifests is critical. Brand matters.” – Bryan Boyer, Helsinki Design Lab “ We’re ultimately a planning organization but planning is intangible. That makes outreach and storytelling a challenge.” – Michael Martin, St. Claude Main Street

Nuts and Bolts Storytelling is an essential tool to shape experience, attract community/customer buy-in and further opportunities for collaboration. More than a lavish ad campaign or exaggerated PR push, stories connect with an audience in more authentic, emotional ways. Dynamic storytelling helps stakeholders encounter the work in its fullness, both practically and viscerally. Among those interviewed, the most successful storytellers have very defined goals and can articulate the reason for their organization’s existence in very simple, non-jargon terms.

Seen and Heard While most of the projects/labs interviewed have clear mission and vision statements, many find it challenging to articulate the scope of their work in clear, succinct terms. This is due in part to disparate terminology associated with emerging or hybrid disciplines. Moreover, when action or “getting it done” is the number one goal, storytelling moves further down the priority list. The organizations that talk about their work most effectively, can readily answer the following three questions: What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it?



“ We’re so ‘do’ focused that storytelling hasn’t been the strongest it could be.” – Michael Bricker, People for Urban Progress

Often, these same groups can point to a tangible product or service to point to. To overcome language barriers and abstract notions of possibility, some teams rely on a “show not tell” method of communication. They model, experiment and prototype their ideas into existence. Prototyping as a way to demonstrate the work becomes their primary storytelling tool. Tackling something concrete makes storytelling much easier.

“ We had no communications plan in the beginning. We just started doing. Not telling people what we were doing was probably not the best idea. We’ve also been conscience not to over-promote the work before there is actually work to talk about.” – Jeff Friedman, New Urban Mechanics

Biggest Barriers •

Not having a tangible product/service to point to

Doing is more important than storytelling

Mis-using complicated jargon

Different audiences require different forms of communication

Trouble identifying and/or articulating action steps

Opportunities •

Pair experienced storytellers with visionaries earlier

Connect visionaries working on similar challenges

Model simplicity in design and language




“ The best place to be when trying something new is close to a big pile of resources, surrounded by a small team controlling those resources.” – Bryan Boyer, Helsinki Design Lab “ If you’re banking on grants, it’s like Russian Roulette. Most funders don’t take risks; but you can’t always plan for innovation. We’re trying to be deliberate about not grant-funding. We’re trying to explore mercantile solutions and/or a hybrid business model that supports the journalism work as well.” – Thaddeus Squire, Hidden City

Nuts and Bolts Funding is complicated. It can be so complicated, in fact, that many ideas fail to move forward. Visionaries quickly learn that prototyping an idea can be expensive—materials, team support and resources require cold, hard cash. Visionaries who believe in their ideas almost always begin by investing their own money. Seeking additional funding is often likened to looking for a needle in a haystack. Many visionaries feel as though they are wasting money to look for money in the beginning. Pitching, networking and grantwriting takes time away from what most want to be doing instead—solving problems, making, doing and inventing. In early project phases, visionaries are not typically inclined to visit with a lawyer or financial advisor about their idea or business plan, even though most realize that business structure will determine how they obtain funding moving forward. Serial entrepreneurs with existing businesses or a pocketful of failed businesses are usually a step ahead, but less seasoned entrepreneurial spirits tend to seek legal and financial support after their idea has already been prototyped. A need to scale or expand a component of operations generally leads to the need for additional investment and financial support.



“ Very few opportunities exist to fund operational costs. Find a way to give people what they need to do what they do...and well. $5K doesn’t cut it.” – Dawn Hancock, Firebelly

Nonprofit, for-profit, B-corp, S-corp, LLC, L3C and fiscal sponsorship are all business models being utilized for this work. Experienced entrepreneurs suggest that they need a hybrid tax structure—one that allows both grant funding and earned revenue—that does not currently exist. Most visionaries manage to compartmentalize and work within the current system, or have a nonprofit arm of their for-profit enterprise. B-corps and L3C structures are pushing traditional models, but still have limits. New entrepreneurs tend to work under a LLC or fiscal sponsor when prototyping, before spending money and time to become a nonprofit or corporation. Traditional banks and foundations are not structured to quickly invest in individuals and their ideas. Contemporary models like crowd-funding, micro-grants and venture competitions are challenging old school models by providing access to a far greater number of individuals, but investment in these models are still largely viewed as high risk.

Seen and Heard Grants and crowd-funding platforms provide visionaries with short-term project funding—often enough to prototype their idea. Those with the most sustainable, long-term business plans tend to have a product, service, or membership structure that brings in enough cash to keep the work afloat. From pie to messenger bags, bbq to organic soap, entrepreneurs are making goods that do good. Those who are not “makers” are

generating revenue by selling space, time, or brain power. These visionaries are capitalizing on the notion that people (especially millenials) want to feel a sense of belonging while simultaneously supporting cool ideas. Many organizations have also created membership programs to support their work. Products People for Urban Progress sells dopp kits, messenger bags, and bus stop seats constructed from recycled materials from the Indianapolis Super Dome. Revenue from their products account for nearly 90% of their $200,000 annual budget. Products are sold for $30–$350 each. Services D:hive supports social, cultural and economic entrepreneurs eager to turn their ideas into a reality through it’s BUILD class, an eight-week small business and project planning course. Space Rentals 90% of the events that take place at The Centre for Social Innovation are hosted by external groups. CSI hosts dozens of events every month, ranging from book releases and press conferences to board meetings and workshops. Creating and sharing unique, creative space is part of their model. Rates are hourly or daily and are figured on a sliding scale based on the operating budget of the renting organization.



“ Foundations don’t invest in ecosystems. They want to invest in something tangible.” – Be Social Change

ZERO 1 Garage rents their 10,000-square-foot studio space for $600 an hour to local organizations, ($300 an hour for nonprofits). The space holds up to 250 people and has been used to host a variety of unique events, business lunches, community exhibitions and even weddings. Desk Rentals Capitalizing on a co-op style of shared ownership among members, The Centre for Social Innovation has 32 private offices, 50 private desk spaces and co-working for 300. Rentals range from $125–$1200. Classes The Makeshift Society hosts a spectrum of classes from Calligraphy 101 to How to Think Like a Designer. Cost of classes range from $35 to $90. Memberships SPUR’s total membership exceeds the 5,000 mark. With fees ranging from $35 to $10,000, members support SPUR’s education and advocacy programs throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Biggest Barriers •

C urrent tax structures do not support ventures that are both nonprofit and for-profit

G rants rarely cover overhead or operations

M aterials and equipment for prototyping are expensive

A ccess to legal and financial advisors are limited

Opportunities •


A llocate resources for ideation and experimentation (both with process and staff) S cale investments from $1,000, $10,000, $50,000, $250,000 (over a fixed period) S tructure additional opportunities for fiscal sponsorship and alternative business models A ward grants for career advancement and equipment P rovide SWAT teams of advisors that include lawyers, accountants, marketing, design and storytelling experts


“ Foundations should be funding these kinds of things. It would be a new way for foundations to make better grants. Invest in people. Invest $5K in someone to go through this lab and vet their ideas.” – Tine Hanson-Turton, Social Innovations Lab

“ We’ve had the freedom to take chances. Our biggest advantage is having a single funder. We started with money. We have the seed capital we need to do what we want to do. These demonstrated successes help when approaching other funders.” – Anne Archer, Flux Projects









CASE NO. 001




EST: 2006–11 Motto: The next big thing is a million little things. Words of Wisdom: Seek wise counsel.



Fig. 1

Overview Today, Chattanooga is recognized for its beautiful public spaces, growing economy and thriving arts and culture scene, but that hasn’t always been the story. Infamously known in the sixties and seventies for being dirty and downtrodden, the former manufacturing city has suffered many of the same woes other post-industrial cities of its size have faced. Chattanooga struggled to find a new identity.

Fig. 2

The story of urban revitalization in Chattanooga can be traced back to the beginning of the 1980s when leaders in the community recognized the potential in the city’s audacious citizens. In the latter half of the twentieth century, civic revival was well underway, marked by numerous improvements downtown and along the Tennessee riverfront. But by the 2000s, some of this dynamic energy had dwindled and once more, the city was losing talent. CreateHere was a five-year endeavor that punched cultural and economic life back into the city of Chattanooga by supporting the arts and creative enterprises—or, more specifically, the people behind them. This bold initiative sprang up in 2007 when two inspired citizens endeavored to stimulate groundswell change in their city by re-energizing its creative and entrepreneurial spirit. During its five-year lifespan, CreateHere effectively launched 18 unique endeavors, each centered on the value of small-scale investment and the power of individuals to make a big difference. Its vision was as much about economic vitality as cultural vibrancy. It was unconventional, revolutionary, and sustainable. The result? A more vibrant, innovative, dynamic Chattanooga than ever before. The CreateHere Model had three basic components: A five-year timeframe: Many civic revitalization efforts tend to become stale or neglected over time. CreateHere’s finite lifespan provided a sense of urgency and excitement, resulting in more interesting projects and goals more likely to be met.



A co-leadership program: Bringing together the creativity, skills, leadership styles and diverse backgrounds of Helen Davis Johnson and Josh McManus proved that two minds are indeed better than one. The dual chief visionaries brought complementary experiences in their respective fields of art and business, and their co-leadership status meant consistent peer review and accountability. A fellowship program: The reach of CreateHere’s work was driven by a dynamic group of young innovators, all eager to play a part in the city’s advancement. The LeadHere fellowship program educated, employed and connected the community’s next young leaders, exposing them to real-world projects and invaluable mentorship opportunities along the way.

Projects and Programs •

ArtsMove – Enabled 30 artists to relocate to Chattanooga’s core, generating more than $4 million in home sales MakeWork – Granted 85 artists and entrepreneurs more than $1,000,000 to stimulate their creative endeavors, bringing life, color, and business to the city 55Here Gallery – Presented 12 exhibitions and 80 cultural events, providing local and international artists exposure and rousing a host of gallery openings and creative businesses in the Southside neighborhood. Stand – Conducted the world’s largest survey-based visioning campaign, collecting more than 26,000 completed surveys LeadHere – Empowered more than 90 young people in the community to pursue leadership roles, higher education, and creative small-business ownership

Resource Production – Produced 5,000 files and more than 20,000 photos and offered them for further use under a Creative Commons license

Principles •

T he community is your best collaborator.

R esearch is imperative.

C ommunity building is a cross-disciplinary sport.

C ulture starts with big ideas.

C ities should be places where everyone has the opportunity to pursue happiness.

I magination is tied to innovation.

R esidents should be citizens—engaged and enthusiastic.

R etention of talent precedes attraction of talent.

P eople are a city’s greatest asset.

G reatness is synonymous with boldness.

Lessons Learned Nurture creativity. “Creativity nurtured can lead to innovation capable of producing a much more sustainable form of economic development.”

Invest in youth and they will deliver. “Change begins at a local level and never happens without young passionate talent.”

CoLab – Graduated more than 400 entrepreneurs from an innovative business planning course, significantly advancing entrepreneurship in the city TakeRoot – Trained 80 citizen foresters in tree-planting maintenance and provided 160+ trees for public plantings



Fig. 3

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Fig. 6




Talent Programs

Core Team

LeadHere Fellowship Program

The leaders at CreateHere understood that the best work happens when people come together in collaboration. The nature of the organization’s efforts often called for smart delegation and keen task-juggling. The dual visionaries, with their mutual respect and desire for accountability, created a system of checks and balances to keep each other on track and constantly challenged. In the same way, each provided a healthy dose of competition for the other. These two individuals were supplemented by fellows from the LeadHere program in addition to other community partners.

A core component of CreateHere, the LeadHere fellowship program cultivated nearly a hundred young leaders who carried out many of the organization’s initiatives. The program attracted risk-takers, entrepreneurs, and artists who came to Chattanooga from across the country and the world, bringing with them backgrounds in everything from art and English to economics and finance. LeadHere acted like an internship and graduate education combined, as it strategically encouraged young talent to mold their ideas into marketable ventures that would better both the individuals and the community. Fellows were compensated for their work, allowing them to fully dedicate themselves to their pursuits. Today, many fellows have developed these early pursuits into sustainable careers.

Executive Directors (Connector/Curator) (2)

LeadHere Fellows (Managers/Storytellers/Admin) (7+)

Fellows should be:

Partners Support for CreateHere came from a group of foundations, the most vital of which was the Lyndhurst Foundation, a grantmaking family foundation that played a major role in the revival of Chattanooga’s downtown and riverfront in the eighties. By the early 2000s, the foundation’s priorities shifted to focus on enhancing and enriching the city and region through cultural and educational improvements. This visionary patron recognized CreateHere as an initiative that could carry out many of these bold goals. Understanding that philanthropic investment leads private investment leads public investment, the foundation took a risk and granted the majority of the organization’s operating funds.

U nrestricted Initiators – good leaders and self-starters who need minimal direction I dea Asserters – a good vision must be properly communicated in order to have an impact C ollaborative Engagers – recognizing the skill sets of others and working together makes for an effective team C ontinuous Learners – the willingness to try something different is a sign of a leader who will push himself/herself C ompetitive Risk Takers – balancing risk-taking and the fear of failure means decisions will be innovative and smart

“The LeadHere fellowship program is the most active educational component of CreateHere and works to build experience, confidence, and connections for the next generation of community leaders in Chattanooga. Unlike a traditional internship or fellowship program, LeadHere starts by noticing the passions and skill sets of young people and enables them to put these skills to good use in building a marketable portfolio for a future career.”



Fig. 7

Fig. 8




P ut design at the front of problem solving

Strategies and Tactics

F oster a culture of opportunity

CreateHere’s strategies were built from intense research into best practices from around the country. The organization took cues from other cities with successful revitalization initiatives— Portland, OR, Asheville, NC, Providence, RI—but the unique local landscape of Chattanooga was always paramount.

B uild the capacity of individuals and organizations

P artner with movements already making change

CreateHere also developed a step-by-step process for community problem solving, which was applied to each of its 18 programs: 1. Find the intersection of a unique problem 2. Gather a passionate group of people 3. Intensely research the problem 4. Brainstorm and engage in invention or innovation 5. Simplify by design 6. Build the necessary coalition of support 7. Implement

Storytelling CreateHere promoted storytelling—small and large, far and wide. The LeadHere team included graphic designers, videographers, writers, and photographers who documented events, lessons learned, and individual stories. CreateHere pro-actively archived their work and made all of their toolkits open source. “What would happen if our communities knew our stories? I believe that stories of success and innovation from the field feed our collective desire to solve more problems, help us as educators and reformers to be better at replicating success, and empower us to have higher expectations for real, game-changing outcomes.”


8. Measure

5 01c3

9. Refine

2 006–2011 – $5,000,000

10. Scale and/or ... replicate!

Secret Sauce •

Pair the traditional with the unexpected

Embrace authenticity

Collaborate without compromise

Invest in individuals

Turn problems into challenges

ake challenges bite-sized by dividing them up across M sectors and disciplines

“CreateHere leveraged an annual budget of $1 million towards transformational work on a city now widely known as a creative hub. From a small studio space in downtown Chattanooga’s once-blighted Southside, CreateHere brought lasting change, generating an enormous amount of work in just five years.”

Impact and Success In five years, CreateHere’s individual programs dramatically impacted the community. Working with thousands of dollars— not millions—and focusing on investments in talented individuals—not organizations—CreateHere shaped Chattanooga into a place that is more innovative, entrepreneurial, engaged, beautiful and reconnected to its core.



CreateHere’s impact began by engaging more than 200 community members in a community re-think process. From civic leaders, to stakeholders in the arts, to residents, CreateHere gathered input on what citizens wanted out of their community. When the organization launched its website, it connected with a group of Chattanoogans new to the civic visioning process: young, creative, talented minds who hadn’t before had access to the city’s leadership. Blog posts and virtual surveys encouraged people in this demographic to get involved in the future of their city.

Figures: 1. CreateHere was located on Main Street in Chattanooga’s South Side. 2. MAINx24 neighborhood block party. 3. Collecting surveys for STAND, the world’s largest community visioning. 4. Community design charette. 5. 2 6,000 surveys collected for the Chattanooga STAND campaign. 6. 3D installation for STAND.

Challenges and Opportunities

7. Springboard meeting at CreateHere.

Instigating creativity without creating entitlement

8. LeadHere fellows in action.

“You need resources to inject into the equation, but then you can easily become the controller of resources. It’s a really delicate balance.”

Balance clarity of purpose and opportunism “The people who are doing cool work know what they are doing. You should not have to prescribe on the front end. If you do, you’ll miss out on the dynamism of building community.”

Transferring learnings for long-term change “Entrepreneurial spirit really applies across the board, to for-profit and nonprofit. Just by coming together and seeing what happens, we can accomplish more than anyone imagines. If you are an innovation laboratory, the real value is translating experiments and proven processes into existing institutions.”



CASE NO. 002




EST: 2011 Motto: Do. Words of Wisdom: Be welcoming.



Fig. 1

Fig. 2



Overview The D:hive is a storefront and welcome center in Detroit’s Central Business District. D:hive connects residents and new recruits with everything Detroit: places to live, employment opportunities, ways to engage, and support for building a successful business in the city. D:hive aims to connect personally with each person who walks into their Welcome Center— whether a visitor, recent transplant, suburbanite, or longtime Detroiter. The staff works to supply residents and visitors with detailed and thorough insight into living, working, engaging, and starting projects in the city. While Detroit may not initially be perceived as a thriving and welcoming city, its Central Business District has flourished in recent years. It has attracted thousands of new employees and hundreds of new residents, demonstrating a healthy demand for new projects coming through the development pipeline. Many major employers have relocated to Downtown in the past decade, including General Motors, DTE Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Compuware, and the Rock/Quicken family of companies. Young tech and creative industry firms have also recently joined this burgeoning neighborhood, adding youth and vibrancy to the core of the city. “We needed a one stop shop—a coordinated effort. There were a lot of great things happening but they weren’t always accessible or easy to find out about. The idea was to bring all of the resources together, and after we surveyed what resources existed, we saw that there were some gaps that we could fill. It was a long time coming—to create a hub that would make Detroit as easily accessible as possible.” “One of the things that’s interesting about Detroit is that its seems inaccessible and disconnected, but the truth is—if you have the right access point, you find that it is well-connected.”

Projects and Programs •

Welcome Center – A Downtown storefront on Woodward Avenue offering information, networking, and tools to those wanting to live, work, or engage in Detroit

T ours – A broad range of tours exploring everything Detroit has to offer, from bars to creative neighborhoods Build – An eight-week planning class for entrepreneurs P ilot – A competitive pop-up retail initiative for small businesses to pilot projects in downtown Detroit

Principles •

Be hopeful and helpful in all things.

Young talent will step up to the plate when asked.

Convert residents into citizens.

Design is not afterthought.

Cast a broad net, then refine your bait.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

Lead by example.

Be patient.

“If the idea of a hub is having one access point, it might not work in all cities. It only works if you have one access point to a bunch of other access points that are connected to the hub, and because Detroit is small enough you can get a lot of leverage out of one access point.” “We are the landing place. We have the resources to help everyone who comes to our door. No one needs to feel unwelcome in Detroit.”

Lessons Learned Sometimes experiments have delayed results. “There were negatives and positives about starting broadly. One of the positives was that it was an experiment. We tried things. Success was the lack of success in some cases. There is value in not always solving the problem.”

Be reactionary. “We are serving the community, so we move with them.”



Fig. 3



Speak English. “Use accessible language. Quit using million dollar terms. People are trying to develop sophisticated funding narratives, so they use a lot of jargon that weakens your program. It’s fine to take on complex issues, but what you deliver to the community needs to be in English.”

Talent D:hive is the brainchild of a visionary funder and a creative placemaking expert who sought to retain Detroit talent and attract new talent to the city. Perhaps beginning late in the game compared to their counterparts in other civic hubs, they built their core team and residency by selecting young talent who were already playing natural roles in the city. Core Team •

Executive Director (Curator)

Director of Community Relations (Communicator)

Director of Recruitment (Manager)

Director of Design (Storyteller)

Welcome Center Crew Chief (Manager)

Detroit Experience Coordinator (Curator)

Residents (Fellows)

Partners D:hive was incubated in partnership with the Hudson-Webber Foundation, Little Things Labs, Downtown Detroit Partnership, and Inside Detroit.

Talent Programs Ambassadors Welcome Center ambassadors—the face of D:hive and the first to greet visitors—have their finger on the pulse of Detroit and love to talk with others about the city. Ambassadors have a love for Detroit, a passion for customer service and strong interpersonal skills.



Fig. 4

Fig. 5




8. Create

The Residency Program is a unique opportunity for talented and motivated college students and recent grads to build experience, confidence, and connections while working at D:hive. There are few barriers to get in, but the bar is then set high for residents, who work with a high degree of autonomy and creative elbow room. D:hive pledges to not waste its residents’ time by allowing them to stay in the comfort zone.

9. Develop your Process 10. Set Goals 11. Build a Budget 12. Plan an End 13. Package and Design

“We think talented people thrive working alongside other talented people in big, sometimes unfamiliar, but always fascinating situations.”

14. Build a Coalition

“Is there enough capacity to do the idea? You can’t do every idea, so you have to be selective.”

16. Take Action

“We want to be careful that residents aren’t coming in and starting from scratch on projects. Each residency creates a foundation for the next. We encourage residents to build on what’s already been started. Work ideation is always around questions that are related to our existing tools.”

Process Strategies and Tactics The D:hive was designed and built by Little Things Labs, a studio who identifies and addresses pressing problems and emerging opportunities in cities. Little Things Labs’ Process is as follows: 1. Choose a Problem 2. Identify Champions 3. Determine Strengths 4. Fall in Love with the Problem 5. Observe the Problem in the Wild 6. Perform Intensive Research

15. Gather Resources

17. Measure Progress 18. Document Lessons 19. Give it All Away 20. Repeat “Our process has evolved. Ideation is generating ideas from scratch around a given problem; we have tried to move towards generating ideas that generate from our existing offerings. It’s the middle ground between creating things that are completely new and continuing to do things that we’re already doing well.” “We realized that D:hive is different. We would go through ideation and then a resident would be deployed to build out a project that was a result of an ideation, but one resident’s project is the next resident’s implementation. Projects stay with the D:hive—they are not deployed to the market like other organizations. Our most successful offerings are the smaller, simpler information tools.” “We’ve are built on a three-year timeline, and as we move into our second year, we’ve been asking ourselves what is working best and has the most infrastructure. Clearly the tours and Build are our operations within an operation, and the Welcome Center—they could live on their own. They are successful because we control a lot of the outcomes.”

7. Seek Wise Counsel



Secret Sauce

Challenges and Opportunity

“We do a great job appealing to people’s senses and emotions. People love our design and the feel of the Welcome Center. They feel good interacting with us—it’s the design. People feel connected and supported. From our newsletters to the physical center, there is a feeling ingrained in our brand. A lot of people doing social innovation present something very flat and unfriendly. We feel emotionally supportive.” “You are your own best case study. Organizations can learn a lot from their own successes and failures.”

Impact and Success D:hive’s doors have only been open for two years, and they are thrilled to have shared in the physical and emotional transformation of the Central Business District that is now evident to all. Opening the space made a significant impact on their block of Woodward Avenue. New businesses have moved in and foot traffic has increased.

Deep vs. Wide “Casting a broad net was a challenge. One of the things we struggle with is how do we keep it all together. If we had not tried things, there would have been questions. We have eliminated a lot of ‘what ifs’ which is positive.”

Relationship Building “It’s difficult. You can’t just recreate these hubs. The relationships we have are the key. That isn’t something that can happen overnight. But you have to have the base that want to know about the work and people who want to keep you in the loop and involved.”

Community Space “The ideal physical space is not the one that we are in; however,the pilot program came to be because we have all the space. The larger space has helped us connect more with the community.”

The core team has been conscientious about quantifying and qualifying programming efforts. They keep track of how many people come through the door and come to weekly events. Over 50 D:hive residents and ambassadors have worked on initiatives. “Our most effective offering is not a constant flow of ideas; it is a specific offering that people gravitate to and we provide for it. Simple informational ideas are created here.” “I’m most proud of the way people feel about D:hive. A year ago people had no idea what we did. Now people walk in a room and people smile. It’s all positive ways we interact with people. They feel a little bit more connected and excited.”

Figures: 1. D:hive’s Woodward Ave. storefront. 2. Ambassadors welcome visitors. 3. Welcome desk and Detroit city map. 4. D:hive BUILD class. 5. Open house at D:hive. 6. “I Want This City to Be” wall.


Fig. 6



CASE NO. 003




EST: 2012 Motto: We are all Urban Mechanics. Words of Wisdom: Disruption leads to change.



Fig. 1

Fig. 2




All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as self-evident. To speed the rate of municipal innovation in their respective cities, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in 2010 and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in 2012 created the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Housed within the city government, the office serve as an incubator for innovation that forge partnerships and pilot projects to address the needs of residents and local businesses. Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) pilots experiments that offer the potential to improve the quality of city services. MONUM brings a startup mentality to the civic space by prototyping small projects that are short in duration and low in cost. Entrepreneurial in spirit, MONUM views civic challenges as opportunities to problem-solve. To design, conduct, and evaluate pilot projects, MONUM builds “coalitions of the willing” that include constituents, academics, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and city staff. More than a governmental think tank, the Mechanics explore ways to address civic problems, which means working across departments, with different institutions, and with citizens. “We say we’re a risk aggregation platform. Working in civic space you are often not permitted to experiment and fail, so the idea is for us to assume the risk and take the blame for things that are crazy or that might fail. We have been given that specific mandate by the mayor—which is a weird thing to be told by the government. We believe if you don’t fail then you aren’t trying to do anything ... There are other offices that are working in verticals; we are more horizontal in our approach.”

Projects and Programs •

Textizen – Empowering citizens to use text messaging to offer civic feedback CityHow – Making it easier to share knowledge within Philadelphia City Hall

Neighborhow – Making it easier for residents to share knowledge about local projects Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership – Strengthening the partnership between city government and city organizations Philadelphia2035 the Game – Planning the future of Philly

Principles •

Government is a platform.

Innovation must be disruptive.

Lessons Learned Innovation lives with disruption. “For me civic innovation has lost it’s meaning a bit. There are definitions for what innovation is—to me it’s simply doing things differently. But it’s all about perspective. Something innovative here might be something that they’ve been doing in Austin for 30 years. Innovation in the civic space is about disruption. There can’t be innovation without disruption.”

Entrepreneurial motivation drives action. “There is not a mechanism to transmit best practices from city to city. Sure, I can talk to some people on the phone and compare notes, but a business has motivation to go to and learn from other cities.”

Philanthropy should support risk. “The city doesn’t have a process for funding innovation; the Bloomberg Project gave us the money and it has been the force to test and pilot.”

Talent Core Team Philadelphia MONUM’s original team includes an entrepreneur, a government consultant, and an architect. This core group of self-starters is comfortable trying new things and views failure



as a positive sign that they are taking enough risks. Having been given permission to “go rogue,” they embrace that charge. •

Co-Directors (Visionary, Connector, Curator)

Civic Innovation Assistant (Manager)

National Urban Fellow (Fellow)

Partners Over time, MONUM has built local and national strategic partnerships with thought leaders including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Knight Foundation, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Engagement Game Lab, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, and Code for America.

Process Strategies and Tactics MONUM’s 5-Step Process: 1. Issue Identification and Definition 2. Call to Action 3. Problem-solving Acceleration 4. Pilot and Prototype 5. Scale and Provocate Nationally

“The best solutions don’t rely on government to be their primary source of income.” “If you don’t fail, then you aren’t trying to do anything.”

Secret Sauce “We use a five-step process. It starts with doing scores of interviews and problem definition, then putting a call to entrepreneurs, facilitating a problem-solving accelerator, pilot testing and prototyping, then moving towards scaling and provocating nationally. We are presumptive about problems, the solutions, and who delivers the solution.” “The formula for us is finding alignment between a problem, an external coalition of the willing, and where we think we can add real value.”

Storytelling Philadelphia is home to nearly six million people, but very few of them are aware of MONUM and the work they are doing. While this can be explained in part by the fact that MONUM is a startup, it is probably also due to their decision to not “over-tell their story” before the real work is done. Instead of promoting themselves during their first year soft launch, they waited. Today, as their work gathers momentum, the brand is beginning to gain some national traction. “The City is a 26,000 person organization—a six billion dollar enterprise. If you found our analogue in the corporate world, I would be surprised if they aren’t spending big dollars on marketing, branding, internal communications, etc. It’s not an afterthought.”

While the need to systematize and regularize is noted, MONUM has a clearly defined process and roadmap for action. The team first conducts interviews and ideation workshops to identify and define local issues. They then open the request Funding for proposals by announcing a call to action, from which en• G overnment Office trepreneurs are selected to work with Good Company Group to pilot their proposals in an accelerator program. Two or • 2 012–$1,250,000 (80% Bloomberg Mayors Challenge) three of those entrepreneurs receive additional funding to test their ideas by piloting and prototyping models. If the work of “The goal was to get beyond seeking funding from internal departments for projects. We have to be creative—find external resources to fund these entrepreneurs is deemed successful, MONUM helps to the work directly or use someone else’s name or brand to raise money.” propagate their work and business on a larger scale. “We’re trying to reinvent the procurement process. The call to action is really important.”



Fig. 3

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Impact and Success MONUM is still very new. It is so new, in fact, that they are still working to deliver results. As the team recognizes the compelling city-sanctioned innovation that is taking place, they know that civic innovation needs to be disruptive in order to bring real change. MONUM is working to build a more entrepreneurial ecosystem in Philadelphia, which has many incubators and co-working spaces, but lacks the network needed to solve bigger civic issues. By being a direct conduit to the city, MONUM believes it can play an integral role in building that network.

validating. We are at around one billion spent on public safety without doing cost allocations ... I feel like it’s a sacred cow. We have an innovative commissioner and administrator, but it still feels like an old way of doing things. There is a proactive part of public safety where you can engage community. There are also tech and private sector plays to be made.”

Substance “There is definitely a hackathon culture developing. We are a few years in and not solving the meaty things. You have to really talk to people to identify challenges and build solutions. This usually takes more than 48 hours.”

“You don’t have to be running a social enterprise to be successful. Cut the “social.” In my mind enterprise equals social good. Enterprise alone can do good.”


Challenges and Opportunities

1. MONUM. 2. FastFWD, Big Think event.


3. FastFWD, Big Think event.

“In civic space we don’t look at how to replicate stuff that really works. We celebrate it but we don’t say, “How do we get five or ten more of these?” The example I give is that my kids go to a really awesome charter school. It’s a great school, very diverse, and they are provided a great education. But why don’t we have more of them? Why can’t we figure that one out?”

4. FastFWD, Big Think event. 5. P hiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.

Internal Communication “Well we already do that? Haven’t we done that? Aren’t they doing that? It’s hard to tell other people what we are doing. We don’t have really good internal communications. I don’t know what they do at GM, but this is a problem that a lot of cities have. A lot of things in our organization are looked at as frivolous. If we hired someone to help us, it would be crazy.”

Pro-activity “Our research has shown that public education, public health, and public safety are the biggest challenges. It’s kind of intuitive, but


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CASE NO. 004




EST: 1910 Motto: Ideas + action for a better city. Words of Wisdom: Innovation is intrinsically opportunistic.



Fig. 1

Overview An established organization for more than one hundred years, San Francisco’s SPUR wins the prize for longest-standing commitment to urban progress. The member-supported nonprofit organization promotes good planning and good government in the Bay Area by uniting citizens to jointly craft solutions to civic challenges. Today, SPUR is recognized as a leading civic planning organization, respected for its independent and holistic approach to urban issues. In the spring of 2009, the four-story, 14,500-square-foot Urban Center opened, allowing the organization to expand its exhibition and educational program offerings. Located at 654 Mission Street, a bright orange sign and glass facade invite residents and visitors alike to discover the city’s past, present, and hopeful future.

Figures: 1. SPUR motto 2. Interactive welcome station in storefront entry. 3. Storefront city gallery hosting temporary exhibits. 4. Urban Library at SPUR 5. Office space for core SPUR team. 6. SPUR storefront on Mission St.

History The organization officially began in 1910 when a small group of leaders came together to improve the quality of housing in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and fire. Identified then as the San Francisco Housing Association, members advocated for public housing through the 1930s. In 1942, following a merger with a group of young planners and architects, the focus was expanded to take on regional growth planning, transportation and economic revitalization. Throughout the next half-century, the organization was on the front lines of the modern planning movement, leading efforts to create San Francisco’s first master plan, establish a planning department and advocate for central city revitalization in the face of suburban flight. The group changed its name to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association (SPUR) in 1959 to reflect these newly expanded focus areas.

Projects and Programs Today, SPUR classifies its work into eight main program areas: •

C ommunity Planning – Building great neighborhoods

D isaster Planning – Making the Bay Area disaster resilient



E conomic Development – Laying the foundation of economic prosperity for everyone

Good Government – Supporting local government

Housing – Making it affordable to live in the Bay Area

Regional Planning – Concentrating growth in existing cities

Sustainable Development – Reducing ecological footprint

ransportation – Giving people better ways to get where T they need to go

Principles •

The physical city exists to support human aspects of a city—to enable people to live their lives as fully as possible, to form community and to pursue every kind of project that can be imagined. he city we build today—buildings, roads, power plants, T water systems and transit infrastructure—will shape the way we live for the next several decades. ithout economic growth, new opportunities for citizens W decrease. proactive and practical policy agenda will make the city A more resilient.

Practice your follow-through. “Not everything is about innovation and new ideas; follow-through also matters. There are a lot of efforts in this world that fall apart at implementation. Don’t make the mistake of valuing new ideas over implementation.”

Talent Core Team SPUR presently has a staff of 20–25 people and a board that sits around the 70-person mark. The SPUR core staff is made up of creative individuals from many diverse backgrounds. •

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

S PUR Urban Center Director (Curator)

C orporate Relations Manager (Connector)

D eputy Director (Organization Manager)

E ditor and Content Strategist (Storyteller)

Local government can be a positive force for social change.

Lessons Learned Plan on surgery, not band-aids, to repair deep wounds. “SPUR projects are inherently long-term. It’s important for us to be able to stay with an idea for the long haul. In the American system of government, people in office term out and the bigger changes take longer. To push a change agenda, civic groups have to stick with it.”

Open cracked windows of opportunity.

R egional Planning Director, Sustainable Development Policy Director, Community Planning Policy Director + more (Policy Managers) T ransportation, Public Programming, Public Realm and Urban Design Managers, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture + more (Program Managers) A ccountant, Development Director, Foundations and Grants Manager + more (Financial Managers) I nterns (Fellows)

“Curation is key when it comes to a team. You have to have a process for keeping the pipeline of talent fresh. We have a rock star staff and a working board that’s the best it has ever been. Every year we bring five to ten new people on, for one-year terms. It’s a critical part of the regeneration process—making sure that we get people with a lot of ideas and energy.”

“Often, social change is just about being opportunistic—right time, right place. You have a list of things that you want to do, and then an opportunity shows up; seize it. Be alert to those windows of opportunity.”



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Partners SPUR is a member-supported organization. Research, education and advocacy programs are made possible with the continued support of more than 5,000 “urbanists.” Other core partners include: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the City of San Francisco, the City of San Jose, the City of Oakland, the Urban Infrastructure Council, and many others. “We have the luxury of a progressive city government wanting to do the right thing. We believe that local government is a force for good. If you unpack the government, there are dozens of dependent agencies with their own power structures and mandates; it’s not a monolithic entity. We have different kinds of relationships with different agencies, but in general it is a cooperative relationship where we’re figuring out solutions to problems that they have.”

Process Strategies and Tactics The SPUR team convenes to brainstorm multiple times a day. Assembling the right people and facilitating the ideation process is critical to figuring out big picture answers.

Secret Sauce •

Ask the right questions.

Convene curated groups often.

Facilitate a good conversation.

“There are big questions that we think about every day. The heart of our practice is a convening model. We’re vetting ideas in a rigorous way, asking ourselves things like: Is it feasible, will it work, do we have enough money, etc. We want to make sure proposals are not half-baked. The key to good brainstorming is posing the right question, and getting the right people to think on that question.” “We have totally embraced tactical urbanism. We are not a co-inventor of the parklet, per se, but we watched it get invented on the fourth floor. Parklets were invented in response to widening the Valencia

Street sidewalks. It’s a faster, cheaper, more iterative approach, but ultimately we still need to widen a sidewalk for less than four million bucks a block. We have to iterate back to fix the public works process for the city to actually fix the sidewalks.” “We can’t just experiment forever. Ultimately we have to fix the policy problem. The temporary stuff needs to eventually inform or replace the big systems. It needs to become the new way. But how do you move from innovation to scale? That gets less exciting. Rewriting business codes or working to get people pushed into government. It’s not the glamorous stuff, but it’s still important.”

Funding •

5 01c3

2 012–$3,000,000+ (Membership and Facility Rentals)

“SPUR is a member-supported 501c3. The 5,000+ membership base receives a monthly copy of the acclaimed Urbanist along with free/ reduced admission to more than 200 events a year.”

Impact and Success The move to the present four-story storefront was a big step. It has allowed the organization to have more visibility, a higher profile, and a greater chance for impact. “I don’t know if people literally walking in off the street is the most important impact, but it is a statement that we’ve moved here. We’re creating more ways for people to get involved. We’re fostering connections between people who have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in cities today. We’re making a home for those people and their ideas—the people figuring out the future of American cities.” “We’re benefiting from the decline of the daily paper. People become members to stay informed with what’s going on. They love their city and want to be involved.” “SPUR has helped create a place that works for that new kind of creative talent, and if Richard Florida’s theories are correct, that economic investment follows talent, then we have done a lot to make that possible.”



Fig. 6

“You have to have skepticism about economic development—where jobs are created by private firms and local policy levers are very weak and indirect and yet you can create a climate in which that is more or less likely to happen, and when you have a certain ecosystem or cluster that’s working it’s not just private institutions but civic groups, NGOs, and culture all working together, and SPUR has been an important part of that.”

Challenges and Opportunities Local Action “Real change happens at the local level. It is city leaders, not regional governments, who handle the big planning decisions that determine how the Bay Area will grow. We must think regionally but act locally.”

Global Vision “This is a place of unparalleled opportunity. But to compete with other regions around the world, we must strengthen the foundations of our economy: quality education, up-to-date infrastructure, and a public process that supports progress rather than hindering it.”

Legacy “We benefit from the foresight of previous generations. They built our cities, invested in our transit systems, protected our open spaces, and developed our economy. SPUR works to live up to this legacy, to make decisions that will lay the foundation of a better region for generations to come.”



CASE NO. 005




EST: 2012 Motto: Arts + Public Life. Words of Wisdom: Be aware of your capacity.



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Overview The University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative seeks to build artistic connections between UChicago, local artists, and the surrounding community that amplify the vibrant creativity that already characterizes the area. The Arts Incubator, envisioned by artist Theaster Gates, is a creative hub where artist residencies, arts education, community-based arts projects, exhibitions, performances, and talks all serve to highlight the talent and cultural life of the Washington Park area of the South Side. The Washington Park Arts Incubator, which is housed within a restored 1920s building at Garfield Boulevard and Prairie Avenue, is well-positioned to connect individuals and organizations that otherwise would rarely intersect, thus fostering deep and meaningful relationships throughout the neighborhood and city.

“How can physical space help create opportunity for relational space that has not existed in communities of difference?”

Neighborhood Profile Washington Park experiences the challenges associated with poverty, urban blight, and public housing. The presence of industry in Washington Park has been negligible, there is no significant commercial center, and nearly half of Washington Park residents live below the poverty level. The Arts Incubator seeks to serve as a catalyst for economic development, building on the amazing history of Washington Park, whose legacy of creative cultural life is not often immediately apparent today. “It was important for us to build authentic relationships with the community. So many times, at openings and events, residents were surprised that the University of Chicago did this. There is a history and stigma in that, so we’re working hard to consciously build strong and meaningful relationships with our neighbors.”

Projects and Programs •

A rts Incubator – A space of cultural production for emerging creatives in the city and a venue for artists to grow their craft

A rts Education – From casual family-friendly events to intensive, hands-on apprenticeship programs, efforts focus on building skills, confidence, and creative expression among local youth and adults A rtists Residency – A ten-month residency opportunity available to Chicago-based artists and collaboratives, especially those developing work that critically addresses issues of race and ethnicity E xhibitions – A localized platform for Chicago-based artists to thoughtfully engage with the global, contemporary art world; exhibitions are set up throughout the entirety of the building and the surrounding Washington Park area, fusing temporal, public space with the dedicated interior P ublic Programing – Public events, programs, and exhibitions led by resident and visiting artists, as well as campus and community partners; events take place at the Arts Incubator, the Logan Center, and throughout surrounding Chicago neighborhoods

“Because we have five unique artists in residence, we don’t have set programming. We develop responses to our artists and the community. One of our artists has been curating a monthly music series and we are gaining a really great audience for it. She is a significant young musician both nationally and internationally, and because of her work, she has been able to pull in one major jazz musicians that won’t normally come. All of our programming is free for the neighborhood.”

Principles •

C reate ways for artists and communities to grow together. D emonstrate how anchor institutions can build on the rich legacies of neighborhoods. C reate unexpected intersections of people and place.

“We are looking to see how arts and culture can build bridges in the community. Arts can be a catalyst. If we weren’t here, that mural would not be here either. If we weren’t here, there wouldn’t be people coming to the corner to hear music and see art.”



Lessons Learned Create opportunity for young talent. “With our internships, we are trying to find students who will work with us for more than a single year—our first interns stayed with us two years. We are just beginning to think about the programs that most engage students. Giving students opportunities to build projects and platforms is important; that’s how we all learn lessons.”

Open doors for your neighbors. “A young artist from the community came to our office one day. He really wanted to paint a mural on an adjacent building and was trying to collect signatures of support. For us to be able to sign off on it through the University, we needed a proposal. He waited for two hours until it was determined that if he could secure a permit, we could sign off on it. This calmed the nerves of other community members and leaders. They did the mural, we donated food and opened our doors. It was a success. He had a challenging upbringing, but understood the value of this work in and for the neighborhood.”

Fight perception with creativity. “We were really concerned about the perception the neighborhood might have in the beginning. Our initial plan was to hold a number of community meetings. There are a lot of things that happened on top of each other to shift perceptions. As people began to see what we were about, their perceptions began to shift.”

Talent Core Team Theaster Gates is the lead visionary behind the Arts Incubator and Arts + Public Life initiative at UChicago. His extensive artistic practice includes creative space development, object making, performance, and critical community engagement. Gates is well-recognized for transforming spaces, institutions, traditions, and perceptions. The Arts Incubator’s dedicated team of staff include a wide network of resident and visiting artists, community partici-

pants, and programmatic partners. The organization keeps the work fresh and dynamic, shifting in response to local needs and taking into account perspectives from the neighborhood. •

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

P rogram Coordinator (Connector)

P rogram Manager and Exhibitions Curator (Curator)

A ssociate Director (Manager)

P rogram Coordinator (Connector)

A ssociate Director (Manager)

L ead Craftsman and Design Apprenticeship Program Manager (Designer)

R esident Artists and Lecturers (Visionaries)

5 Interns (Fellows)

P artners

The Arts Incubator has cultivated strong partnerships with the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Rebuild Foundation, Elastic Arts Foundation, and Off the Record. Relationships in the community are being nurtured in partnership with the Hyde Park Art Center, the Center for the Study of Race Politics and Culture, and other local organizations like the Washington Park Consortium and Chamber of Commerce.

Talent Programs Design Apprenticeship Program (DAP) Five to ten teens and approximately five adults from surrounding communities are selected through an application/interview process to participate in the Design Apprenticeship Program (DAP), a design-based mentorship and skill-building initiative that encourages and empowers teens and young adults to invest in the improvement of their community’s physical and social conditions. By developing skills in carpentry, landscaping, and design, DAP leaders contribute to the positive



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transformation of Washington Park, Woodlawn, and the Garfield Boulevard corridor. This paid internship opportunity also serves as workforce training development and cultivates the leadership skills necessary to make sound and well-informed academic and career choices. DAP focuses on creative problem-solving, encouraging students to consider their own professional aspirations and embrace their role as agents of change. Apprentices have access to many University of Chicago resources while they complete presentations, conduct research, design, and build prototypes for community projects under the training of skilled designers/craftsmen.

Figures: 1. The Washington Park Arts Incubator on Garfield Blvd. 2. Feedback exhibition signage. 3. F eedback, Situation #5 Photo Credit: Allison Glenn. 4. D AP student standing in front of redesigned food cart. Photo Credit: Norman Teague. 5. F eedback, Lone Wolf Recital Corps. Photo Credit: Rob Koz. 6. Mapping exhibition showcasing community and building history.

“It’s an internship opportunity for the young community to come in and learn about design and building. We just finished an eight-week spring and summer intensive session. The next opportunity will be in the fall. We have ten students at a time, and we are focused on teens right now.”

Artist in Residence In partnership with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture, the Arts Incubator supports the creative work of artists through a 10-month, jury-selected residency and visiting artists program, providing Chicago-based artists and audiences a localized environment from which to thoughtfully engage the global, contemporary art world. Artists in residence have studio space in the Washington Park Arts Incubator facility, giving them the opportunity to enjoy an internal creative network, to engage the community on that site, and to become fully immersed in the artistic and intellectual life of the University. Artists have access to the University’s research resources, courses, master classes, and workshops appropriate to each artist’s discipline, and benefit from regular conversation and collaboration with faculty and students. Once accepted into the program, artists propose projects that engage the community and integrate issues of race, politics and culture, and receive a $10,000 honorarium for their participation.



“Artists in residence use the studio at least two to three days a week. Some of them have day jobs, so they have 24/7 access to the space. The goal is 15 hours a week, but they are getting used a lot more than that. It also depends on the practice. Some of our artists are more out and about in the community. Two of the artists do not have studio space; they use the Logan Center or practice at home.”

University Internship The Arts Incubator offers five internship opportunities to University of Chicago students. Interns, who typically work with the initiative for two years, are given the freedom to be innovative and learn from their mistakes as they take on significant responsibilities like exhibition design, project management, content development, and program incubation.

Process Strategies and Tactics In the last ten years, the University has made significant strides in its art and cultural investments; the Arts Incubator is an outgrowth of this progress. The space, positioned as a physical conduit, is a platform to welcome dialogue and different perspectives to the University and the South Side neighborhood. Because the incubator is still very young, the staff is careful to build reactionary/responsive programming and events. The core team and partnering artists vision, prototype, implement, and review each program. “There is a lot that comes from the staff. We are all interested in engaging the community in different ways—from exhibitions to a music series. We have only been open since March, so we are trying to be good listeners. One example is our Music Mondays. We started because of the artist, but it’s been so popular, we will continue it. If we stopped it, we would hear from people.”

Secret Sauce “In Chicago, there are very few institutions that support emerging and mid-level career artists. We aren’t sustaining the rich culture that comes here. We are fulfilling a need.”

Storytelling From the beginning, it has been important for the Arts Incubator to be clear about what it is trying to deliver, both to the community and to varying constituents. One of the Incubator’s core values is supporting artists of color and women by creating a platform for their artistic practices to succeed. Established to be a catalyst and not a cure-all, the Incubator reinforces this message in outreach and media efforts, sharing its work primarily through word of mouth, onsite experience, and simple newsprints. “At this point, our story is mostly being told through the work. That is where we are. We just opened in March. Most of what has happened is not exactly what was planned for the first year. It was going to be slow and thoughtful, but right now we seem to be working fast and thoughtful.” “The decision to print this newsprint was key. You can find information about all of our programming. They aren’t over designed. The people who are coming to our events don’t need an e-blast; for our audience having a physical calendar is important.”

Funding •

Private University


“Our initial year of funding was supported by an ArtPlace grant.”

“We try to create a loop where we send something out and see if the community engages with it. Our initial exhibition was a series of images, videos, and dinners. We needed to gauge tone, so we opened our doors and invited the community to participate.”



Fig. 6


Impact and Success While art can serve as a catalyst for economic development, the team at the Arts Incubator realizes that it’s not always automatic. “Placemaking is not a new phenomenon; people have been working in Washington Park district for a long time collectively and individually. The incubator looks to continue efforts while building cultural activities where local talent can thrive” “For us evidence of the Incubator’s success will be the social shift that happens when the buildings that are currently boarded up become active and start giving people opportunities to come in from the bus stop and listen to some music or get coffee, read a book, or get to another destination from our arts hub.”

Challenges and Opportunities Limited Capacity “We are really aware of our capacity. If we are not careful, we will burn out.”

Community Perception “For one of the first Music Monday nights, a community member came and set up. He was thrilled not to have to go downtown to play. He was setting up and at the end of the night, another gentleman turned to me and said—‘Wow this is really great, but its too bad that you didn’t have anyone from the community.’ It’s a really interesting to hear the perception of what this community is and who it looks like.”

Yes vs. No “We are learning when to say yes and when to say no. I think we have learned that there are a few times so far when we should have said no instead of yes. But the wins on the yes side are greater right now.”



CASE NO. 006




EST: 2011 Motto: Cultivate opportunity. Words of Wisdom: A rising tide lifts all boats.



Fig. 1

Overview Ponyride is a cultural incubator exploring how the foreclosure crisis has the potential to have a positive impact by fostering creativity in local communities. Using an “all boats rise with the tide” rent subsidy, this incubator and co-working space provides affordable space for socially-conscious artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources, and networks. Because of the low purchase price of the property tenants can rent studio space for as little as a quarter per square foot. Subsidized spaces enable creatives at Ponyride to focus on their work without sweating the details. The perks of financial freedom and creative collaboration have made Ponyride a local hub for creativity and a platform for small-scale manufacturing. Neighborhood Profile

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Ponyride is located in a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. Creatives in residence include coffee roasters, furniture makers, metalsmithes, fashion designers, dancers, recording artists, publishers and filmmakers. With the goal of sharing creative work with the local community, Ponyride tenants agree to offer classes for a set number of hours each month. “Detroit is a huge city segregated by abandoned structures and abandoned lands. Connecting our city can be very difficult … We have a lot of empty lots and a lot of empty buildings, but at the same time we have a waiting list for people to move into Corktown.”

Projects and Programs •


R esidency Programs – Temporary live/work space for three creative residents who engage Detroit in their practice S tudio Rental – Studio space available for lease to artists and entrepreneurs with creative businesses E ducation – Artists, residents and tenants conduct weekly workshops and teach classes xhibitions and Events – Year-round community events, E workshops, open-houses and exhibitions


Principles •

S ay yes. Welcome people to come in and participate, while being mindful and intentional about time and resources. C urate the unexpected. Host unconventional events and classes to pursue visionary creatives and innovators with unique skills.

Lessons Learned Build a coalition. “It’s hard work and constant maintenance. Garner a team of core participants and volunteers to support your work.”

Be mindful of your capacity and resources. “Let people come in and participate. Keep your doors open, but also be mindful and purposeful with your time and resources.”

Talent Core Team Ponyride is led by a director and a visionary developer. The team also includes an architect, a marketing coordinator, a building manager, and a program developer. •

Developer/Entrepreneur (Visionary)

Executive Director (Curator)

Architect (Designer)

Marketing (Storyteller)

Building Manager (Manager)

Program Developer (Connector)

Partners Ponyride boasts an eclectic list of tenants, from wood workers to dance troops, fashion designers to cement casters. The low barrier of entry for renting space allows a varied and talented group of creatives to sign on. Currently,

organizations and businesses that call Ponyride home include: Detroit SOUP, Edible WOW, The Empowerment Plan, Detroit Denim, Smith Shop, Order and Other, and Beehive Recording Company. Ponyride is made possible by sweat equity and countless volunteer hours donated by friends family and fans. The core team also supports local communities businesses by lending services in architecture, deconstruction, and development.

Talent Program Residency Ponyride has three rotating live/work dorm rooms to host artists, entrepreneurs, and students. Residents’ work and creative practice must directly engage the public and impact Detroit in a positive way. Education Tenants of Ponyride are required to share their craft with the community, teaching 6 hours of classes each month. Students can learn jewelry design, furniture-making and skills associated with small-batch manufacturing.

Process Strategies and Tactics While programming is intentionally organic, Ponyride believes that a true creative incubator should be opportunistic—right place, right time—and constantly evolving. The warehouse that houses Ponyride has proven to be a hidden architectural gem; however, at 30,000 square feet, the size was an intimidating scale for prospective buyers. Ponyride worked with a local architect to create building plans that would address both long-term goals and short-term needs. Setting bold goals and a timeline have helped the team to remain focused. The use of repurposed and salvaged materials kept initial investment lean and the space green.



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A “roll-up-your-sleeves” spirit is very much alive. In addition Secret Sauce to their day-to-day work, Ponyride’s talented artists and entre“Talented creatives come in and out of our building every day. preneurs pitch in to help restore the building. The focus on They feel welcome and supported here in an authentic way.” craft and hands-on problem solving is discernible both in the building’s layout and the business models of it’s tenants. A monthly schedule is painted on the wall, and signs assigning Funding chores hang in bathrooms and hallways. Many of the creatives • F iscal Sponsorship to 501c3 who call Ponyride home were involved in the processes of visioning and planning. Because of their input, the space feel • 2 012–200,000+ authentic and meets their needs. Ponyride’s warehouse was originally purchased for $100,000. “If you want your own space, you better be willing to commit a lot of Private donations, upcycled materials, and volunteer support time to actually do it yourself.” have kept the build-out lean. The incubator is currently apply-



ing for 501(c)(3) status and seeking additional grant funding for facade improvements.

Figures: 1. Clandestine dinner.

Renting space—sometimes for as a quarter per square foot including the cost of utilities—provides additional revenue. Ponyride also has a membership program that allows participants to use its office space for $25 a month or rent a desk for $100 a month.

2. The Empowerment Plan sew and manufacturing process. 3. Volunteer night at Ponyride. 4. Exterior signage on Vermont St. 5. Design/build workshop.

Impact and Success

6. Planning with the core team. 7. Roosevelt Park clean-up with community volunteers.

While the Ponyride team acknowledges that measuring their impact often takes a back burner to programming and planning, they continue to track their efforts and successes. Since opening, Ponyride has coordinated over 60,000 volunteer hours with local artists, students, and entrepreneurs; created an education program that requires artists and entrepreneurs to provide 6 hours of classes a month; and incubated 25+ creative enterprises including Detroit Denim, the Empowerment Plan, Order and Other, Stukenborg Letterpress Studio, and Smith Shop Detroit. “We’ve been very lucky to have hosted some internationally renowned artists, provided space for burgeoning creative business, and created a platform for creativity and culture.”

Challenges and Opportunities Value process and product “Learn from the process. When you are working on a new project it is easy to become frustrated. Believe in your work and stay positive.”

Evolve with your community “Top on the to-do list includes a vibrant co-working space on the second floor where participants will be able to rent a desk for $100 or use the space for $25 each month. Ponyride is constantly problem-solving and growing in hopes of supporting entrepreneurs and other creatives living and working in Detroit.”



CASE NO. 007




EST: 2000 (the Garage opened in 2012). Motto: Art broadens our critical understanding of the world. Words of Wisdom: Create a network of collaboration.




Lessons Learned

ZERO1 is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with some of the most fertile minds from the worlds of art, design, architecture, science and technology. ZERO1 produces the ZERO1 Biennial, an international showcase of creative work, and the ZERO1 Fellowship program, an opportunity for individuals to use their creativity to solve real-world innovation challenges.

Prototype to build trust. “Relationship building is always a challenge, but building and sustaining strong partnerships are key. We do a lot of testing and prototyping to build up that trust. Building relationships at a leadership level is also critical.”

Embrace failure. In early 2000, the city of San Jose asked ZERO1 founders to consider planning a cross-cultural event that could better “We don’t view failure as a bad thing. Every day we are faced with position and brand the city as a major urban center in the complex challenges. We have to be dynamic and adaptive. Fail fast, Silicon Valley. A premier curator with expertise in new media fail often, keep moving.” was brought aboard early to help shape this first festival, Value process over product. which brought more than 700 artists to downtown San Jose. This inaugural event eventually grew into the Biennial, which “The product isn’t the end goal; it’s the process that matters.” remains the largest of its kind in the world today. In the fall Be an avid listener. of 2012, ZERO1 opened the Garage, a central hub situated in

San Jose’s SoFA district. The Garage serves as a platform for discourse, housing the fellowship program and facilitating provocative conversations and exhibitions.

Projects and Programs •

iennial – A three-month showcase of exhibitions, events, B and performances at the forefront of media art F ellowship – A platform for artistic experimentation, ZERO1 Fellows are charged with developing lines of artistic research and cultural production in response to a specific innovation challenge with a partner company or institution G arage – An event space for creative exhibits and artist talks


“Create a strong, conversational environment.”

Talent Core Team The ZERO1 team initially included a visionary, a curator, and a passionate volunteer advisory council. Today, the team is made up of six full-time employees, a handful of creative collaborators, and four fellows. •

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

C urator and Director of Programs (Curator)

G allery Assistant (Manager)

O ffice Manager (Manager)

M arketing Director (Storyteller)

A dministration Fellow (Fellow)

Leverage art as an economic driver.

Build networks to bridge corporate and cultural worlds.


Create opportunities for disciplines to mix.

By building a global network of partners, ZERO1 is better able to bridge academic, corporate, and cultural worlds to foster



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collaboration. The strong relationships it has built with tech companies focus more on collaboration than sponsorship. Some partners include: Google, Adobe, City of San Jose, NEA, Target, and Bank of America. “We want to work together to collaborate and start a dialogue around something. For example, we went to Ebay and asked them to identify an innovation challenge. We’re interested in working with them to run a selection process and match them up with an artist that could work on that challenge. There’s a tendency to think that working with an artist is all about beautification, but it’s really about having artists play a role in thinking about a problem differently.”

Talent Programs Fellowship Program Figures: 1. ZERO1 Garage in San Jose. 2. ZERO1 Urban Library. 3. ZERO1 Innovation Fellows Program 4. ZERO1 core team office space. 5. Gallery and exhibition space.

ZERO1’s newest program is a one-year fellowship opportunity that partners artists with a corporation, academic center, foundation, or hybrid organization. Unlike many typical artist residencies, ZERO1 fellows focus on addressing a very specific innovation challenge and work towards developing a tangible, marketable outcome. “Artists are savvy and observant, but they don’t always have the right connections to take their ideas to market. We work with the sponsor to identify a challenge that is socially impactful. An artist or artistic team then has a year-long opportunity to research and prototype an outcome addressing that challenge. It’s a platform that encourages experimentation and leads to new creative strategies on a variety of issues. We work with the artists to guide them as they begin to share their research and processes with the public. Artists sometimes struggle to communicate their ideas to partners. We’re working on better equipping artists to do that.”

The fellowship program launched in January 2013 and paired three artists with three sponsoring entities—Google, Adobe and the Christensen Fund. ZERO1 worked with sponsoring partners to co-identify an innovation challenge, then launched



an open call for participants. The selection/pairing process took about three months, culminating with a juried decision to select the top three fellows. The fellowship process includes a weekly meeting with the ZERO1 programming director, monthly presentations to community partners, and weekly Google hangouts with other fellows. Additionally, fellows are connected to a mentor and given the opportunity to select their top three advisors to serve as wise counsel during their fellowship year. ZERO1 is working to develop a more structured curriculum that fellows will move through together. Fellowship stipends range from $10,000 to $100,000. The fellowship is not seen as a full-time job, but participants are awarded a livable stipend so they can focus on the work. While the artists are given space to work at the ZERO1 Garage, most work off-site. Some of the fellows are offered desks at their sponsoring organization as well. Still in its pilot year, each fellowship is organized on an individual basis. The goal moving forward is to standardize the process, responsibilities, and stipend ($50,000) for each fellow. “We played with the ideas for a residency for three to four years before launching this pilot year. Relationships with sponsoring organizations take time to build.”

Process Strategies and Tactics Working with some of the most productive creative minds from the worlds of art, science, design, architecture, and technology, ZERO1 plays the role of curator and connector for creatives in the Bay Area. “We are focusing on artists as inventors. We’re looking at how the artists’ process and entrepreneurial processes are almost the same. Artists are the ultimate risk takers, selling their ideas and getting funding just like a startup would from venture capitalists. We’ve been trying to expose these similarities.”

Secret Sauce “We focus on partnerships and collaboration. Locally we are working with the San Jose Public Art Program and the Office of Cultural Affairs; they are co-sponsoring one of our fellows. Cultural institutions like to talk about collaborating. It’s often referred to as the ‘secret sauce’ of success, but the reality is that it doesn’t happen very much. No one is doing it at the level we have been. To have 45 institutions from the SFMOMA to a small gallery operating within the same path, you have to craft a very careful thematic tie that is approachable and accessible. Facilitation is key.”

Storytelling “We have to be creative with marketing and promotions because we’re operating on such a small budget. We’d be much more effective if we had a part-time graphic designer. Right now we’re sending a lot of personal emails to gain press. We’re also using social media a lot. 80–90% of people find out about ZERO1 through word of mouth. Our director is also constantly networking.” “Pick your audience and make your message specific. Don’t hesitate to be repetitive when it comes to marketing. Set that boilerplate message and stick to it.” “Our structure makes telling our story a bit complicated. We aren’t a traditional arts institute. Crafting the narrative is important for articulating our value proposition.”

Funding •

5 01c3

2 012–$1,800,000+ (80% grants and in-kind donations)

“A $500,000 ArtPlace grant provided seed funding for the Garage, and this space has been a new revenue generator. Over 250 people can be accommodated, and it has been used to host unique events, business lunches, community exhibitions and even a wedding. The space rents for $600 and hour, up to $3,000.”



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Impact and Success ZERO1 was born out of a local initiative but has intentionally maintained a global focus. While the organization is undoubtedly embedded in the community with many projects tied to San Jose, remaining local is not the sole mission. ZERO1 strives to bring outside talent from the outside into the Valley, while also showcasing local talent to the outside. Downtown San Jose is an arts hub for the area, but highway intersections cut off the central zone from the rest of the city. The city has been focused on neighborhood revitalization and has invested in public art as a catalyst for revival. “Four years ago there was a 45% vacancy rate here. While there is still limited foot traffic, events and lectures have proven to be the best way to get people into the space. First Fridays are quite popular for the district. Flows of traffic are important to monitor when setting a schedule. We try to plan events to coincide with activities that might already be happening in the area.” “San Jose has a bit of an identity complex. The Bay Area gets a lot of focus, even though we’re actually the bigger city. There’s a lot going on and it’s easy to get things done here; sometimes in the bigger cities it’s harder to have an impact.”

The ZERO1 Biennial, distributed throughout Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, is North America’s most significant and comprehensive showcase of work at the nexus of art and technology. Through curated exhibitions, public art installations, performances and speaker events, the ZERO1 Biennial presents work by a global community of artists who are reshaping contemporary culture. Since 2006, the Biennial has featured the work of more than 500 artists from more than 50 countries, commissioned 80 original works of art, attracted over 100,000 visitors from around the world, and contributed $20 million in economic revenue to the region. The Biennial is a collaboration among nearly 50 partners.

about things on a community level that are often hard to communicate. We want to be inclusionary, but we also want to bring the outside word to San Jose to play on the world’s stage.”

Challenges and Opportunities Communication “It’s an interesting moment for the organization. In the past, we’ve largely been a ‘presenting’ organization, hosting the Biennial. Now, with the new space, we have an opportunity to do year-round programming, giving us a way to continue the dialogue from events. We feel like having the space has allowed our role in the community to change. People know this is a place where they are welcome. A lot of what we are hoping to do is re-educate people, the public and funders, about our work and goals. It’s always been a bit of a challenge to communicate what we do.”

Sustainability “ZERO1 is at a pivot point. We have had great success, but it has not been a sustainable enterprise. The shift will be changing the business model. We have been producing wonderful events but now we need to focus on our role campaigning for innovation. Building a pipeline of corporate support is our next step. We have to show a value proposition that speaks the language of the technology sector.”

Creative Value Proposition “It’s often difficult to convince the general public and entrepreneurs that art has value; that it can actually be an economic driver. There is less of a culture of the arts being embedded in the society here as there is in New York.” “There is an arts track and a tech track. They actually run parallel, but there aren’t enough moments for people to jump the track and say, ‘We’re really all talking about the same thing.’ We’re striving to be that place to have these kinds of conversations. Things get interesting when disciplines rub up against each other. We’re trying to create reasons for artists and techies to connect.”

“We provide a space for debate and dialogue. Because we are using art to illustrate larger challenges, people can relate. We can talk



CASE NO. 008



EST: 2004 Motto: Bring art to people and people to art. Words of Wisdom: Don’t be a fire-station.


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everyone going to go next? Neighborhoods nearby are falling apart— there are no grocery stores, crumbling sidewalks, no art, no hipsters, no bikes, but there are thousands of people living there. They have a city with no quality of life. Everybody deserves a thriving place to live. So what can we do about it?”

Founded in 2004, Big Car began as a small collective of artists seeking alternative ways to perform and showcase their work in Indianapolis. The group hosted art shows and other creative cultural activities. These early events brought hundreds of eclectic music shows, readings, film screenings, performances, and parties to Indianapolis, and played an active role in the revitalization of the Fountain Square area.

The Service Center is officially open two days a week, Wednesday and Saturday, though the staff is there full-time most days.

“We don’t have the luxury of moving to another city. We’re here and so we want to make it happen here. We want to make this place better. No one else is doing it, so we just said we’re going to do it ourselves.”

Projects and Programs •

Today, Big Car is a collective of more than 30 visual artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers, all of whom team up with community groups and cultural organizations to provide kids and adults with access to unique, creative opportunities. Since its inception Big Car has drawn together people of all backgrounds to promote and perpetuate creativity, invigorate public places and support better neighborhoods. An adaptive and flexible cultural organization, Big Car moves where it is needed. As the Fountain Square neighborhood has gained stability and investment in recent years, the group has expanded their efforts to include other areas.

S ervice Center – A grassroots hub for art, culture, education, and health C reative Community Opportunities – Workshops, festivals, and volunteer days for adults and children C ommunity Murals – Programs facilitated by staff, with support from volunteers/local residents


In 2011, Big Car opened a new space, a former tire service center, in a parking lot adjacent to the Lafayette Square Mall on the city’s northeast side. Though the area has seen many negative impacts caused by disinvestment and sprawl, it is surrounded by a wealth of cultural assets including a variety of ethnic grocers and restaurants. The 11,500-square-foot Service Center houses a community room, gallery, media bar, and wood shop. It hosts a variety of events from movie premieres to performances by local bands. The parking lot surrounding the property has been converted into a garden, complete with an outdoor library, benches, and free-roaming chickens.

B e flexible and adaptive.

B e open and transparent.

I nvite the community to co-create.

I nspire staff to dream bigger.

Lessons Learned Start with people. “Our garden is a demonstration garden, not a production garden. We use volunteers to help. They can pick what they want. It could just be wildflowers in grass, but we wanted to teach people about gardening and healthy food. Working with people is our primary focus.”

“First-ring suburban sprawl isn’t a concern in most major cities, but it is in Indianapolis. We have miles of land that have been skipped. Our downtown has seen investment and is thriving, but where is



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Value process over product. “Murals are ok, but our focus is on process not product, and often murals focus on the final result. We place value in community involvement. There are very few people thinking about community engagement and process when they are creating public art.”

Start small, stay small. “Because we started small, we have landed here. This was our hobby before it became our jobs. We never thought about it. It was the thing we liked to do. Our staff today remains small and dedicated. We only keep those on board who are truly passionate about the work.”

Talent Core Team Figures: 1. Big Car Service Center.

The Big Car team is made up of three full-time employees, five fellows, and a number of willing volunteers. •

E xecutive Director and Founder (Visionary)

3. Site construction.

C reative Director (Curator)

4. Volunteers painting murals.

D irector of Programs (Connector)

5. The Big Car team.

2. Gathering space.

6. Community Workshop at the Service Center. 7. Community forum.


Talent Programs Fellowship Big Car has modeled its talent-hiring process on the CreateHere model—individuals are tested with a short-term project before being hired full-time. In the past, Big Car has worked with external fellowship programs like Americorps, Public Allies and City Year. However, they have had more success creating an internal fellowship model rather than relying on external structures.




“Most of our work that is community-oriented makes us no money or costs us money. The other stuff that is more arts-oriented gets people here in the space and is a source of income.”

Strategies and Tactics “Be welcoming, colorful, and visible.”

Impact and Success

Armed with a facade grant from LISC, Big Car was able to work with a talented index of architects and landscape architects during the Service Center construction process.

Big Car is working to bring art to new audiences, build social capital, encourage civic engagement, and activate public spaces by engaging citizens in collaborative, participatory processes. Though the Service Center is still in its infancy, event attendance is on the rise, and the number of curious individuals stopping by continues to grow.

“It was recommended that we create a nice clean facade with a little sign. Everything is so busy out here, so we wanted to be simple. People will see us from the road and stop in to check us out.”

Today, Big Car is trying to develop more self-guided, participatory opportunities. The Service Center sits close to a bus stop, provoking many citizens to peek around the area or wander throughout the public garden while waiting for their ride. “We are working on self-guided opportunities. So if you show up here and we aren’t here, you can still check it out and interact.”

Big Car takes on proactive and responsive work in equal parts. Over time they’ve built in guardrails to ensure the responsive work is in line with their mission. “If it doesn’t engage people, we don’t do it.”

“This year there was a murder close by. The gun shop next door is the leading gun shop in the Midwest. So we just want to be a positive influence in the neighborhood. When the story about the murders came out in the paper, a columnist also reported on the Service Center. One of the biggest things that we have been able to do is shift perception. After a tragedy we will try and have 500 people out for a positive event.” “We have been able to grow our staff and empower people in the communities we’re working in. We’re also sharing creativity with city officials. We aren’t demanding. We are open and actively collaborate. It spreads. When people start doing projects, they want us involved.”


Challenges and Opportunities

Big Car does most of its marketing and storytelling through social media and word of mouth.


“There are a lot of language barriers here so we do a lot of doorto-door and print collateral in different languages. Word of mouth travels well here. Partnerships also help.”

Funding •





“Grants don’t account for staff. Alternatively, we had not paid employees for seven years.”

Focus “We get scattered and can take on too many things. We’re trying to figure out how to stop operating like a fire station all the time.”



CASE NO. 009




EST: 2012 Motto: Cleaner, safer, more inviting neighborhoods. Words of Wisdom: Investing in individuals has the best result and payoff.



Fig. 1

Overview Established in January of 2012, Glass House Collective is headquartered at 2523 Glass Street inside a restored, historic storefront in East Chattanooga. In its early stages, the team at Glass House focused primarily on ways to improve the two-block neighborhood corridor: “Let’s reclaim sidewalks, let’s create green spaces, let’s do facade improvements. But let’s also get people out of their houses and cars and onto the street. We did temporary installations and events while cultivating partnerships that will support the work long term.”

Today, Glass House has transitioned from focusing solely on the physical realm, turning its attention to improving systems for the individuals who call East Chattanooga home. Fig. 2

Neighborhood Profile While development in the city’s core continues to be on the rise, the eastern portion of Chattanooga has suffered gradual disinvestment since the mid-1960s. Where locally-owned businesses once stood, storefronts now sit empty and boarded. Youth in the community have little to occupy their time and crime in the area continues to pose a threat.

Figures: 1. Glass House storefront on Glass Street in East Chattanooga.

Yet, this historic commercial corridor has features that set it apart from other areas of the city. This two-story street has bike lanes, public transit stops, and sidewalks with clear pedestrian orientation. The area has been strengthened in recent years by arterial roadways that provide a direct link from Downtown to new billion-dollar investments, commercial developments, and suburban districts. In fact, the Glass Street corridor sees more automobile traffic than most other areas of the city, with more than 11,000 cars passing through daily.

Projects and Programs

2. Inside Glass House community and flex space.

Urban design workshops and community visioning processes

3. Design/build summer camp.

LAUNCH – A business planning course for entrepreneurs

4. N eighborhood youth preparing for installation. 5. Artists working on a public mural. 6. Neighbors at a Better Block party.



torefront improvements – Signage, facade enhancements, S and murals T emporary animations – Block parties, public art, clean-ups

“The public sector is really slow and inefficient; understand where and how you need to push the needle forward.”

treetscape upgrades – Benches, bike racks, bus shelters, S pocket parks


Youth camps and local outreach teams

Core Team

Principles •

Push before you pull.

healthy city is built from healthy neighborhoods—start A with neighbors, end with a neighborhood. se citizen input to steer work; use citizen involvement to U sustain work. I nvest in individuals, inviting those benefiting from work to co-create. hallenge public and private partners to think creatively C and collaboratively, asking them to play a role related to their mission.

Lessons Learned Make friends with your mayor.

The Glass House team initially included an entrepreneur, a creative director, an architect, and a passionate volunteer advisory council. Today, the team is made up of two fulltime employees, two part-time employees, and a handful of creative collaborators hired on a project-by-project basis. •

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

C reative Director (Curator)

C ontractors (Managers/Storytellers/Connectors)

Partners From the onset Glass House has built strategic partnerships with residents and organizations with varied fields of expertise. Partners include the City of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), The Trust for Public Land, LAUNCH, and the Chattanooga Police Department.

“Visit with your city council, and build a relationship with your mayor. “Engage partners and residents in solving real-world challenges. Make A letter of support from the mayor on day one expedited our process.” experiences entertaining and not just about picking up trash. It’s fun for people to do something that is hands-on and has a visible end Make public works work. result. Teach your neighbors new skills with on-site design projects.” “It would have been great to know from the beginning that you can have access to dollars and a partnership with the city, and to better understand that process. We were figuring it out as we went along, and it basically took camping out at public works time and time again. There’s a huge gap and lack of clarity about access to resources for community members.”

Skepticism can be constructive. “Skepticism from your neighbors is not always a bad thing; often this provides the chance to build their enthusiasm for the work.”

Talent Programs Glass House Collective’s talent programs invest in individuals from the community. From two-week summer camps to entrepreneurship training, these programs provide leadership, skill building, and networking opportunities to neighbors living throughout East Chattanooga. Most recently, Glass House has created a local outreach team of nine individuals who live in the area. Each member of the team receives a $1,000 honorarium for a one-year commitment. The team



will also have a project budget to create a program or event that will benefit the neighborhood. New programming goals will focus on capacity building, investment in individuals, and creating a platform for business growth. LAUNCH

Glass House uses the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper strategies of community development, often called Tactical Urbanism. LQC can take many forms, requiring varying degrees of time, money, and effort, and the spectrum of interventions should be seen as an iterative means to build lasting change. Organizations often start with amenities and public art, followed by events and projects which lead to light development strategies for long-term change. This approach provides more opportunities for citizens to be involved in the creation of their surroundings in a true “hands-on” way.

LAUNCH is demonstrating the many ways entrepreneurs— from barbecue barons to bicycle builders—are critical to Glass Street’s revitalization. Working in partnership with this development program, Glass House Collective recruited a dozen individuals to participate in this 10-week business planning curriculum adapted from the Company Lab’s time-tested Secret Sauce SpringBoard program. With a better sense of feasibility and “We are asking artists to play a different kind of role than they’ve impact, budding business owners are graduating into the community, playing an important role in the district’s renewal. been asked to play in the past. We aren’t just providing them with commissions for sculpture that’s not functional, but instead askTo date, the program has graduated 12 entrepreneurs, including artists to be a part of public interest projects in a role typically ing immediate neighbors and other Chattanooga residents reserved for just city engineers. Our new pocket park is the perfect interested in placing roots in the area. Art120 Art120 Summer Camp teaches participants hard skills like cutting, welding, and painting scrap metal and spare parts to fashion innovative bikes. In just one week youth and adult participants brainstorm, design, weld, and build their unique mobile sculptures.

Process Strategies and Tactics “First, listen to the community. Second, set up shop.”

Working with Stand survey data (nearly 600 interviews from Glass Street residents), the team was able to present key issues as a basis for conversation at local meetings. Glass House demonstrated both a vested interest and a commitment to place by restoring and occupying a previously derelict building. The team also used a grassroots funding campaign to build awareness and encourage people to support the work.

example. We have asked an artist, not a city official, to design the space. He is repositioning some old rail lines from the TN Valley Railroad museum to create a truly unique space.”

Storytelling The Glass House team has designed a neighborhood guide to adopt a cohesive visual voice. They have also created downloadable and printable signage and stickers which are available for neighbors to access and use, and a guidebook for volunteers to quickly orient them to history, context, and expectations.

Funding •

F iscal Sponsorship to 501c3

2 012–$200,000

2 013–$500,000 (60–70% national grants)

“We have been looking really hard at sustainability and what kind of tax structures exist to mesh for-profit and charitable giving.



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Challenges and Opportunities

The low-profit corporation structure is something that we have looked at, but the state of Tennessee doesn’t recognize that.” “We have also been looking at crowd-funding opportunities. It’s really powerful when people can participate with their pocketbooks even in small ways. There is only one example of crowd-funded real estate— from Fundrise in DC. But for now we will have to work with the 501c3 model and some LLC subsidiaries.” “Through our partnerships we have leveraged a $300,000 budget to attract $1.1 million of additional investment to the street. That investment comes from the City—redoing the sidewalks, adding streetlights, installing tree wells; CARTA—adding three bus shelters; and the Trust for Public Land and CNE—building a pocket park.”

Impact and Success Glass House has been working within a two-block corridor in East Chattanooga for over a year. Businesses on the main street include churches, a hair salon, nonprofits, etc. There are three additional spaces that are rented including two resale shops and an interactive artist studio. One business that was a negative influence has shut down and three new businesses have launched. In the coming year, Glass House will focus on redeveloping some of the properties in the area so that they may be available for new businesses or organizations. “We are tracking the number of new businesses in the area, along with crime data reports. We just heard from the police department that there has been a reduction in violent crime, but an increase in property crime and nonviolent issues. Oddly enough, the police chief assured us that this was actually a positive thing. It means people are taking the time to report crimes they see, whereas in the past they had no interest in communicating with authorities. It also means that cops are more comfortable patrolling more frequently.”

Policy Change “We are interested in cultivating ownership through project participation, but also through home ownership and investment. We deal with abandoned properties and blight in the area around Glass Street. We’re asking the City to help us determine what policy can be advocated for that can help mediate or deal with blight. Do we need larger fines for code enforcement? Right now it’s only $50…”

Capacity Building “The next round of funding will need to focus on dollars for individuals and that might take the form of capacity building for entrepreneurs, but also recruitment and startup dollars for people to relocate and expand their business to this area.”

Creative Value Proposition “Our ‘beyond Glass Street’ vision is to involve more creatives in public interest projects to better demonstrate new, more efficient ways of making this work happen. Civic projects can be much more impactful if they have an element of creativity within them.”

Sustainability “Often the health of a neighborhood is directly related to public perception and perception, in turn, influences commitment. Making efforts to work with the city, educate officials, lead by example, and demonstrate progress, sets the stage for continued, lasting commitment. Once our public sector improvements are really visible we hope to see private sector commitments follow suit. That’s how this work lives on and becomes sustainable in the long run.” “We need someone who is an expert in economic development. It’s very much a for-profit business, so it’s difficult to relay our value.”

“Our biggest successes begin with giving people a voice about their place. Over 150 residents participated in the visioning process, where they were connected with expertise and opportunities that they previously had not experienced. During the statewide AIA conference, local residents worked with 50 architects to begin shaping a collective vision for the neighborhood.”



CASE NO. 010




EST: 2013, NYC (CSI Toronto opened in 2003) Motto: Creating a home for social innovation. Words of Wisdom: People connect to openness and authenticity.



Fig. 1

Overview Founded in 2003 in Toronto, the Centre for Social Innovation started with a group of entrepreneurs who imagined a new model of shared workspace for social innovators. For more than a decade, CSI has been catalyzing social innovation in Toronto. In 2013, the New York City location opened its doors, serving as a co-working space, social community, and launchpad for people who are changing the world. CSI provides members with the tools they need to accelerate their success and amplify their social impact.

Fig. 2

CSI occupies 18,000 square feet of space, and caters to nonprofits, for-profits, and unincorporated service providers like designers, photographers, and editors. From part-time desks to private offices, projectors to meeting rooms, CSI provides the space and amenities entrepreneurs need to be productive. CSI focuses on curating a diverse community of passionate problem solvers, nurturing a culture of collaboration, and fostering relationships by leveraging connections to mentors, investors, public sector decision makers, and thought leaders. “Our mission is to catalyze social impact, not run shared spaces. The physical space is a business model, a physical home, a petri dish from which we do the real work ... We focus on admin so our entrepreneurs can focus on mission.�

Neighborhood Profile CSI originally had no intention of expanding beyond their Canadian footprint, but in recent years the founders have been encouraged to open additional spaces throughout the world. When a compelling offer came from the owner of the StarrettLehigh building in New York City, CSI jumped on the opportunity. The building is one of the largest and most prominent spaces in West Chelsea, a former industrial and distribution area serving the Hudson River docks. Today the area is an epicenter of art, innovation, and technology.



Projects and Programs


Skill-building workshops and classes

Core Team

Peer circles

Lectures and conferences

Co-working membership/shared space

The majority of the core team’s time is spent building the CSI community. Team roles include Executive Director, Director of Operations and Community Animator. Additional support is provided through the Director of Design, Events Coordinator and Administrative Assistant. A robust team of volunteers manage the welcome desk, greeting guests and members as they enter the space. The core team members devote about 80% of their energy to CSI space and members, and about 20% of their time looking outward. The Community Animator listens to the ecosystem and finds ways to weave connections and opportunities.

n online platform connecting social innovators with A resources and activities in NYC

Principles •

Social innovation occurs best in diverse environments.

Social innovation needs a conducive physical environment.

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

D irector of Operations (Manager)

Lessons Learned

C ommunity Animator (Connector)

E vents Coordinator (Curator)

Set expectations from the beginning.

D irector of Design (Storyteller)

A dministrative Assistant (Manager)

D esk Volunteers

S ubtle animation can stimulate connection and innovation in shared spaces.

“We don’t require our members to serve the community; we just set the tone and move out of the way. We reinforce the expectation through language, brands, email lists, and programs—our assumption is that members will find the right ways to make a contribution. If we try to force this stuff on members it’s not sustainable.”

Start small. “If you start with eight people and add three a month, you can layer culture. If you start with 40 people and add 12 a month, it becomes too easy to become anonymous in the space.”

Be visible prior to opening. “We made a point to be present prior to opening by hosting a few events. Providing value before you open the door is important.”

Members The CSI team carefully selects their tenants or “agents of change” through a rolling application process. Members are required to sign a one-year contract for a private office and a six-month contract for a desk. Small organizations are taking advantage of the open, shared spaces. These spaces are typically occupied by teams of one to four individuals, many of whom are working on projects related to local food, art, and public space.



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CSI members are diverse in background and discipline. To be considered for membership, applicants must be working on projects that have (or have the potential to have) social impact.

lounges, meeting rooms, classrooms, and equipment. Unexpected nooks and crannies allow members to find a space that fits their individual needs.

The CSI staff hold their curatorial responsibility very high. Members are engaged not as clients, but as co-creators in the space. 90% of CSI applicants eventually become members.

CSI has intentionally designed a work environment that is comfortable, accessible, and fosters connections among members. Open kitchens and common areas are the “heartbeat” of the space. CSI believes that strong community relationships allow people to exchange ideas, collaborate easily, find services, and access knowledge freely. A solid community leads to innovation.

“We created a set of criteria for membership: 1) You have to be doing social impact; 2) You have to be a nice person; 3) We look for diversity.”

“We just had three members run successful crowd-funded campaigns. We’ll bring them together and have a lunch so that they can share “We try to tell the story of reuse and locally made when possible. five things they learned with the rest of the community. We’re activeThese tables are made from freight doors from this building that ly looking for ways to engage members as co-creators.” were being thrown out. The kitchen features shelving from an old apothecary from Niagara Falls.” Partners

CSI has built strategic partnerships with Ashoka, Echoing Green, Be Social Change, NYU, GOOD, and other prominent leaders in the field of social innovation. When the decision was made to set up shop in New York, these partnerships were essential to building additional relationships and adding credibility to CSI’s work. “Because we had no brand recognition here, we went to organizations that were held in high esteem. We went to Ashoka and Echoing Green and told them that we would be delighted to give free space to their fellows, and in exchange, it would be great to list them as a partner. We used that as a doorway to future collaboration. We made the same offer to NYU and Parsons—it allowed us to show we had credibility among respected organizations.”

Process Strategies and Tactics Shared space is the bedrock of the CSI model. Being physically together sets the stage for new relationships to form and new projects to emerge. The New York office opened with a large commons and a vintage apothecary kitchen. The perimeter space has 32 offices, 32 desks, eight to ten team clusters, and 60 work stations. All members have 24/7 access to workspace,

“People want old chandeliers, canoes, and 90-year-old kitchens. There’s something to be said about being real and comfortable. Our space is very human, not antiseptic like some other spaces.”

Secret Sauce “The secret is there is no secret. You have to work really hard. You have to be likable and genuine. You have to offer people something before taking from them.” “We just came out and really tried to tell everyone that our work could be significant, and we wanted their help shaping it. People responded positively to that message.”

Storytelling Over time CSI has learned that people connect most to authenticity. That in mind, CSI strives to be welcoming and transparent without overplaying the “cool” factor. The CSI business model is clearly structured, allowing the organization to succinctly articulate and share its vision.



Fig. 5



“The biggest challenge in the beginning was figuring out how to get known in a city where no one knows you. The answer is taking hundreds and hundreds of meetings. It’s a big city ... we landed here and started with four meetings, then those people recommended more people and soon we had 6, 7, 10, 20, and 100 more meetings. We just met with everyone, listened, and told them what we wanted to build. Then we invited them to be a part of it.” “We support the small stuff because that’s what’s important to civil society and the economy. It doesn’t always make for a great narrative for those who want a splashy story, but regardless, that’s where we need to be going.” “We had to come out swinging. Our success was going to be born in the first three months in a city like New York. People can smell a sick animal, so we threw all of our chips at it. We have been doing this for nine years (in Toronto). It might be transferable to other people, but I know the nuance of what we’re doing.”

Funding •


2013–1,500,000 (80% events/rentals, 20% grants)

“We’ve been successful because the space is unique and interesting, and we’ve priced ourselves very low. One of the strategies was to price ourselves at or below market, largely because we thought our success would be made in the first couple of months. Rather than make a great margin off very few people, I’d rather make a penny off of 1,000 people and leverage up over time.”

CSI Space Pricing : •

S mall meeting room (2–4 people) – $20/hour

M edium meeting room (6–10 people ) – $30/hour

S ingle classroom (up to 20 people) – $50/hour

D ouble classroom (up to 50 people) – $100/hour

T riple classroom (up to 80 people) – $135/hour

E vent space (100+ people) – $3,000 – $4,000



Fig. 6

Fig. 7



Impact and Success

Time “It has unfolded quite easily. We haven’t had terrible challenges. Construction took longer than we thought, but in the end it was a positive. We had more time to build the community.”

CSI moved into the Starrett-Lehigh building in May 2013, so impacts are still being determined.

CSI is presently developing an online third party platform that will connect innovators with resources and activities happening Funding throughout NYC. CSI saw an opportunity to be the “connective “Fundraising has been a bit of a challenge. We were trying to secure tissue” in a city that already has many of the resources needed a loan, and we were just unable to do so. Then we pivoted to to create and support a thriving social impact sector. grant-seeking, and we have had some success there. It was a big “Basically we would collect data about you, what your project is, and where you are trying to go. We would match you with interventions along your development pathway and access the interventions. Experience is being fed back into the system and we are getting smarter about making recommendations along the path. We are also collecting info about what social entrepreneurs need. It’s a database and interface driven by an entrepreneur’s needs and interests.”

breakthrough for us.”

“The reality is that only a small percentage of our members are really going to do anything earth shattering. We house a lot of single person organizations...They are all having impact, but it’s not that common that these guys will have the breakthrough technology that brings fresh water to millions of people. That might happen in extreme cases, but most of these projects are people who are doing good stuff around local food, art, and public space under the radar. We’re supporting that ecosystem.”

Figures: 1. Volunteer-staffed welcome desk. 2. Casual seating and community nooks in CSI main-space. 3. F lexible office space for members.

“We are way above our tenant projections, so I hesitate to say that it was anything but a success. We know how precarious that can be, so we do not relent for a minute.”

4. O ffice space for socially-conscious entrepreneurs. 5. Column messaging setting the tone.

Challenges and Opportunities

6. O pen kitchen space created from vintage apothecary storage.

Culture of Opportunity

7. Custom wine-labels in showcase.

“There are not as many differences between the Canadian office and New York office as people would like to think. I imagine the culture in Cincinnati would be similar too. There’s a wave of young people who want to make a difference, have a bit of an entrepreneurial bent, and want to bring ideas to fruition. It’s happening in a lot of different cities around the world.”



CASE NO. 011




EST: 2012 Motto: Make with your head, think with your hands. Words of Wisdom: Who dares, wins.



Fig. 1

Overview Located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, Makeshift Society describes itself as a “co-working space and clubhouse for creatives.” A strike contrast to the hustle and bustle of other San Francisco co-working spaces, the Makeshift Clubhouse is only 1,000 square feet in size and houses members who operate small, independent practices and slow-growth, small-batch businesses.

Fig. 2

With a broad background that includes everything from web design, jewelry design and small business consultation, Makeshift founder Rena Tom is familiar with the growing pool of creative entrepreneurs seeking a home base. Understanding that freelancers grow tired of working out of coffee shops and other temporary spaces, Makeshift created a supportive place for independent creatives by providing workspace, connections, and resources. Society members come from a variety of disciplines and many are influencers in their fields. The present ecosystem includes copywriters, photographers, bloggers, social media experts, accountants, PR consultants, brand consultants, retailers, community managers, event planners, web designers, and makers of all stripes. “This is a great time to help freelancers. It was important for us to focus on people who don’t have the backing. In San Francisco tech is everything. Makeshift supports people that the tech companies end up hiring as contractors. Headshot photographers, copywriters, graphic designers, social media consultants, etc. all reside here. I feel like there is an ecosystem that we can be a part of without necessarily sitting in a tech incubator everyday.”

Projects and Programs •


Events, classes and workshops covering a range of topics, from design thinking to terrarium building Mixers and brown bag lunch socials support networking and cross-sector collaboration



Storefront windows providing retailers with a revolving, pop-up showcase

Makeshift places a great deal of emphasis on peer learning and mentoring as well as connecting subject matter experts to bolster each member’s business. The resulting environment is ideal for growing networks organically and fostering opportunities for collaboration.

Makeshift residencies providing individuals with access to space and the network for three months while they pursue their creative projects

Principles •

Do what you love, make who you are.

Lessons Learned “We promote agency for our members because, as freelancers, there are many things they have to figure out, learn and do. Yes, we provide classes, but we’re also as hands-off as possible. We’re not an incubator that will teach you how to do everything. People need to learn how to do it themselves to better find their hidden strengths...We don’t have coffee here to encourage people to get up, go around the corner and find it themselves. We’re intentional in our approach and don’t want it to always be super comfortable. We want people to get up and talk to other humans.”

“I wanted to embed Makeshift into a neighborhood. This location is central, has access to public transit, and has a cool storefront. Most co-working space in San Francisco is on the 4th floor or upstairs. I wanted a sense of transparency to our work. I wanted people to walk by and be curious. We are woven into the neighborhood fabric. Our space is very intimate, and people who like that come here.”

Start with people. “When members want a class or panel, they set it up. They find the panelists, set the time, invite members, record the discussion. Makeshift participants want to belong to a community. They want to run into the same people on the street corner or at the desk next to them. Creating a comfortable and social space is key...You can build a cute space anywhere, but it’s the people that fill it that ultimately create the spark and bring the energy.”

F ounder (Visionary)

I nterior Designer and Director of Outreach (Communicator)

C reative Director (Curator)


Promote agency.

Be transparent.

Makeshift Society partners with select companies who support its mission and benefit from working with the community. Partners have included Anthroplogie, Kohler, FLOR, Restoration Hardware, Chronicle Press, Princeton Architectural Press, and The Bold Italic.

Talent Programs Residency Makeshift offers three-month residencies for creatives. The residents receive free, full-time access to the Clubhouse, taking advantage of both the physical space and communal resources. At the end of each cycle, residents conduct a lecture to the membership about their project. Past residents have included artists, developers, researchers, writers, etc. “There are more people trying to work for themselves, even if they are not trying to start a huge company. Tech is huge in San Francisco. Even if you’re not in that world, the benefits are apparent—there are hackathons and incubators and other fun events, but generally other creative freelancers don’t have that same support.” “I didn’t know who was going to use the space. I thought it might be a bigger ‘maker’ population. The assumption from the outside is that San Francisco has a big maker population, but they haven’t come. Our members lean towards the professional creative—illustrators, photographers, designers, etc.”



Fig. 3



Process Strategies and Tactics A physical space is important for small-scale creatives. While the internet allows people to work with ease from any location, Makeshift Society has identified a growing desire among people who want to belong to a community. The Clubhouse is organized into zones, allowing members to select their workspace based on their mood or needs. A casual zone up front provides a space for working and reading, while a quiet zone in the back serves those who need more focus. A beautifully designed conference room can be closed off if privacy is needed, and there’s even a loft upstairs for anyone needing a quick nap.

Secret Sauce “The diverse talent pool here sets the stage for serendipitous activities to occur. If everyone has the same background or same skill sets, you’re limiting what’s possible. Makeshift sits in opposition. You can throw issues or challenges out into the air and it’s likely someone will be able to connect you because they’re at the table with a different perspective.”

Storytelling Makeshift has a simple story to share. While it was initially difficult to explain co-working and shared space, the team managed to cultivate their membership through word of mouth. They been more proactive about sharing their model in Brooklyn. A dynamic Kickstarter video and strong partnerships have helped spread the word and share their experiences collaborating with the organization.



Fig. 4

Fig. 5



Funding •


2012–$50,000+ (memberships, classes, and rentals)

Challenges and Opportunities Communication “Co-working space is not always understood by landlords. That in mind, securing a space was more challenging than anticipated.”

“There are a couple co-working models to consider: 1) Private: People use their own funding; 2) City: If you are focused on an asset like tech, Funding you might be able to receive city funding. General Assembly did this. “Funding is a challenge because we fall into this gray area. SBA will The city wanted to bring that co-working model in, largely because of not get involved with anyone selling real estate, and they saw us its tech focus.” as a sublease. People come in part-time, but this is not officially their office. It’s a new concept. Because Makeshift is not a nonprofit, Impact and Success it gets complicated.”

The Bay area is teeming with innovative talent and entrepreneurs. Makeshift has created an intimate space for independent service providers and creatives who are supporting the larger tech ecosystem. The shared space is still very new, but membership continues to grow. The Makeshift team is in the process of building a larger clubhouse in Brooklyn. The two locations will serve as sister entities and will allow members on either coast access to both spaces. Tracking these collaborations between the New York and San Francisco spaces will help determine the potential for national replication.

Replication “People in other cities are interested in replicating the model, but my time and resources are limited. After New York is running, we might try to create a toolkit for people to use and also make a licensing program.”

Makeshift has had interest from a variety of groups, allowing the society to grow with confidence. Additional success comes from daily interactions with members. “Collaboration doesn’t happen every day, but when I hear about cool things happening spontaneously, that’s when you see the magic of the people and this place.... I have one member who started her photography business out of the back; she now has her own studio and several assistants. That’s all happened in the past nine months.”

Figures: 1. Makeshift Society Clubhouse. 2. Private desk space for members. 3. Shared desk space for members. 4. Lockers and lounge area. 5. Storefront casual seating.



CASE NO. 012




EST: 2008 Motto: Ideas + Doing. Words of Wisdom: Make things too simple.



Fig. 1

Overview People for Urban Progress (PUP) is a 501c3 organization that promotes and advances public transit, environmental awareness, and urban design in Indianapolis. With a mission founded on project-based urban progress, PUP is an idea incubator, design center, and do-tank, working to enhance quality of life throughout the city. PUP was established in 2008 when founding members came to the idea that they could salvage roof fabric from the RCA Dome and upcycle the material into public shade structures for the city. In the beginning, the team was not set up to take on such a large endeavor, but moved forward with the hope that other organizations would be interested in the project and see the unused resource as an opportunity for the city.

Fig. 2

“We initially hit a lot of dead ends. People were confused by what we wanted to do with the material. We originally thought the parks could take it and use it to build shade shelters, but that partnership didn’t happen as expected. Essentially, we just went for it and ended up having to do everything ourselves. We needed funding, so began to consider how we might commodify the material. We asked the question: ‘What could we make right now?’ We knew we couldn’t afford to make shelters right away, but we certainly could afford sewing machines. We hired a designer and began making small goods that could help turn a profit.”

PUP created salable goods from the salvaged material. These products—bags, wallets, etc.—continue to serve as the organization’s main source of revenue, supporting many of the group’s larger urban interventions. Neighborhood Profile Figures: 1. PUP motto. 2. PUP studio and flex space. 3. PUP products for sale.

PUP’s design studio is located in Fountain Square, a neighborhood that sits just one mile from the city center. While there are still shortcomings in transit and retail in the urban core, downtown Indianapolis has undergone tremendous transformation in recent years. Because a major expressway separates

4. Product materials in storage.



Fountain Square from the city, there’s a perception that it’s not part of downtown. While this misconception is often seen as a pitfall, PUP sees an opportunity to use micro-design projects and installations to acknowledge a space that many people have not yet explored.

Projects and Programs •

ome products – messenger bags, wallets, iPad cases, and D dopp kits made from upcycled RCA Dome and Superbowl XLVI roof fabric

Public shade structures

Stadium seat bus stops


Set clear expectations and follow through with plans. “We’re sensitive to who we partner with. We set clear expectations up front. Delivery is key.”

Talent Core Team The PUP team began with two founding members and a single designer to make early product prototypes. Today, the team is still small, made up of a volunteer Executive Director and two paid staff—a Director of Design and Fabrication and a Director of Operations and Development. •

Lead Curator/Inventor (Visionary)

Product Manager (Curator)

Make good design a priority.

Outreach Manager (Connector)

Lead with your gut.

Volunteer interns (Fellows)

The magic is in the showing up and doing.


Lessons Learned Teach the public about good design. “We hack and repurpose materials to educate the public about the resources that are right in front of them. Every city could have one of our offices, absorbing resources and turning out new products and projects. We’re obsessed with quality and we’re obsessed with getting it done.”

Start small. “So much of civic thinking is about big long-term plans. These are great, but sometimes nothing happens. We want to be part of those conversations, but we also want to do something. Our smallest project was a $300 investment. The Parks Department donated two tennis courts to a bike polo league, and the neighbors didn’t like the pallet construction, so we covered the wood with super dome fabric and zip ties. It was small and simple but it made an impact.”

“We’re interested in working with people building portfolio careers, i.e. somebody who could work with us one-half or three-quarters of the time but have other interests and projects too.”

Partners PUP acknowledges that building strategic partnerships early in the process has helped get the work done. Local partners include Sabre Demolition (who helped with Dome roof and stadium seat removal), the Indianapolis Parks Department, Keep Indy Beautiful, Southeast Neighborhood Development (SEND), Indianapolis Fabrications, Recycle Force, IndyGo, and ProjectiOne.



Process Strategies and Tactics 1. Pre-Production 2. Production 3. Post-Production “We are starting to think about project delivery like film production. The great thing about making a film is that you have pre-production, production, and post-production. You pay for the best people you can afford to focus on each of those pieces for a short amount of time. There is a trend emerging that suggests multitasking is a bad idea and that focus is actually how things get done. We’re trying to figure out how to reorganize and focus.” “When projects come up, we respond with our gut. We need a process to better help us what projects we do and don’t do in the future.”

Funding •

Fiscal Sponsorship to 501c3

2012–$250,000 (80–90% revenue from product sales)

“Our budget is rolling, and we’re paying for a lot of it ourselves. Early on, four organizations donated $2,500, and we turned that into product quickly. Our original investment was $7,000 to remove 9,000 seats. The return is still coming in. We have been selling the seats for $40, and have made about $40,000, but we also have to pay to have a company take them apart. So half of that cost goes back into the process.” “We try to charge for our time and resources. We have to. Some organizations think that because we got all of these resources for free we shouldn’t charge, but we stuck our neck out. It was a big risk. We pay to hack, clean, and produce. It’s expensive.”



Fig. 3



Fig. 4



Impact and Success “We underestimated the role that nostalgia plays in civic engagement. People are looking for ways to love their city and consuming something from it is a way to change the way we think about waste, reuse, sustainability, design, and history in one product.” “The stadium hadn’t been used in 20 years. 21 years later we sold 1,000 seats in four days.” “A great local retailer came on board early to help us sell the first 1,000 units. Many hands touch these projects and many hands make a piece of the profit.”

Challenges and Opportunities Storytelling “We use the word ‘do tank’ a lot, but people don’t know what that means, so we just keep circling catch phrases. We are in conversation, because we have spent the last five years expanding. We want to be more mindful about telling our story. We are makers that are interested in urban investment and projects.”

Measuring Impact “There are a series of questions in grants that we can’t answer. A big one is ‘how many people do you serve?’ Well, we impact the city. We could collect the number of people that use our benches at bus stops, but it feels like a generic statistic.”

Creative Value Proposition “Designers have earned bad reputations for being irresponsible and too expensive. We need to retrain the public to value design.”

Funding “90% of our funding comes from products. We have received little grant funding because we don’t fit the typical mode. We aren’t an arts organization or environmental organization. It’s been a struggle. I’m not willing to rewrite who we are just so we can get funding. There are so many organizations competing for arts funding. We need design and innovation funding. It’s a challenge to find.”



CASE NO. 013




EST: 1997 Motto: Use design to improve engagement. Words of Wisdom: Find where design can be the most useful and the hardest hitting.



Fig. 1

Overview The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization in New York City that uses design and art to improve civic engagement. CUP projects demystify the urban policy and planning issues that impact communities, with the belief that increasing understanding of these systems is the first step towards better and diverse community participation.

Fig. 2

Each CUP project is a collaboration of art and design professionals, community-based advocates and policymakers, and CUP staff. Once assembled, these teams take on complex issues—from the juvenile justice system to zoning laws to food access—and break them down into simple, accessible, and visual explanations. The tools created by CUP are used by organizers and educators throughout NYC to equip its constituents to advocate for their own community’s needs. CUP approaches the challenge of improving public engagement through civic education using two strategies. Youth education programs pair students with teaching artists, who together investigate some aspect of how the city works in order to create a product that educates others. Community education programs bring together designers and advocates to produce tools, workshops, and publications that explain complex policies or processes for specific audiences. “We never identify the problem. All of our work is focused on needs that exist on the ground. It’s really important for the challenges to be identified by an organization. It needs to be bottom up.”

Projects and Programs Figures:

1. CUP studio in Brooklyn. 2. CUP library. 3. M aking Policy Public posters and printed ephemera.

4. CUP Sewer in a Suitcase. 5. Printed ephemera for sale.


nvisioning Development Toolkits – Workshops built around E interactive tools that teach about basic land-use terms and concepts, enabling people to participate meaningfully in neighborhood change M aking Policy Public – Fold-out posters that make complex policy issues accessible, created in collaboration with CUP, community organizations and design professionals



ublic Access Design – Multimedia organizing tools that P allow CUP to partner with designers and community organizations to make complex local issues accessible to the New Yorkers most affected by them

Core Team CUP practices a hub-and-spoke model of work, placing talented staff at the center of a large network of collaborators from numerous disciplines. The staff direct day-to-day operations, initiating and managing all projects. The spokes are the artists, designers, educators, activists, and researchers who comprise each collaborative project team.

echnical Assistance Program – Outreach and organizing T tools for community organizations and advocacy groups U rban Investigations – Youth projects that ask basic questions about how the city works, answering them over the course of a semester ity Studies – In-class and after-school project-based C curricula for high school students ranging from semesterlong projects to single-session workshops

Principles •

Facilitate unique and unexpected collaborations.

Value visual communication.

Make products that are useful in the real world.

Focus on social justice.

Keep it fun and funny.

E xecutive Director (Visionary)

D eputy Director (Curator and Connector)

Program Managers (Managers)

C ommunications Coordinator (Storyteller)

P rogram Assistant (Manager)

G rants Manager (Finance)

I ntern

“People somehow think that we’re this huge operation, but we’re really just a small dedicated team.”


Lessons Learned Simplify. “Make everything as visual as possible. Get rid of the language jargon. Make the process tactile.”

Invest in youth and they will deliver.

Although CUP aims to foster greater and better civic participation across the board, most projects intentionally engage in historically underrepresented communities. All of its youth education programs are based within the New York City public school system, and its community education programs emphasize collaboration with low-income communities and other underrepresented groups.

“It’s really great to work with high school students because they are very direct interviewers. They can get away with asking the hard questions and, because they have their hand in the project, they tend to make the value responses that are direct and knowable.”

Value design. “It’s amazing to see the impact from our work. Good design can turn a challenge on it’s head.”



Talent Program Design Challenges CUP is committed to bringing together individuals from different fields to engage in creative dialogue. Each project includes CUP staff, artists or designers, community-based or advocacy organizations, and people directly affected by the issue being addressed. “Because our project timeframes are so short, it can be hard to coordinate with universities. We have only worked with professional designers and artists.” “Designers are paid a stipend for these projects. We try to work with the best and we know that to work with the best you have to pay.”

Process Strategies and Tactics

equal numbers of advocacy leaders and designers, reviews the applications (usually 30–50) and chooses the top organizations who will move forward in the process. The same jury meets again several months later to select for each project the best suited designers according to their portfolios and issues of interest. Once the advocacy organization is paired with the designer, CUP serves as a translator and facilitates the six to eight month collaboration by further defining the core issue and determining the best graphic vehicle to deliver the information. Once the posters are complete, the advocacy organizations serve as channels for distribution. “There is a lot of back and forth between CUP staff, the advocacy group, and the designer to determine a graphic language that will work. We always have end users weigh in during the process. We do a lot of preliminary work with the advocacy group to breakdown the issue into understandable terms, so its more accessible for the designer to visualize.” “First the advocates have to drop all of the info on the designers and CUP staff. Then we make a document that frames the issue as we understand it and present it back. There are a number of ways to approach the design after that. Its all deeply collaborative.”

CUP collaborates with artists to produce print media, short animations, and websites, that organizers can distribute in their communities. While each community and youth education project warrants a slightly different process CUP has developed a basic approach:

Urban Investigations, the flagship youth education project, is structured similarly. CUP staff works with a teaching artist and a group of high school students to investigate questions about the city. Behind these questions, which often appear to be very simple, are complex systems that involve a variety of stakeholders with different perspectives about what’s working and what’s not.

1. Challenge Identification 2. Team Curation 3. Extensive Research and Narrative Mapping 4. Illustration and Design 5. Packaging and Disbursement 6. Final Documentation Making Policy Public is a CUP community education initiative that results in four new projects annually. The Making Policy Public process begins with a call to community organizations or advocacy groups working on a specific social issue, inviting them to submit proposals explaining why a visual explanation would add value to their advocacy work. A jury comprising

Teaching artists and CUP work with students to become investigative journalists. Going into the field, they talk with stakeholders and decision makers, take photographs, make sketches, and ask a lot of questions along the way. Then students go back into the classroom to break down what they’ve learned, collaborating with the teaching artist to create a visual tool that addresses the challenge.



Fig. 3

Fig. 4



Fig. 5



Impact and Success

“Students are given a clear research method. We’ve had interest in our approach from all over the world, so we’re working on a Urban Investigation Guide—it’s a tablet that can be used by educators. We are a small studio, but we want to extend our methodology.”

CUP projects have been featured in art museums, design magazines, film festivals, and other venues including the Venice Biennial and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s Design Triennial; publications like Print, Good, and The New York Times; and venues from Exit Art to the New Museum for Contemporary Art.


Every CUP project results in a piece of visual communication. CUP works with artists and designers to create everything Each CUP project designs and produces visual tools to be used from documentaries to posters to comic books to contraptions, by whichever constituency will most benefits from the inforall with a strong visual presence designed to make informamation. Products are used by community organizations in their tion accessible, enjoyable, and meaningful. CUP strategically own organizing efforts, by educators in their classrooms, and emphasizes a fun and funny tone. Because the issues they by others addressed in particular projects, such as New York tackle are often intimidating, CUP works diligently to build City street vendors or residents of public housing. projects that capture the imaginations, make people laugh and give them a chance to play. “The I Got Arrested Now What? comic is being used by counselors in “We do a lot of outreach and operate mostly through word of mouth. Building and sustaining relationships is really important to this work.”

Budget •



CUP is primarily grant-funded. Additional public funding has come from the NEA, New York State, and New York City of Cultural Affairs. Over 20 foundations have also supported the work, and a group of 100+ friends donate annually. CUP also hosts an annual fundraiser, which is an opportunity for more than 300 artists, designers, community advocates, and other urban enthusiasts to sip drinks and nibble on bites while enjoying presentations of new CUP projects and good company. Center for Urban Pedagogy also sells some products online, ranging in price from $3 to $300. While this is not a substantial source of income, everything helps!

the system. We have printed over 20,000. It has appeared in several articles about youth who get in trouble. The juvenile detention system is incredibly scary. Youth don’t typically know all of the players, so the comic can be a useful tool.” “We do an annual check-in with all of our projects. When we’re working with community organizations who are distributing the projects, we check in to see how many tools they’ve distributed and hear any stories/feedback collected from the field.”

Challenges and Opportunities Value of Design “The key is finding where design can be useful and where it can be the hardest hitting.”

Process “These are really time-intensive processes. It’s really important to be up-front about the level of collaboration. When most people enter a design collaboration, they assume the value is in making it look pretty with graphics. The design process takes time.”






When studied out of context, best practices often overlook the complexity of culture from city to city. In our studio, we’ve learned that while you can’t always replicate projects you can most certainly replicate principles. As a way to consider how we might better share, scale and replicate transformative work, we’ve recorded lessons learned, both from observation and front line experience.



START SMALL Long-term system change takes time. Grand plans involve the alignment of many parts, not to mention the time it takes to assemble the necessary buy-in, support and resources. While the complexity of city challenges seem to demand large-scale reactions, many visionaries recognize the value of starting with smaller, quicker, cheaper approaches at the onset to build momentum and gradually grow impact. This incremental approach to design is often intentional. Small moves make room for quicker pivots.

SIMPLIFY Earnest Hemingway was known for his rigorous editing technique which involved meticulously removing words from drafts of his manuscripts. The result was a direct and pointed handling of the English language, one devoid of superfluous expressions. Simplifying both written and visual communication helps make processes approachable and accessible to a wider audience.

BE DISRUPTIVE In today’s progress-obsessed society, the term “innovation” has lost much of its meaning. At its core, innovation is about doing things differently, which fundamentally requires an interruption or change in the way things have been done. Innovation in the civic space is driven by positive and lasting disruption. Its not innovation until things change.



INVEST IN INDIVIDUALS History show us that human ingenuity drives innovation. In the face of intractable challenges ranging from generational poverty to outmoded infrastructure, citizens are increasingly inclined and able to take action on the problems they’re most passionate about. Engagement and innovation on an individual level can serve as a precursor and driver for wide-scale positive transformation over time. It makes sense then that projects and platforms that invest directly in people have the greatest return on investment over time.

USE ENGLISH Complicated industry nomenclature coupled with million dollar buzzwords confuses the audience and makes communication efforts worthless. While many civic innovation projects are addressing complex issues, communication to the public should still be clear and accessible. Jargon-filled language muddles the message, therefore weakening the case. Use English; the world thanks you.

FINISH WHAT YOU START The information age has brought with it an obsession with new ideas. While there is certainly value in fresh thinking, follow-through also matters. Projects left half-baked leads to unmet expectations—often harming more than helping.



KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO Individuals in leadership roles often find themselves overwhelmed with attention-consuming requests. Take meetings, give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, get coffee, donate time. While it can be difficult to know which of these requests actually matter in the long run, the most productive individuals know how to keep focus and avoid overzealous distraction. Rule of thumb: say no to most things.

WELCOME People are naturally drawn to places they feel welcomed. Reduce barriers to entry by inviting individuals to take action. Ask them to participate, welcome them when they arrive, equip them when they show up...then move out of the way.

HARNESS OPPORTUNITY The best ideas often start at the intersection of right time, right people, and right place. Visionaries working on civic projects are alert to these windows of opportunity, identifying a favorable set of circumstances that others might naturally bypass. Opportunity surrounds us; take the time to look for it.



COMPENSATE CONNECTORS AND CURATORS Connectors and curators are the most important players when it comes to navigating and bridging complicated networks. These roles are not clearly defined in traditional institutions but must be to better advance innovative work.

GIVE A DAMN AND ACT ACCORDINGLY People want to make a difference in the places they call home. Fostering small, participatory projects that call citizens to action increases involvement and, over time, ensures civic work is sustained. Intersecting educational opportunities with joyful experiences is a great way to foster civic action.

DESIGN IS NOT AN AFTERTHOUGHT The most complex problems are solved with smart design and proven design processes, ranging from human-centered approaches to rapid prototyping methods and iterative techniques. Design is a valuable instrument used to transform the way individuals and organizations define their role to the world and to themselves. Simply put, design matters.








Glass House Collective Katherine Currin and Teal Thibaud, Co-founders/Directors

Big Car Jim Walker, Executive Director

Create Here Josh McManus and Helen Johnson, Co-founders/Directors

San Francisco/Bay Area 5M Alex Michel, Director [Freespace] Ilana Lipsett, Lead Organizer Makeshift Society Rena Tom, Founder/Director SPUR Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director d.School (Drop-in visit)

San Jose ZERO1 Joel Slayton, Executive Director Jamie Austin, Programming Director Sarah Nesbit, Marketing Director

Los Angeles Two-Bit Circus Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradmen, Co-Founders

People for Urban Progress Michael Bricker, Co-Founder

Pittsburgh cityLAB Eve Picker, Founder/Director Saxifrage School Tim Cook, Founder/Director

Philadelphia New Urban Mechanics Jeff Friedman, Co-Director Next City Diana Lind, Executive Director NextFab Evan Malone, Director Philadelphia Social Innovation Lab Tine Hansen-Turton and Nic Torres, Co-Directors Hidden City Thaddeus A. Squire, Founder

New York City Be Social Change Marcos Salazar and Allie Mahler, Co-Founders Center for Urban Pedagogy Sam Holleran, Communications Coordinator Centre for Social Innovation Eli Malinsky, Executive Director


STORY (Drop-in visit) The Trust for Governor’s Island Leslie Koch, Executive Director Helsinki Design Lab Bryan Boyer, Design Strategist (HDL), Partner/Co-Founder Makeshift Society

Atlanta Flux Projects Anne Archer, Executive Director

New Orleans St. Claude Main Street Michael Martin, Director Matter Tippy Tippens, Proprietor Art Space Joe Butler, Project Manager, NOLA

Chicago Washington Park Arts Incubator Allison Glenn, Program Manager Firebelly University Dawn Hancock, Founder/Director

Detroit D:hive Jeff Aronoff, Executive Director Jeanette Pierce, Director of Outreach and Community Relations Ponyride Kate Bordine, Executive Director


ABOUT US About the Studio(s) Tomorrow Today is a design studio that serves foundations and nonprofits who care about cities. In partnership with visionary patrons the studio develops civic labs and tools that equip citizens, inspire communities, connect networks and enhance place. Little Things Labs is a problem-solving laboratory that identifies and acts on pressing problems and emerging opportunities in post-industrial cities. In partnership with foundations and corporations the Lab discovers, designs, and prototypes tools that redefine challenges as transformative opportunities.

About the Authors Kate Creason is lead operations director for Tomorrow Today. Kate’s past work includes serving as director of MakeWork, a Chattanooga-based initiative that empowers artists with financial support, entrepreneurial resources and showcase opportunities. Since 2008, MakeWork has awarded $1,000,000 in grant monies and has led to a deepened community understanding of and appreciation for artists. The program has also served to incubate a scalable, replicable model of community-building using art and culture as its central tool. With a unique background in art and architecture, Kate has cultivated strong project management skills as well as an eye for detail and design. She is passionate about developing creative initiatives that promote place-based change and tools that connect artists to their communities. Kate holds an M.Arch from Georgia Institute of Technology and a BFA from the University of Tennessee. Megan Deal is creative director for Tomorrow Today. Megan’s past work includes the development of PieLab—a pie shop, job-training center and cultural hub in Greensboro, Alabama, and the design and development of CoSign—an initiative that paired local business owners with local artists and professional sign fabricators to install a critical mass of new storefront signage in Cincinnati. Megan’s work in cities across the US has helped shape her understanding of how small, person-to-person gestures can often lead to larger-scale impact. A simplifier at heart, Megan’s background in graphic design allows her to translate complex information into accessible visual solutions. Megan earned her BFA from the College for Creative Studies, where she has also served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in typography and design.



THANKS This book would not have been possible without the support and diligence of many individuals. A very big thank you to our partners and sponsors, each of whom have contributed their time, insight and resources to the project. Many thanks to Eric Avner of the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, Lisa Flint of the Footprint Foundation and Carol Coletta of the Knight Foundation. With special gratitude, we also say thanks to Josh McManus for his support and guidance throughout the project. Additionally, we’d like to thank Tara Poole and Amy Hutchinson, both of whom served as keen editors of the text.



TOMORROWTODAY.IS Tomorrow Today is a design studio that serves foundations and nonprofits who care about cities. In partnership with visionary patrons and partners the studio develops civic labs and tools that equip citizens, inspire communities, connect networks and enhance place.

Š 2013 – 2014

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