It Takes a Village to Design Play Everywhere

We’ve spent the past month working an amazing team of collaborators on two proposals for the KaBOOM Play Everywhere challenge.

We’ve been fortunate to partner with KaBOOM twice in the past three years, so when they announced the challenge along with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Target we were excited to think about how we could extend our mission through a few new ideas that we would like to implement in our Central City neighborhood.

The timing of the challenge dovetailed with the second round of our participation in the Fast 48 Design Thinking Boot Camp – a 2-day workshop hosted by the Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation at Tulane.

We tasked our 30 workshop participants to help us get creative about how we deepen engagement with our Central City community and expand the network of kids and families that we serve.

Coming out of the workshop we invited Fast48’ers to stay engaged with us while we developed our Challenge concepts.

As a result we had a rock star multi-disciplinary team that came together to ideate and collaborate.

We’ve been on our block now for nearly three years, and we’ve seen and learned a lot, but with outside perspectives we honed in on some key challenges, which served as a jumping off point for framing our proposed solutions.

The community in our neighborhood is hyper local. The families on our block have been there for several generations and though a number of them were displaced by Katrina, many have come back. They represent a deep and highly interconnected web of personal and family relationships and friendships that all unfold within a 5-block radius. Even the housing development at the far end of Thalia Street is like another city for our local PlayBuild kids. We need to deploy more tactical play solutions around the neighborhood for smaller scale activities and to reinforce awareness of PlayBuild as a hub for neighborhood play.

Traffic and street safety risks limit mobility. Because we sit near the intersection of several major traffic arteries – Claiborne Avenue and MLK, traffic and safety are a consideration that prevents kids from crossing neighborhood boundaries.

Even students from Sylvanie Williams College Prep, which sits two blocks from PlayBuild are limited in their ability to come to visit our space because they can’t navigate the treacherous MLK and Claiborne intersection.

On a longer term basis while we think about solutions like Play Streets, for the short term we are thinking about how we can turn the transit zones in our community into play stations.

Churches and Faith-Based Organizations are under-utilized community catalysts. When our Fast48 team walked the streets to do a preliminary needs assesement, they mapped the neighborhood and identified no fewer than 10 churches in our immediate blocks. Each of these churches represents a community of kids and families that we would love to get to know. We are committed to finding ways to connect with these organizations. By deploying our toys and materials in partnership with church youth ministries or tying in with seasonal events and activities, we want to build strong alliances with more Central City church communities.

There’s a treasure chest of building materials in our backyard. Diagonally opposite our Thalia Street play space is the Uptown Recycling Center – a massive repository of scap metal, old tires, and every kind of discarded material imaginable. Two weeks ago we took ourselves on a field trip across the street, and weren’t we were glad we did?! First we met Alex Smith, a Design grad from Loyola who runs the business for his family. Alex not only showed us around and took us on a tour of his secret stash of finds, he also volunteered to jump into our planning process with some great ideas for and help think about how we could start upcycling materials for some future PlayBuild projects.

Massive shout-out of thanks to the extended team and associated organizations that contributed to this effort.

From our (extended) F48/Taylor Center krewe:

Antonio Alonzo – marketing & communications, IDIYA maker space (photography)

Maille Faughnan – PhD Candidate, Payson School for Global Development, Taylor Center for Design Thinking (concept review)

Kristen Hill – Candidate, M Arch, Tulane School of Architecture (renderings, and visuals

Mallory LaGrone – Elementary School Teacher (concept write-ups)

Lisa Paterson – Tulane School of Public Health (concept write-ups)

Marcella del Signore – Professor, Tulane School of Architecture (concept review)

Jordan Stewart – Tulane School of Public Health (concept review)

Partnering Organization Stakeholders

Heidi Schmalbach, New Orleans Arts Council

Chelsea Hylton, Project Peaceful Warriors

Alexander Smith, Manager, Uptown Recycling

PlayBuild Network

Naomi Doerner, Transportation Planner, Member, PlayBuild Board of Directors

Jackie InghlefieldPlayBuild parent & visual artist

Also big thanks to the Blue House for giving us a space to gather and work!