Built for each other: Taylor and PlayBuild NOLA

PlayBuild NOLA

Photo: PlayBuild NOLA/Facebook

Running a nonprofit is not for the faint of heart. Constantly faced with a lack of time, money and resources, immediate needs compete with long-term planning and strategy for attention.

Angela Kyle, founder of local nonprofit PlayBuild NOLA knows this challenge well. PlayBuild works with schools and community groups to introduce under-served youth to design fields like architecture and urban planning through hands-on activities. As the small PlayBuild staff works to engage kids around New Orleans with active learning, devoting time to explore new approaches or opportunities can be difficult.

That’s where Taylor’s Fast 48 Boot Camp in Design Thinking for Social Impact comes in.

Founded in 2013, Fast 48 is an immersion in design thinking for social impact, targeted to graduate students and professionals. The weekend workshop is framed around a problem or question participants consider as they work through the human-centered design process. Since 2015, PlayBuild has provided real-world context for this learning experience.

Working within the limitations of audience needs, space and budget helps Fast 48 participants bridge the gap between the concepts and applications of design thinking mindsets.

“There is so much rich complexity that comes out when you are working with real constraints,” said Maille Faughnan, a lead Fast 48 instructor. “They [participants] can dig into all these different possibilities in ways that a hypothetical situation would never allow.”

For PlayBuild, working with Fast 48 is an opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. “When you are a founder-led start up, you are mired in the day to day,” said Kyle. “[FAST 48] is a serial infusion of fresh perspective that constantly brings us back to the human-centered nature of what we are trying to do.”

This semester’s Fast 48 will be the sixth run in collaboration with PlayBuild. The ongoing nature of the partnership has fostered a deeper level of understanding and openness between the groups.

“Angela appreciates that we will try things out, that we might fail, that we will explore possibilities, and that it’s an open-ended process,” Faughnan explained.  “Having a partner who is onboard with that and has established trust helps us focus on the participant learning as well as outcomes for PlayBuild.”

Those outcomes are tangible. During the spring 2016 Fast 48, for example, participants were tasked with considering how Central City-based PlayBuild could better serve its immediate community. One team envisioned pop-up activity stations to create accessible play spaces for neighborhood kids. PlayBuild worked with the team to further develop this idea into the PL@Y MLK initiative, centered on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard’s wide neutral ground. The idea went on to win a $15,000 grant from Kaboom’s PlayEverywhere challenge.

This month, Fast 48 and PlayBuild pair up once again, this time to explore how various forms of music can support the organization’s mission. Learn more and sign up here.