Placetailor – Site Visit and Kickoff Meeting

This week, Allan, Lucia, Kai, and Micky made our way to Placetailor’s office in Jamaica Plain to meet with Declan and Travis and kick off our project for the semester. We finalized a working agreement but decided to hold off on signing it until we come to a consensus about what our project will be along with its more specific details and our plan of action.  Then we went through a mind-mapping exercise to lay out the key principles we associate with cooperatives and lean UX, which motivated our brainstorming session. Here’s the result:

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We shared a common motivation to create something for the benefit of the Boston-area community, with the possibility of scaling up or out to a broader audience. Given that motivation, and the various communities we have access to, we decided to explore three potential project directions:

1. Co-ops on Campus

As a team comprised of undergraduate students and co-op members, we’re in a position to bring awareness of co-ops to college students as opportunities for both career paths and community engagement. There is ample infrastructure for undergraduate career development in academia or industry, as well as funding and educational programs to support student innovation via the startup/venture capital track (examples include StartMIT and MIT $100K. What might it look like to educate students (via media campaign, or mentorship, or funding, or otherwise) about the benefits of cooperative labor practices?

2. Pop-up Co-op

Placetailor is successful because of two main attributes: (1) community engagement, and (2) experience. Community engagement isn’t portable or scalable; it has to happen at the local level. But it might be possible to package knowledge gained from years of experience into a “co-op kit” that another group can use to begin developing a local co-op elsewhere . This would decrease the barrier to entry for co-op creation and naturally foster a network of co-ops, all sharing knowledge and practices as they learn and grow in their own local communities.

3. Housing Hackathon

Houses are inherently community projects, and provide locations for community needs–whether that’s shelter, a common meeting space, or any other of a multitude of ways that a building with four walls and a roof can be put to use. How might communities be more fully engaged with the process of designing and building a structure for their own needs? A “housing hackathon” (taking place in either physical or virtual space) would draw together the various minds, experiences, and needs of some community and guide that group through the process of developing and building their own infrastructure . We can imagine a living cooperative designing themselves a building that then becomes their home, or an artists’ collective creating their own makerspace/performance venue.

We had an awesome first meeting and we’re really excited for the months ahead!