Michael Bricker, a co-founder of People for Urban Progress, says it can be tough to describe his organization to the uninitiated. But its not for want of trying. Think of PUP the playful acronym finds its way into the name for various projects as a do tank instead of think tank. Or an innovation center. An awesomeness curator. Or an apolitical, non-judgmental resource promoting exponential change by starting with a handful of ideas and following through on them, doing instead of showing.
In the end, PUPs story is best told through its projects, each of which addresses at least two of the organizations three key concerns: transit, environment and design. Projects like salvaging the material used in the RCA Domes inflatable roof, PUPs reason for coming into being in 2008. The roof material is still being used to make a variety of products, such as bags, wallets and shade canopies. Or salvaging Bush Stadiums seats and installing them at IndyGo bus stops. Or salvaging the signage that was left behind after the Super Bowl. And even projects that dont involve recycling our sports infrastructure like car sharing, yellow grease recycling, solar panel installation on brownfields and infographics that show people how they can negotiate our citys government.
Brickers training in the world of architecture and design has informed PUPs notion of itself as a place for people with portfolio careers i.e. young, often well-educated professionals looking to tackle projects public and private, for-profit and non-profit. PUP is in the midst of developing a strategic plan that will ensure its long-term survival and create a rubric of sort to determine what projects to take on. The organization aims to be a prototype for social enterprise, a non-profit that operates on for-profit principles. That means using income from certain projects to fund other, less profitable projects.
PUPstops offer a good example of how the social enterprise system works in practice. A PUPstop is, essentially, a row of four Bush Stadium seats, refurbished, remounted and installed at a busy IndyGo stop. PUP raised an initial $15,000 to fund the salvaging of seats, but from here on, they aim for the PUPstops project to be essentially self-sustaining. Thus theyve offered some seats for sale as-is, or without having been refurbished so that they might be installed as a PUPstop. Those funds will help PUP cover costs incurred while refurbishing the seats, as well as allow the organization to plant more PUPstops.
Newcomers might familiarize themselves with PUP by visiting its Murphy Arts Center headquarters on a First Friday, according to PUP board president Gary Reiter: Hang around, show up and feel the energy and its the kind of energy that occurs on a daily basis.