A Community of Startups Doing Good
I first heard Jeff Shinabarger speak at Catalyst Conference in 2013. Jeff is a social entrepreneur and author. His projects and books have been featured on national forums and media outlets. He has spoken at conferences like TedX and Q Ideas.
Because of his work in the social entrepreneurship space, Jeff found that people were always telling him about their ideas or introducing him to someone with an idea that was ready to launch. He started referring to this group of problem solvers as “Plywood People,” as plywood – often used to cover broken windows or potholes – always found itself solving a problem. He formalized this community of start-ups doing good in 2010 with the launch of Plywood People, a non-profit organization.
Jeff’s vision is to make Plywood and Atlanta centers for social innovation. Since 2010, Plywood People has walked alongside hundreds of people and projects doing good: offering content, curriculum, and community to help them launch and sustain. Plywood has developed a process by which problem solvers walk through three stages of developing their idea.
- Path: An interactive six-week online course to help with direction and focus.
- Foundations: A four-month intensive and immersive curriculum aimed to encourage leaders to move their ideas to the next level in a small group setting.
- Layers: Monthly group meetings focused on diving deep into growth through community, mentorship, resources, and peer feedback.
In early 2018, Third Lens was looking for ways to get better and deal with the rapid growth of the organization. A friend and mentor mentioned checking out Plywood’s process as he had seen several non-profits benefit from the community Plywood was building. Before long we were plugged into the curriculum and participated actively in community-based peer groups, working alongside other nonprofits and startups.
Plywood is Moving
Around the time Third Lens joined the Plywood Community, Jeff, his team, and their board of directors began having the conversation about moving into a new space that would further facilitate their mission and vision. The opportunity presented itself to lease 9,500 square feet of warehouse space in the West End of Atlanta. The space would require a massive build-out of open space and utilization of a 10-foot deep pit where a generator was once housed.
Gensler, a global architecture firm, agreed to donate services for the project and Third Lens was asked to assist with overseeing the design and construction processes on behalf of Jeff and his team. To date, this was the largest and most complex project we had participated in. Thankfully we were able to call on our partners Ellinwood + Machado and Justin Hardy Engineering to round out the design team.
Building for Good.
Like most construction projects, we ran into hurdles. The first round of contractor bids came in well over the hard budget and led to multiple rounds of value engineering (cost savings) exercises. Changes in the drawings created challenges with the building department and inspection issues. Coordinating in-kind donations with the contractor was a logistical quagmire. And if it weren’t enough, as we were wrapping up punch list and Plywood began to move in, COVID hit.
All these issues are why Third Lens exists.
Jeff later told me the reason his board encouraged him to engage Third Lens was so he wouldn’t burn out having to manage a construction project on top of his other responsibilities.
We take on the burden of construction so our partners can focus on their mission.
Thankfully today, I can say the Plywood Place is open and running. They aren’t at full capacity just yet, but their mission and vision are alive and well. Here are some examples of organizations that you are helping support through the work of Third Lens and Plywood People:
Building a community center in the Adair Park and Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Atlanta for at-risk youth and mentoring programs.
Renovations to Refuge’s primary job force training facility and retail coffee shop in Clarkston (outside Atlanta).
Providing dignity and hope to those experiencing homelessness and distributing handwashing stations during COVID-19.
Empowering people to create the communities they want – cultures where all people are seen, celebrated, and given the space to thrive.
Answering the question: Is it possible to change the world, stay in love, and have a healthy family?
Plywood Place is up and running!
Thank you for supporting ThirdLens as a member of the Hope Builders program. We couldn’t do the work we are doing without your continued support!