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2013 CVAs: People for Urban Progress

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Jessica Bricker, product manager/lead designer,  and Micheal Bricker, chief innovator/co-founder - MICHELLE CRAIG
  • Michelle Craig
  • Jessica Bricker, product manager/lead designer, and Micheal Bricker, chief innovator/co-founder

Editors note: A ceremony to honor all 2013 CVA honorees will take place at Indiana Landmarks Center, Friday, starting at 6 p.m. with a reception. The ceremony will begin at 7:15 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Michael Bricker, a co-founder of People for Urban Progress, says it can be tough to describe his organization to the uninitiated. But it's 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, PUP's 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 Dome's inflatable roof, PUP's 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 Stadium's seats and installing them at IndyGo bus stops. Or salvaging the signage that was left behind after the Super Bowl. And even projects that don't 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 city's government.

Bricker's training in the world of architecture and design has informed PUP's 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 they've 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 it's the kind of energy that occurs on a daily basis."

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