I’m a Building Leader


Over the last few weeks, I have had to deal with many challenges. I have had to bite my tongue and trust unproven methods, brush up against distended egos, and gain the respect of experienced strangers. More than anything, I have learned a lot about how to be a leader within a team.

I have realized that leadership within a group of equals is much more complicated than leadership in front of a large crowd. Because there is no hierarchy, no one person has the ultimate authority. So when a conflict arises, it turns into a battle of wills. When I experienced this, I tried using mixtures of diplomacy and tenacity to diffuse the situations while still searching for solutions. Although things still didn’t work out exactly as I had wanted them to, I didn’t say anything I would regret, probably for the first time.

I found that the only way to have open, productive discussions with people was to have their respect. Furthermore, respect only arose when people felt engaged and that their ideas were being heard. Unless I actively expressed that every person had something unique to bring to the table, collaboration would never really occur. Each person would continue working within their own little bubble, accomplishing small tasks. Nothing truly amazing would ever be created.

What fascinates me is that this is what Public Workshop has always stood for: listening to communities and collaborating with them to create change. I can’t believe I was finally let in on the secret.    – Ila Kumar


Building Heros Invade Smith Memorial Playground

We’ve been working ten hours a day for the past 3 days and we have a few awesome things to share. From now, to July 20th we will be working on our latest tiny WPA project, a build-your-own-adventure addition to Smith memorial playground. Since Monday, our goal has been to build a giant cardboard submarine. The sub is the mascot for the playground project, kids will be able to go inside it, pick it up and walk along the red pathway that will wind through the play area, creating “islands” or “maker spaces” where kids will be able to build using recycled and renewable materials like  plastic bottles and bamboo.


The giant submarine hasn’t left us much time for anything else, but somehow we’ve managed a few victories back on shore. Courtney (Smith’s communications director) and I worked together to design playground signage and the following day, succeeded (despite the humidity) to transfer the vinyl design onto our chalkboard painted easel. Along with the first sign, there is a permanent sign that reads “If I had a submarine. I would…” that has already proved to be a success.


Our last and very exciting success came Wednesday during the Wawa Welcome America event at Smith to celebrate the 4th of July. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter came to read to the kids and we managed to get him to sit on one of our very own building hero benches!


While the first 3 days of the Smith Playground have been a huge success, the fun is only just beginning. We’ll be posting here on the building hero blog regularly with updates on all our latest projects, so check back soon, and if you want fresh, just out of the oven building hero news, be sure to follow us on twitter @beabuildinghero

– Wynn Geary