The communities we live and work are changing. We know it. We see it all around us — for the better, mostly, though at times not everyone gets to share in a community’s success. Our work is national in scope, creative by nature, and dives deep locally into the fabric of our communities.

To uphold our stake in the game and to add to the cultural and economic vitality of the world we live in, we do our own things by creating programs and products. For example:

Busker Street Union logo

A national placemaking project that advocates for public performance as a means to enliven city streets and to keep them safe. Endorsed by  City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and by City of Pittsburgh Councilman Dan Gilman, the effort deploys street performance activity through various Pittsburgh communities. We also launched Street Stages thanks to Awesome Pittsburgh. The stages are stamps that are installed around Pittsburgh to indicate where street performers can play in a safe environment.

WordFabric is Platform-as-a-Service that analyzes large amounts of content on websites, social media and documents and pulls various content for marketers to use to either fix or flag for future use. WordFabric’s initial modules include analysis on nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation, sentence length, and language vividness.

We created First Course (learnfirstcourse.coma new online learning tool designed to teach food industry startups the business, branding, financing and fundraising skills they need to survive and thrive in the competitive hospitality, product, and food system industries. First Course is geared toward the aspiring restaurant, bodega, or food product owners. First Course is a collaboration among New Sun Rising, a grassroots incubation and acceleration nonprofit for social innovation businesses and projects;  La Dorita, a kitchen-share incubator program for food start-ups that aims to break down the barriers to entry into the highly regulated food industry; and Smallman Galley, a Pittsburgh-based restaurant incubator and food hall. The training is presented in eight easy-to-use modules that contain between four to 13 units covering such areas as fundraising, branding, financial and business planning. Unit topics include Funding from Donations, Crowdfunding, Equity Product Development, Market Research, Options when First Developing your Prototype, Home-Based Commercial Kitchen Equity versus Debt, and Credit.

Socialize Right

While working on a presentation for the Cincinnati Bengals to teach the players how to use social media the right way, we realized we needed to reach people earlier, especially students and their parents. Social Right teaches kids and adults, through assemblies and seminars, how to use social media to their benefit, and how to combat bullying online. We work with professional athletes through our collaborator Josh Miller, former punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Social media is a scary place. We shine a light on this dark ecosystem and challenge students to use social media in a positive way.

F7 an adult spelling bee

The shortcut to spellcheck on your keyboard is when you hit the F and the 7. That’s also the name of an adult spelling bee we host. The event is weird and fun, and someone leaves with a trophy. Most every adult relies on spellcheck, but we choose to celebrate those special individuals who don’t need that crutch. We plan to host more F7 events.

(To the person who last won our trophy: We need it back.)

UpTo Know Good logo

Accessing the resources of a “marketing and communications agency” can be tough for many businesses. Agencies are tucked away in an office space somewhere a few floors off the ground, probably with a Burton Morris painting hanging in the hallway or a fake skeleton in a chair with a funny hat at the front desk. Cost is a barrier and it may feel intimidating to engage with an agency. We decided to remove the barriers by launching UpTo Know Good, an education program taken to the street level that teaches small business owners the value of marketing and communications by popping up in empty storefronts with a group of creative freelancers. We build marketing items on demand, served a-la-carte for small business owners, so they walk away with something to help jump start their business goals. Most importantly, we educate them about the real cost of marketing services. We turn everything over within 48 hours. The freelancers that do the work build a robust portfolio, which makes them more marketable.

The effort now has spun off into its own social enterprise recognized by Idea Foundry, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Neighborhood Allies and other economic development groups.