The latest version of Google's SketchUp software was released yesterday. Aside from having a cute name, the software has some great potential use in your non-profit toolbox.
For those that haven't played with it, SketchUp is a three dimensional modeling program. That means you can create little virtual models of practically anything: a house, a train, a space station, a dinosaur. Well, it's really geared towards mechanical things - my dinosaur comes out looking a little funky.
There are two aspects of SketchUp that make it stand out from your usual high-end, computer-aided-design, rocket scientist-friendly software. First, it's not just designed for architects: anyone can get a handle on it pretty quickly. Second, you can share your designs, in a virtual Google Warehouse, for others to use - and you can place them in Google Earth. Build a virtual Eiffel tower, and place it in Paris. Or share it with others, and let them build an addition onto it - sacre bleu!
So, although great fun for the Lego builder set, how could this tool be useful to a non-profit? One example can be found in the Sportables competition that Google and Architecture for Humanity launched back in June. They put out a call for designs for something called a sportable: "highly transportable and deployable play spaces that are sustainable infrastructure nodes." In human-speak, that's a pop-up facility to rent sports gear as well as a safe space for youth to play in. They are designed for tough urban areas, where opportunities to engage youth in a positive experience with sport might be few and far between. When the youth are done, the sportable could pack up and tuck away - or be carted off to the next location. In the end, the sportables competition created some great designs, and brought attention to both Architecture for Humanity, and issues of youth and sport.