Sketch Up: great non-profit tool, and it isn't sketchy

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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!

Cest magnifique!

C'est magnifique!

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.

Now, how could you use SketchUp?   Here's a couple of ideas…