Business Evaluations is the fourth of in a series of five articles about partnership optimization for the building material reuse community. Starting with Reuse Contests , Curriculum Design & House as Showcase


Reuse Centers: Ways to Optimize Partnerships Series

One of the benefits of starting the Reclamation Administration is that I get to see how reuse centers optimize partnerships within the community. Business Evaluations is really about partnering with educational institutions within the community.


Business Evaluations

Partnering with educational institutions can go beyond the medium of reuse.  Colleges and Universities frequently have business schools within them.  The genius of students are that they are constantly problem solving as it is the educational environment. Teachers and professors are often on the look-out for projects that enrich their curriculum with real businesses that are facing actual issues.  Reuse centers, nonprofit or private, offer a unique case study opportunity. The fluctuating markets of reclaimed material, selling unusual and often unique products, and the volume of goods that are incomplete in some way, are amazing problems to solve.  An executive director’s nightmare, can be a business class’s educational goldmine. The return for opening up your business to a student evaluation, is a plethora of sharpened minds let loose to collect information, review data, debate, postulate, and innovate. It is their job to provide information and ideas that typically a business would never have time or money to do.

These types of projects are most effective if the reuse center is open and helpful in providing data. For example in Ohio the Tristate Habitat for Humanity opened its doors to business students from Miami University.  The Strategy Works teams shared statistical data about ReStore buyers, donors, and potential corporate partners.  Each team provided researched suggestions on how to more effectively market the ReStore.

All partnerships with schools and students benefit from the perspective that they aren’t cheap labor, but professionals in pre-recruitment stage. If utilizing undergraduate students does not appeal, then consider contacting graduate programs. However, living in Portland, Oregon and constantly working with students, my experience is that creative gold comes from minds unfettered by established practices or “the norm”. If open to it, learn from what companies like Widen & Kennedy and Nike already know, that when supported there is no limit to what young creatives can do for a business.  Reuse centers can use educational partnerships in other ways like marketing, organizational development, strategic planning, and board recruitment for starters.  The benefits of collaborating with local educational institutions are limitless, and the stewardship of young minds is good business.


Next Up: Artist Residencies

The Reclamation Administration is a great databank for reuse centers collaborative partnerships. There are a few that stand out as particularly successful models. Partnerships are an excellent way to get exposure, marketing, materials, and revenue, while supporting the local community.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series on partnering with artists to realize the amazing potential of reuse.