Building with Purpose
Meet Jon Racek
Hi! I’m Jon Racek, founder of play360.
As a University professor and architect, I’ve designed everything from furniture to college campuses. No matter what I’m working on, I’ve always seen design as a tool to make the world a better place. Using design to understand a problem, empathize with stakeholders, and prototype solutions through iterations is a powerful methodology for solving problems.
Thailand and getting started
When I graduated college, I spent several years teaching elementary school in the inner city of Los Angeles and the East Bay in Northern California. After getting my Masters in Architecture, I wanted to use design to make the world better. I didn’t find that easily in architectural practice. I designed houses and institutional buildings where I’d spend hours choosing tile for a client’s bathroom. I got to a point where I knew that my professional career could be more. So I quit my job, sold my house, and moved my family to Thailand.
I met someone working along the border of Thailand and Myanmar building playgrounds for schools that served migrant families. After building playgrounds for a couple of months, I came back to the US and started Play360.
Growing the team
Play360 is a lean design organization that deliberately avoids big offices and big overhead. We work with dedicated individuals who are passionate about working with communities and kids. Our small but mighty team works and lives globally, allowing us to support our network of playmakers in an efficient and robust manner. Learn more about our team here.
Collaboration and Co-creation
A favorite phrase at play360 is “Pamoja,” which means “Together” in Swahili. All stakeholders must have a say in the process be they parents, a school principal or the kids themselves. “Together” we design the right play space for the budget and interests of the community.
Build the future
After completing more than 100 playgrounds with our partners around the world, it was time for play360 to leverage our learning to create more impact. We expanded our community development work to include online courses and virtual mentorships to empower playmakers with easy access to the tools they need to build playgrounds on their own without waiting for play360 to travel to their site.
Play360 is dedicated to supporting communities, whether those communities want to build playgrounds or other projects. We’ve worked with groups who started out building a playground and then built fences, gardens and public spaces. Our courses help you learn the skills to dream big and then make those projects successful. We hope to be a catalyst for organizing change.