On October 18 and 19, twenty students from California College of the Arts gathered at the Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto for the inaugural CCA Secret Project Blitz. The challenge was simple but daunting:

"How can we accelerate positive change in East Palo Alto? And do it in 48 hours."

In the 90’s, East Palo Alto was notorious as “the murder capitol of the country” with rampant drug and gang activity. More recently, the town has experienced creeping gentrification, by Silicon Valley employees, and an influx of multi-national immigrants.

The group of students was perfect for the task. Representing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and the US, their disciplines spanned across Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Architecture, Painting, Strategy and Writing. An ideal mix of backgrounds and skills. In addition, all of them were unfamiliar with the town, and each other—which broke down the walls of the school and the programs.

Our host for the Blitz was Josh To, a long-time collaborator, co-founder of Brute Labs and now employed at Google. Josh was able to provide meeting space at the Eastside School and on the Google campus, where we scammed a free lunch—thanks Google.

With our Be Bold challenge already set, we proceeded to use the 5x5x5 Get Out method in East Palo Alto—go to 5 places, meet 5 people, and return in 2 hours with 5 stories. A few things became clear… not enough things for kids to do, crime at night.  One team returned with a nasty spiced smoothie, called a Diablito, which resembled a sweet fruity Bloody Mary mix—I cannot recommend it!

Next up was a Let Go exercise that generated a random word mash-up for each team. “Edible Japanese Robots” and “Umbrella Revolution Assembly Line” were the starting place for each teams solution to our challenge. This method guarantees a creative solution, since there isn’t an existing pathway to follow between these nonsensical statements and positive change in East Palo Alto. Let the fun begin.

I couldn’t be happier with the results. In less than 48 hours, each team generated a viable project, a set of Small Bets and a resolved presentation. Edible Japanese Robots became Nairobot, referencing an effort to rename East Palo Alto as Nairobi in the 1970’s. The Blank? Team came up with an ingenious concept called DiabLite, inspired by the heinous Diablito drink they discovered during Get Out. A few spreads from their presentations are shown here.

We’re now funding each team to Make Stuff and Bet Small. Stay tuned for updates!

Find more about Secret Project here

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