Spend every freaking hour building the future; a short intro to Plus Pool

When something’s broken, you fix it. In 2011, three friends--Archie Coates, Jeff Franklin and Dong-ping Wong--had an idea: build a floating pool in the Hudson River.

This was the inception of Plus Pool, a floating public pool in the Hudson River that purifies river water. They did their research came up with a proposal and set it loose--the world responded. After a few days on Facebook, their plan was picked up by several online news publications and was shared many times. The demand was there; people wanted it to happen.

What it takes to execute

But what pushes a project like this? Such endeavors do not begin and end with an idea. According to Archie, designing the pool took only about four weeks. the majority of the project has been spent working through how to exactly install it..The skills required for completing are different from those required to design the pool itself. Much time is spent navigating stakeholders, fundraising, permitting… the list goes on. To Archie, this has been a super exciting challenge.

In NYC the current permitting system has two classifications: swimming pool (chlorinated) and bathing beach (free flowing). Getting approval takes time and relationships. Ultimately, the people who grant permits want projects like this to happen, but they need to make sure it’s safe. For the past six years of the project, Archie and his team have been engaging government entities (primarily the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation) that are responsible giving permits. What’s cool, is these groups have actually become allies of the project, helping design and test parameters and being transparent about what they need for it to become a reality. Plus Pool reciprocates this transparent relationship every step of the way, informing the stakeholders of project updates. Even when things aren’t looking good, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Ensuring that all key stakeholders were consistently informed took perseverance and time but the genuine relationships that have been built as a result were well worth it for the team.

How to kickstart

Plus Pool has been fortunate enough to execute two successful kickstarters: one in 2011 raised $41k and another in 2013 raised $273k. This is a testament to the desire of the public for greater interaction with our rivers. A project as bold and long-term as this one requires research, development and capital. The final installation will cost $20 million, an intimidating nubmer. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Aside from raising money, one of the key fundraising goals was to recruit loyal supporters who would join them on their journey.

The 2011 kickstarter was launched to raise funds to do research on the pool’s filtration system, which will use river water. The research will showcase the viability of using their 3 part filtering system. The team locked themselves in the room for months preparing for this kickstarter: building images, videos and finding out reward structures for donors.

In 2013, the team launched a larger, bolder kickstarter campaign. This time, the they spent about six months preparing. The goal was to install beta units in real river conditions. This time around the reward structure focused purchasing a filtration tile.  A key part of this fundraising campaign was leveraging existing stakeholders to recruit more funders. This project was not just about a pool, rather a larger vision on how the public can engage natural resources. Along the way, many people became personally invested in the success of this project. A project like this depends entirely on its supporters. The team even called each and every one of those people and being genuine on what you’re trying to accomplish, t.

So what does it take to complete a project like this? Perseverance.

“The reason why people don't do this every day is because: A) it's hard, and B) they're afraid of failure. For the first six years none of us were paid. If this is going to happen, you have to spend every hour on this. At this point, the only reason it won’t happen is if we decided to stop doing it”


Special thanks to Archie and Kara Meyer of Plus Pool. To see more of the awesome work they are doing check out their site PlusPool.org

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