OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Pop-up Trash Libraries! [Updated 11/09/14]

Most communities have young children, people who are experts at fixing and building things and lots of objects that can be repurposed (empty containers, articles of clothing, etc.). Pop-up Trash Libraries bring all three together and create an opportunity for learning!

Photo of Chioma Ume
19 16

Written by

My idea is a_________________ [campaign/app/service/program/online platform/toolkit/social enterprise/etc.]. It tackles the problem of _____________[short problem statement]. It addresses the problem by __________[what your idea looks like in practice].

Trash Libraries is a community program where children are taught how to build things by skilled local community members using readily available materials. It tackles the problem of a lack of spaces designated to foster creativty and play for children in low income neighborhoods. It will also educate parents by demonstrating how to set up opportunities for their children to play in situations with limited resources. It addresses the problem by leveraging the skills of local community members and shared community spaces parents already frequent in order to create an educational experience for children aged zero to five and their older siblings.


Children build skills, independence and problem solving abilities from creative play, but parents with many other pressing needs may not know how to encourage this behavior. 

Pop-up Trash Libraries would set up in places where families often gather (e.g. markets, community centres, popular stores, etc.). They would be staffed by local 'handymen' or 'handywomen' on a rotating basis. These adults will be trained on some basics of early childhood learning and will help children dream up and complete projects that turn 'trash' into toys.

The library would operate on the take one, leave one principle. Each child would have to bring at least one item to exchange for another. This will encourage cooperation, creativity and allow for the library to be easily set up and moved.

The idea might succeed because it is simple to administer, celebrates the skills of community members and taps into childrens' natural creativty.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

Young children and their older siblings would be the principal beneficiaries of this idea. They would have the opportunity to explore creative play under the guidance and supervision of a knowledgable adult facilitator. [Update 11/09/14] After conducting interviews in Osina, Nigeria, I realized that the the community was not very excited about this idea because there are few young children in their village. This inspired me to interview people in neighboring Owerri, where I now plan to implement this idea.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

If I had one month to test out my idea, I would: 1. Ask my neighbors who they turn to to fix broken items or help with building things. Then I'd explain my idea to these people and ask if they are interested in being involved. 2. Research some simple patterns for items that can be made out of 'trash' that I can share with the volunteer facilitators. 3. Identify a store or piece of land adjacent to a popular community gathering spot and get their permission to set up a Pop-up Trash Library at their location.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

It would be helpful to have some advice from experts in child development about what kind of tasks/projects are age-appropriate for children from 0-5. [Update 11/09/14] I could really use help with identifying the types of assumptions I should test in my prototype. I would also appreciate suggestions about how to make my idea clearer and easier for readers to understand.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • This idea is meant to inspire. I hope someone else takes it on!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)


View all comments