If You Build It

A Screening with Neal Baer

In rural Bertie County, North Carolina, the state's poorest, the poverty rate was climbing and the school district was facing serious setbacks. Their best hope for turning things around came from an unlikely place – shop class.

If You Build It follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller as they work with local high school students to develop a "shop class for the 21st century," one that would help transform the community and the sense of opportunity for its residents. Living on credit and a meager amount of grant support, Pilloton and Miller led their students through a full-scale "build with, not for" curriculum that does much more than teach basic construction skills: it teaches that there is no design without social action and that creating systems – not just stuff – best gives people the tools to design their own futures.

Join New America NYC for a screening of If You Build It and a conversation with producer Neal Baer and New America DC's Laurenellen McCann on community-based design and the advantages – and challenges – of collaboration as a tool for supporting civic life.


Katherine Ortiz @SparkyHoshi
Program Associate, Resilient Communities Program, New America


Neal Baer @NealBaer
Producer, If You Build It
Executive Producer, Under the Dome and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Laurenellen McCann @elle_mccann
Director, New America DC