Power Perspectives Deliver Quick, Tangible Examples and Takeaways of Detroit’s Innovative Spirit

Through discussions of art, community spirit, innovative design, and intelligent redevelopment, the Power Perspectives delivered at the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference shined a light on how Detroit has become a beacon for creativity and growth.

Rita Fields, executive vice president of the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, discusses how the theatre is transforming young lives and reinvigorating the city through art and culture during a Power Perspective at the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference.


Cornetta Lane, founder of Pedal to Porch, discusses the importance of community, history, and why “Detroit is not a blank canvas” during a Power Perspective at the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference.


Olga Stella, executive director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center, discusses the importance of design in cities and how Detroit is a prime example of how design should be utilized during a Power Perspective at the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference.


David Alade, co-founder of Century Partners, speaks about ideas for redevelopment in Detroit during a Power Perspective at the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Philanthropic Leaders: Greater Impact on Detroit’s Revitalization Dependent on Business Partnerships

Philanthropic Leaders: Greater Impact on Detroit’s Revitalization Dependent on Business Partnerships

Watch the full panel here. 

The philanthropic community’s contributions – from housing sustainability programs to youth education – was a critical step in Detroit’s post-bankruptcy revitalization. In the discussion, “Detroit’s Resurgence: Philanthropy’s Leading Role,” panelists highlighted how their respective organizations stimulated development throughout the city through projects, initiatives and programs while emphasizing the need for more collaboration with businesses.

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“The foundation community, as well as the corporate community is slowly growing in the understanding that if we work together more, there are great things we can accomplish,” explained Faye Nelson, vice president of DTE Energy and board chair and president of DTE Energy Foundation.

Key takeaways include:

  • The community has needs that the public sector and government cannot address. Individually, philanthropic organizations cannot fill this void.
  • As paradigms shift in Detroit post-bankruptcy, foundations and philanthropic organizations have stepped in to invest in projects that the state and federal government historically funded.
  • Moving forward, for foundations and business it is no longer about investing in as many projects as possible, as much as it is about funding projects that best serve the community.

This session was moderated by Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for The Detroit News. Panelists also included: David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation; Katy Locker, Detroit program director at the Knight Foundation; and Chris Uhl, vice president of community investments for Rock Ventures. The session was sponsored by DTE Energy Foundation.

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Food Experts: Maintaining Detroit’s Momentum Begins with Healthy, Sustainable Meals for Communities

Food Experts: Maintaining Detroit’s Momentum Begins with Healthy, Sustainable Meals for Communities

The concurrent session “Farm to Table: Detroit’s Food Economy” brought perspectives from urban farm and food entrepreneurs, restauranteurs and nonprofits supporting community neighborhood development. Panelists discussed Detroit’s food landscape and the opportunities and challenges that the local food economy faces.

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Key Takeaways

  • Detroiters live closer to gas stations and fast food restaurants and have less access to healthy, fresh food.
  • The food economy is not perceived as “sexy” like the mobility or technology industries.
  • Success for urban farm and food entrepreneurs is not based on acceleration. Rather it is about the business’s strategic plan and its impact on the neighborhood.
  • Consumers should pay close attention if Detroit owners are doing their part to contribute to the economic impact in the neighborhoods.
  • Displacement of Detroit businesses in the food industry to the suburbs is a major concern.
  • Detroiters should not forget about those local food businesses that stuck it out when times were tough in the city.
  • Detroit businesses need to focus on inclusive development. Local businesses can get ahead if they support one another.

Panelists included: Devita Davison, director of FoodLab Detroit; Marc Djozlija, proprietor and executive chef of Wright and Co.; and Tyson Gersh, president and founder of Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. This session was moderated by Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corporation.

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Social Entrepreneurs: It’s All About the Community

Social Entrepreneurs: It’s All About the Community

Social entrepreneurship is a major part of Detroit’s innovative spirit and was on full display at the Conference. In a session centered around the idea of purpose-driven business, three Detroit-based business owners discussed their professional journeys, challenges and how their businesses have made a difference in the community.

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On the topic of social entrepreneurship, five major takeaways prevailed:

  • Social entrepreneurship is the intersection of working for a great cause and working to earn profit.
  • Rather than maximize profits, social entrepreneurs must balance profits with their social missions.
  • When an entrepreneur decides whether to launch a limited liability corporation or nonprofit, he or she should consider why the company was started.
  • There is uncertainty with regards to the future of social entrepreneurship – people want data to measure the good that is being done in the community and want to see if it is a sustainable model.
  • Social entrepreneurs should consider partnerships to attain their community and business goals.

All three panelists mentioned that they were exploring new ways to scale their businesses beyond the city of Detroit. Moderated by WWJ Newsradio 950 anchor Vickie Thomas, the panel comprised of Jason Hall, co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit; Amy Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Rebel Nell; and Marlowe Stoudamire, owner of Butterfly Effect Detroit and founder of Mash Detroit.

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Urban Mobility Solutions Are Reliant on a Willingness to Share

Urban Mobility Solutions Are Reliant on a Willingness to Share

Connecting people with efficient transportation options is essential to remaining competitive as a region. As part of the “Urban Mobility Solutions: Innovating Transportationpanel, leading mobility experts shared insight on Detroit’s efforts to transform into a more transportation-friendly city.

“It is in our DNA here (in Detroit) that everyone gets in their own car and drive,” said Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility innovation for the city of Detroit. “Yet the concept of sharing is gaining traction and that is a good thing for everyone needing mobility.”

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Key takeaways:

  • Bike-sharing, like car-sharing, works in urban environments.
  • The Regional Transit Authority is critical to Detroit’s resurgence as it can unify the region.
  • Mobility companies must work collaboratively to promote Michigan’s world-class research and development assets.
  • Lyft is working to create a friendly service for the tech-challenged market.
  • Detroit must make safe, reliable transit options easier to access.
  • There must be a continuous attempt to strengthen public and private sector relationships to help improve mobility.
  • Autonomous technology brings a new sector of business to mobility that benefits everyone.

Panelists also included: Elliot Darvick, general manager of Lyft Detroit; and Lisa Nuszkowski, founder and executive director of Detroit Bike Share. The panel was moderated by Crain’s Detroit Business senior reporter Chad Livengood.

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Workforce Experts: More Talent Needed to Fill Skilled Trades Gap

Workforce Experts: More Talent Needed to Fill Skilled Trades Gap

In Detroit, there is a disconnect between available jobs and the lack of a skilled workforce to fill these open positions. During the panel, “Skills Wanted: Building Detroit’s Talent,” workforce development experts discussed the importance of providing Detroiters with the skills to fill in-demand jobs.

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Key Takeaways:

  • College is not for everyone. There are good-paying, honorable skilled trades jobs available to Detroiters. However, there is a shortage of qualified workers to fill available jobs.
  • Employers are looking to hire people who view roles in skilled trades as a career and not just simply a job.
  • As interest returns to having a career in skilled trades, it is the business community’s responsibility to expose high school students to the various jobs in the trades.
  • Aside from people questioning, “Am I smart enough to do this?” a lack of finances, education and transportation are other barriers that Detroiters face when deciding to participate in tech training programs.
  • Detroit Training Center offers training and certification programs from everything from heavy equipment operation to blight removal and deconstruction training that helps Detroiters overcome obstacles to employment.
  • As a society, we need to get away from the mindset that skilled trades jobs are dirty.

This session was sponsored by DTE Energy Foundation. Panelists included: Marcus Jones, president of Detroit Training Center; Dannis Mitchell, diversity manager of Barton Malow Co.; and Damien Rocchi, founder and CEO of Grand Circus. The panel was moderated by Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer of DTE Energy.

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Kym Worthy: Public-Private Partnerships Changing Lives for Sexual Assault Victims

Kym Worthy: Public-Private Partnerships Changing Lives for Sexual Assault Victims

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy took the Sound Board stage during a session sponsored by Comcast Business to talk about the 11,341 untested sexual assault kits that were discovered in a Detroit Police Department property storage facility in 2009.

Worthy and her office worked relentlessly to ensure these victims became a priority and received justice. Not long after the discovery, federal grants and donations from Detroit businesses poured in to support these efforts. The first-ever public-private partnership of its kind was formed around the goal to ensure every kit found was tested and every case investigated.

33053869062_2ab2220d55_o (1)“If you think about each one of those rape kits having a victim attached, we know that The Big House at the University of Michigan holds 100,000 people and the number of estimated rape kits, which I think is conservative, across this country can fill up that stadium four times. That visual can help you understand what a huge problem this has been,” Worthy explained.

From a partnership with the Michigan’s Women’s Foundation to the philanthropic and business communities coming together on the steps of Grand Hotel at the Mackinac Policy Conference to form the “Enough Said” campaign, the issue garnered support from both state and national organizations.


MORE: Read more about the innovative work that is being done to ensure Detroit’s comeback continues. 


Working with Gov. Rick Snyder, the Sexual Assault for Michigan Act was passed in 2014, which gives each kit a timeframe for testing. In turn, Detroit and the way the rape kits are handled has become a national model.

In addition, a partnership with UPS and Quicken Loans was formed to create a tracking system that helps track each kit from location to location. Michigan is now working to develop a first-of-its-kind statewide tracking system.

To date, the following progress has been made:

  • 334 cases have been investigated
  • 1,042 are awaiting investigation
  • 78 convictions have been made
  • 784 serial rapists have been identified

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

James Craig: Detroit’s Crime Trending Downward, but Hard Work Still Left to Do

James Craig: Detroit’s Crime Trending Downward, but Hard Work Still Left to Do

Fostering a safe city for residents, businesses and neighborhoods remains a top priority for Detroit Police Chief James Craig. In an intimate conversation with Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley, Craig outlined his vision to reduce crime and strengthen the city’s neighborhoods.

With several crime-fighting initiatives launched under his tenure, Craig said crime in Detroit has been steadily decreasing over the past five years. Detroit’s award-winning Project Green Light, also discussed at last year’s Conference, is now operating at more than 100 businesses across the city and is being replicated in Brazil.

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“I get asked all the time what makes the Detroit Police Department different,” Craig said. “I say, we are making policing exciting and innovation is the key.”

Craig said the police department welcomes collaboration and partnerships with businesses and neighborhood leaders to better fight crime.

“The neighborhoods that are safest are the ones where residents are more engaged,” Craig said. “This is important because it allows for open communication and transparency.”


MORE: Read more about the innovative work that is being done to ensure Detroit’s comeback continues.


Additionally, Craig cited team collaboration and improved police morale as key factors in the drop in crime. The department also reports improved response times and more than 200 officers in academy training, however Craig said there is more work to do.

“If we are going to continue to turn this city around we must all work together,” he said, adding that he would like to see more cooperation with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

The conversation was sponsored by Comcast Business.

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Toni Griffin: Detroit Is a Design and Planning Pioneer

Toni Griffin: Detroit Is a Design and Planning Pioneer

Sharing the power of inclusivity and strategic planning, Toni Griffin, founder of Urban Planning for the American City shared her perspective on Detroit’s progress during her opening keynote at this year’s Conference.

No stranger to the Motor City, the renowned urban strategist known for work on Detroit Future City commended Detroit on its sustained transformation.

“Detroit has punched through its most difficult urban challenges. It has punched out the naysays who said you couldn’t do it, and it is punching into a new decade of stabilization, improvement and transformation,” Griffin said. “The fist (Detroit’s signature monument to boxer Joe Louis) has become a new symbol of American resiliency.”

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While traveling the country, Griffin said areas like New Jersey and Washington, D.C. are increasingly looking to Detroit for lessons learned on planning and urban revitalization.

“Detroit is a city to watch, a city to model, and a city on the rise again,” she said. “The world now sees Detroit as a design and planning pioneer.”

The keynote address was sponsored by The Kresge Foundation.

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Janette Sadik-Khan: Revitalization Begins by Building Cities for People

Janette Sadik-Khan: Revitalization Begins by Building Cities for People

Drawing on examples from her crusade to make New York safer, more sustainable and more connected, Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation principal for Bloomberg Associates, challenged leaders to take risk and reimagine new ways to utilize existing infrastructure to move people and grow the region’s economy.

“Upkeep of current infrastructure while adapting to the challenges of the 21st century is a challenge all cities face,” Sadik-Khan said in keynote remarks at the Conference. “People are used to chronic congestion and have accepted it as the status quo.”

But Sadik-Khan said cities like Detroit have the opportunity to create a transformative street agenda that adapts to growth and encourages economic development.

33050841692_989ef71ffe_o“You can’t build your way out of congestion. That is like dealing with obesity by loosening your belt,” she said. “We need a fundamental rethinking of how we use streets.”

Sadik-Khan said the key is placing more emphasis on people, adding that the variety of uses for streets directly correlates to livability. Dedicated bike lanes, bus lanes and walking paths are some of the fastest, yet also the least costly, transformation strategies to improve communities, she said.

Taking a cue from the transformation of Times Square to a pedestrian-only zone, Sadik-Khan said cities like Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle have all taken steps to improve mobility. Detroit is following suit, with the opening of the QLine streetcar in the spring. Sadik-Khan said areas like Grand River Avenue and other wide streets, as well as the riverfront, are ripe with development opportunity.


MORE: Read more about the innovative work that is being done to ensure Detroit’s comeback continues. 


“With transformative mobility options, you are not just changing streets for the thousands of people in Detroit, you are changing the world,” she said.

Moving beyond a car-based to people-based city, however will require leadership and decisive action, Sadik-Khan said.

The session was sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Detroit Developers: Thoughtful Inclusion Key to City’s Ongoing Transformation