Is the Future of Detroit the Future of America?

The journey has begun for our team, which means we’re starting to answer one of MBAs Across America’s main questions: what can all of us do to...

The journey has begun for our team, which means we’re starting to answer one of MBAs Across America’s main questions: What can all of us do to unleash the potential of every American entrepreneur?
It also means long days, powerful discoveries, new friends, and bad karaoke at 2 a.m. with some of Detroit’s incredible leaders.
Detroiters were asking this question—not just about entrepreneurs in the city but also about entire communities—long before we got here, and last night we partnered with Ponyride and Impactor to host the first of eight workshops we will have this summer, which brought together 30 of Detroit’s most dynamic leaders to accelerate the city’s ability to be a model for inclusive urban renewal.
If you read the New York Times this week, it may be hard to imagine Detroit as a model for anything other than what not to do. What was once the iconic boomtown of the Big 3 automakers and Motown, is now a memorial to the death of an American ideal. The city is bankrupt. If you’re the victim of a violent crime, it can take an hour for the police to show up. As Tom Brennan of the Green Garage told us, no city in the history of civilization has gone from a population of two million to 700,000 and survived.
That’s one story about Detroit: that it’s gone.
The other story—the one we witnessed time and again this week—is that the future of Detroit is the future of America.
Folks like Sebastian Jackson and Phil Cooley aren’t waiting for traditional systems to come back to the city. They’re building new systems altogether. At Ponyride, they’re reclaiming abandoned buildings and turning them into coworking space for artists, kids, and even former homeless women from Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods. At the Social Club Grooming Company, they’re recycling hair from barbershops to plant trees in green deserts throughout the city. At the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks, they’re moving past a currency-centric model of economic life to enable citizens to barter goods and services.
We’re no experts, but we think this is the story that is going to stick. It’s the one that’s going to show the rest of America how to move past our crises and our outdated models and start to re-imagine and rebuild—and do it all ourselves.
Now we’re heading to Boulder, and our next community workshop will explore another question that is central to America’s future: How do we support the resurgence of American manufacturing by making made-in-USA a priority for shoppers?
But we need your help. In the GOOD spirit of collaboration and community, please share your ideas for our focus question in the comment section below. We’ll be sharing them all at next week’s workshop, and might even give you a call to pow-wow with the folks from MADE.
Image via (cc) flickr user Jim McClear\n
via Jason S Campbell / Twitter

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