Tell us about living in Detroit. What neighborhood do you live in and what makes your neighborhood unique?

I am currently living on the Westside of Detroit. My neighborhood is amazing when you consider the loving residents and the walkability to a plethora of restaurants, live entertainment, grocery stores and even the local cleaners. Each resident in my neighborhood makes everyone feel like family; rather they are inviting you over for a bite to eat or bringing their dogs to play with mine. A sense of community has always been important to me and the main reason I love my neighborhood. Lastly, most of the business owners around my neighborhood take pride in the community, so shopping with them and only them when you can is a part of the culture.

What have you learned from Challenge Detroit so far?

The biggest thing I have learned since being a part of Challenge Detroit is the understanding that it is okay to go outside of your comfort zone. I have always felt that I was “so Detroit” but it is a lot of cool environments, places, and experiences that I had never been a part of. It wasn’t that I was not aware of these places; it was just outside of my comfort zone. Being in Challenge Detroit I learned Detroit has so much more to offer and it is okay to experience something new.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

General Motors is my host company. I am a part of the Strategy + Transformation team, under Global Talent and Development. My role is to continue the efforts of transforming the culture of the company by the year 2020. I work closely with a grassroots initiative, ‘GM2020’, which focuses on creating an innovative workplace that challenges norms, value collaboration, embraces change and empowers each employee to reach their full potential. Recently, I have created and implemented a Lead Program that will create sustainability for GM2020 at all of the General Motors campuses in Southeast Michigan. This will ensure that we are growing and sustaining energy for transformation at each campus.

We also asked Michael’s team at GM to share a bit more about what he is working on and the value his work provides to the organization.

“Michael Swafford is at the forefront of our efforts to scale and embed our transformation into the business. He is creating the infrastructure and framework required to institutionalize our grass roots effort in local campuses and connect a network of change agents with passionate leaders at the top. He brings a unique lens to his interactions and has shown great versatility in connecting with both employees as well as leaders and finding common ground to build a strong foundation for our change efforts. He also helps host and facilitate problem solving clinics and design projects for both organizational transformation as well as new revenue streams. His facilitation skills are also leveraged in coaching capacities to help employees along their journey especially when they get “stuck.” We are very proud of the work Michael has accomplished and look forward to him finishing out a strong year with us.” – Jim Williams, Senior Manager, Strategy + Transformation

What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?

As a child, I always knew that I wanted to drive a Chevrolet and also wondered what happened in “that big building on Jefferson”. There were not a lot of opportunities where I could actually go into the Renaissance Center/General Motors and experience what the beautiful building had to offer. Now that I am in a position, my personal challenge is to work on ways that the surrounding community can utilize GM’s space for events, activities, or to just tour. I have been working with different non-profits such as ‘Motor City Scholars’ and ‘Minds Matter Detroit’, which I allow to host various community-based activities in our Innovation Xchange space.

What are you most looking forward to for the second half of your year as a Fellow?

So far we have worked with a number of amazing community partners. I am looking forward to continuing to learn about and work with more organizations in Detroit that have the city’s best interest in mind.

What do you envision for Detroit 10 years from now?

In 10 years I envision that the neighborhoods will be remembered. With a lot of activity going on in downtown, midtown, and cork town, I feel that many of the Neighborhoods are not a part of these transformation efforts. It is my hope that with the help of actual community members, community organizations and city officials, that all of the neighborhoods will be healthy, safe and sustainable.

To learn more about Michael’s experience as a Challenge Detroit Fellow check out his spotlight video below.