What does it mean to me as a Challenge Detroit Alumna to maintain ties to the city and the fellowship from the suburbs?
Simply put, the exposure! The immersion experience in Detroit through the fellowship year adds so much perspective as not only a native Metro Detroiter, but also young professional. From new organizations to join, support, or events to look out for, the time immediately following the year can still be really busy with new events and relationships. A full year has passed since my year with Challenge Detroit, it should be easy to fall back into old habits; but I’ve found myself taking some of our regular fellowship practices like reflection and intentional actions into my day-to-day routine.
Exposures through the project immersion days and working Fridays helped me continue to develop my understanding of the city, the way I relate to it and others. I picked up a concept new to myself— the business ecosystem. It seems really minimal but having that introduced so early on in our first project (DEGC’s Motor City Match) helped me completely reassess my concept of community. Thanks to 6th grade Earth Science, I’ve usually thought of an ecosystem as symbiotic relationships, often backlit with greenery and water tables. Thinking of the business ecosystem in Detroit reminded me that there is also a symbiotic relationship, a natural give and take to thrive, between entities, people, and exists in and out of the city bounds. It’s society. It’s the pattern that we have to nurture, in order to make sure we thrive and recognize when new organisms should be introduced to grow, but also what should be weeded out.
At this point, I realize that I owe Detroit my vested interest. If Detroit doesn’t thrive, ultimately our environment will suffer in Metro Detroit. Encouraging my coworkers to have an interest in the city, be it be investment, social or residential— we need to serve the city for the health of the metro area’s ecosystem.
Detroit IS the hub of Southeast Michigan, and should be referred to as such by anyone within at least 90 minutes of the city center. Supporting Detroit-based organizations (for- and non-profit) and uplifting the reputation worldwide (I have had many a conversation while on travel by sporting Challenge Detroit gear and Detroit-based labels) only will continue to attract talent to the city (and surrounding corporations and institutions) is our obligation to maintain and grow. There is incredible talent in people, businesses and lots of inspiration that comes from (and will attract others to) the city.
I am not a business owner, but I do consider myself a young professional so I try to uplift places, brands and organizations I’ve found that resonate with me. Another common theme through my fellowship year is narrative. I love digging into the narrative of work because it’s a natural point of reflection and is intentional presentation. My chosen focus has driven me to talk about less of the experiences that can be purchased in the city, but organizations, brands or institutions which empower its people like the cultural center (my favorite being The Charles H. Wright African American History Museum which has been both architectural and historical references for newer museums nationwide) or social and lifestyle brands like DSE Detroit which has also had a t-shirt line begin to make waves outside of the city limits.
Understanding what jewels of Detroit (hello, Belle Isle) and magnifying its reach, with proper credit, can only strengthen our region. Working with Crestmark is a reach beyond the square footage of my home, but the reach of Detroit is much further. The reputation and business ecosystem in Detroit is what will will ultimately grow talent, business, and inspire artistic communities for region.
Detroit’s footprint is definitely so much larger than that 139 square miles (cc: Detroit Future City) and I owe her my interest.