As one of the five Challenge Detroit pillars, Give Detroit is a major component of the fellowship. In addition to quarterly service events in which we all take part, there is a monthly requirement for service hours. So far this year, fellows have delivered meals to seniors through Focus: HOPE and volunteered at the Clark Park Winter Carnival in Southwest Detroit. As fellows, we have the privilege of access to initiatives, leaders, and systems that are uniquely Detroit, but are systemic around the country and world. Perhaps due to our developing understanding of these issues and opportunities, many fellows have found chances to give to the Detroit community outside of typical commitments.
Now that I’m more plugged in to the non-profit sector, I’m seeing giving as a force in advancing systemic change. Let’s take a step back: individual actions contribute to the support of systems. For example, purchasing a bottle of water contributes to the established economic, social, and environmental systems of the bottled water industry. If you disagree with this, you might have the option to remove yourself from this system. However, what if you couldn’t afford another option, or you don’t have access to information about the effects of contributing to the system? Then you would have no choice but to contribute.
Okay, so what if we look at this under the context of systemic social issues. I’m talking about huge things like racism, economic disparities, and gentrification. No matter where you lie on the spectrum of personal beliefs, I think we can all find areas of improvement for individuals who are marginalized by longstanding traditions.
In our third challenge framed around workforce development, I worked on a team of five for A Place of Our Own Clubhouse, for which Goodwill is an auspice agency. Through collaborating with Clubhouse Members, we identified needs outside of our set deliverables, including the need for professional clothing for members as they seek employment. Our team realized that fellows are uniquely poised within our networks to facilitate a clothing drive. Within one week, we were able to facilitate a sizable donation of professional clothes to the Clubhouse, which supported our mutual goals of job-preparedness.
The larger issue of how individuals living with mental illness participate in the workforce is changed, however minimally, by the impact challenge as well as the contributions of this clothing drive.
We speak a lot about incremental change in Challenge Detroit. We can not change the face of a city in a five-week program. We can, however, contribute our resources like time, capital, and innovation toward advancing equity around us.