For the fifth challenge in the fifth year of Challenge Detroit, our Fellows searched for ways to increase SWOT City’s impact including the neighborhoods and the number of business owners served. From bakeries to clothing boutiques, to assisting with legal or accounting work, teams dug in to develop toolkits and best practices for Detroit’s immigrant businesses, looking at both the front and back parts of the operation.

Here is a snapshot of each team’s design question and findings:

Professional Service Network (PSN)

Design Question: How might we ensure that our Professional Service Network (PSN) has a rich cultural competency in order to work with business owners of various cultures?

After interviewing both the clients and service providers, the PSN Team found where gaps existed on both sides of the equation. The team created a toolkit to provide recommendations on filling those gaps for the current clients and service providers. The team also recommended ways to prevent those gaps from forming again as SWOT City scales throughout the city in various neighborhoods and communities.

Open Office Hours

Design Question: How might we improve the process for open office hours to better accommodate diverse entrepreneurs?

The Open Office Hours team was responsible for creating a strategic toolkit that addressed gaps within this one-hour consultation process for brick and mortar businesses. What they ultimately recommended for this project was using actual community members as liaisons for the businesses, so that it increases SWOT City’s ability to meet more potential clients. This is very interesting to us because instead of redesigning the process, this team flipped the problem on its head and found solutions that the users actually felt more comfortable with.

Direct Client Engagement: Hamtramck

Design Question: How might we support culturally aware engagement practices when interacting with businesses in communities new to the SWOT City Program?

The Direct Client Engagement Team focused on Hamtramck spent plenty of time learning about this unique city within Detroit. Historically a Polish enclave, Hamtramck’s 2 square miles boast over 20 different ethnicities, spanning several continents, different cultures, and religious practices. In creating their strategic toolkit, the Hamtramck Team found that forming relationships around cultural norms and a shared mission was crucial before getting to the details of starting or growing a business.

Direct Client Engagement: Michigan Ave

Design Question: How might we support culturally aware engagement practices when interacting with businesses in communities new to the SWOT City Program?

The Direct Client Engagement Team focused on Michigan Avenue spent time learning about the Yemeni and Hispanic communities along the corridor near the Dearborn-Detroit border. The Michigan Avenue Team’s strategic toolkit focused on several key areas business owners were seeking assistance with, including branding, communications, community connections, and program development. Many business owners had heard of Techtown, but fewer knew about SWOT City or the many different services offered through the program.

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Challenge Detroit’s Year 5 Fellowship Class is grateful and honored to complete our final project towards these ends. We thank Techtown SWOT City, ProsperUS Detroit, and the many business owners and community members who shared their story, struggle, and hope for building strong, growing enterprises in our fair city.  We wish you success in all your personal and entrepreneurial endeavors moving forward and hope our work provides a meaningful aid to that process.

Michael Swafford served as the Project Coordination Lead for the Professional Service Network and Open Office Hours Teams. He is currently a fellow for Challenge Detroit and General Motors as a Consultant with the Strategy + Transformation Division of the Global Talent & Development Team. Ian McCain served as the Project Coordination Lead for the Direct Client Engagement: Hamtramck and Michigan Avenue Teams. He recently celebrated his one year anniversary as an Experience Coordinator at his host company, the Detroit Experience Factory, a role he intends to continue with after his Challenge Detroit Fellowship.