For our fifth challenge of the 2020-2021 program year, teams of Fellows selected nonprofits to work with that they are passionate about. Utilizing skills developed throughout the fellowship, they co-designed these project collaborations with their nonprofit partner organization. Fellows Jeffery Houghton, Hannah Morris, Hannah Hardesty, Jocelyn Moss, and Vishnu Venugopal partnered with nonprofit Girls Rock Detroit and partners Brittany Weinstein and Brooke Harris. Learn more about the collaboration below.

When choosing an organization to support through our final project, our team wanted to make an impact in the arts and culture community in Detroit. After narrowing down an organization that fit into the Challenge Detroit program’s requirements, we chose Girls Rock Detroit (GRD) – an organization dedicated to fostering creative expression, positive self-esteem, and community awareness for girls, women, gender-expansive, and transgender people through music education and performance. Through their annual summer camps, Girls Rock Detroit has expanded their community and is now concentrating on branding and best practices to continue to serve young adults regardless of their socio-economic background, religion, race, gender identity, sexuality, or ethnicity. This led us to craft our design question of: How might we support GRD as they reorient their mission and define their vision to more accurately reflect their work?

To further design the goals of our projects we met with various stakeholders in the community including volunteers, camper parents, and local musicians. We learned just how special and impactful Girls Rock Detroit is to its members and a number of ways the organization could improve to continue to serve those in need. Through an interview with Virginia Nastase – of ‘Virginia Violet and the Rays’, we learned, “The best performers are in a room by themselves. I think that stage confidence does more for you than what someone else might think”. This statement inspired our team to create substantial deliverables that Girls Rock Detroit could easily utilize, as they seek new ways to re-engage youth and supporters.

To maximize the time we had to develop deliverables for Girls Rock Detroit, we categorized them into four buckets – Board Best Practices, Branding, Outreach, and Recommendations.

Board Best Practices: We created a board handbook that outlined standard board membership requirements and expectations, along with additional resources and templates to accompany their pre-existing board documents. Our goal was to further define best practices for a smaller organization, while offering methods to recruit additional members. Within this handbook, we also included a project/ board membership timeline to assist with tracking and future planning and development of the organization.

Branding: We created a brand strategy to guide Girls Rock Detroit on how to strengthen its organizational identity and purpose. We developed an adaptable branding kit with recommendations for Girls Rock Detroit’s future mission, vision, values, colors, fonts, and logos. We also incorporated a recommended protocol around language and inclusivity to honor the LGBTQ+ community to avoid misgendering.

Outreach: We created three community surveys to help gain feedback on Girls Rock Detroit’s current state of the organization with questions directed towards future programming and initiatives. We also developed an artist pipeline form to share with LGBTQ+ musicians that might be interested in partnering with or supporting Girls Rock Detroit in a volunteer capacity. We also incorporated recommendations of how to disseminate these tools.

Recommendations: We created a community resource guide that offers professional sources for organizational support, DEI support, Queer-allied support, and additional resources for campers, parents, staff, and volunteers.

Developing these resources for Girls Rock Detroit we were reminded that music offers a sense of belonging and togetherness to communities, big or small. This organization gives youth the tools to find their creative expression early through music and the arts, all while building their confidence and life skills that can influence their lives well outside of camp and into their future. Girls Rock Detroit is more than a camp – and their camp is more than music. It’s a place where youth are reminded they belong.