For our first challenge of the 2021-2022 program year, we were thrilled to partner with Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA), a recently launched nonprofit committed to advocacy, programming, and providing resources for Black businesses and entrepreneurs led by President/CEO Charity Dean and COO Kai Bowman. Eight teams of Fellows supported this project – learn more from the perspective of each team! 

At the beginning of October, our cohort kicked off with our first Challenge Project assisting the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA). Our Survey Team included Khalil Davis (team lead), Albi Taipi, Bella Kiser, Emily Wilson, and me (Gabrielle Larkin)!

As a group, our first step began in the research phase, and we interviewed stakeholders to kick off the process. These interviews were made up of multiple board members and business owners who held a part in helping MDBBA come to fruition. Some interesting insights we found from this step opened up our eyes to new perspectives, and one of the biggest we took away was from Rod Hardmon, who said, “Allow the members to be vulnerable and admit they might not have as much knowledge on one topic”. One of the most unique phrases we heard that stuck out was, “a survey should be a bathroom break”. Our team really enjoyed this quote because it spoke the truth to some underlying issues and annoyances with surveys taking up too much time. 

From this exercise and hearing valuable perspectives from the stakeholders, we shifted to getting our ideas “on the board.”. We completed this through timed brainstorms and by riffing off of each other’s ideas on a virtual jam board. After ideating we synthesized all of our jam boards on one to visually see our ideas on one page:

Once that was completed we began to execute our ideas and turn them into working deliverables based on the question, “How might we better understand our member’s needs?”

Surveys: After brainstorming, we hit the ground running and designed a 12 question survey that went in-depth into what MDBBA members need, the benefits they utilize vs. the benefits they do not, and which gives them the space to be vulnerable if they have any questions or little understanding of any topics. Our other supplementary surveys allow businesses to give MDBBA insight into their business’s health and direct feedback after MDBBA events. 

Outreach: Survey Season! A big part of our suggestions for outreach involves MDBBA encouraging their members to fill out the customer satisfaction survey at the beginning of the new year, starting in January and going through February annually. We provided MDBBA with a timeline for what is to come during the two months. This would be completed through sending email templates to all members, printing flyers with QR codes linking to the survey (and the actual survey printed on the back), sending text messages to members, and utilizing social media. In addition to Survey Season, we also pitched “Coffee with the CEOs” where Charity and Kai are available the first Friday of the month to meet with members and discuss their needs.

Incentives: To help get members motivated to be involved in participating in the two-month-long campaign, we suggested a raffle at the end of the campaign. Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a raffle where three winners will be selected to receive 25 dollars off their membership. 

Combating Digital Divide: When discussing with stakeholders, something they had mentioned was a digital divide in Detroit. We recommend that MDBBA provide kiosks in their resource center to provide a digital option, and we also recommend they include a paper version on the flyers they distribute.

Looking back on our experience as a group, we really enjoyed working together as a team. We were able to encourage each other as a group, and engage in many “yes, and…” statements to further our creative ideas. Overall, we found our team and first project together not only a success, but also very  fulfilling.