Our Past Challenge Projects

The Challenge Detroit Challenges

Challenges are the heart of the program. In partnership with local nonprofits, the challenges are designed to positively impact the city and region while giving the Fellows an opportunity to learn by doing. Challenge Detroit has supported over 165 nonprofits through challenge projects.

Past project features

Equitable small business growth & entrepreneurship

The Detroit Economic Growth Corp (DEGC), through its Motor City Match program helps start new businesses in Detroit’s commercial corridors, by assisting throughout the start-up and building renovation process and pairing businesses with Detroit real estate. To accomplish this, they provide grants, loans and counseling to building and business owners.

For this challenge project, Fellows conducted interviews to understand the obstacles that impact Motor City Match’s small businesses across Detroit neighborhoods. Using these insights, they generated key findings and actionable recommendations across areas including business-to-business support, resource navigation, and factors that may cause businesses to close, in order to help expand and maximize equitable development opportunities for neighborhood small businesses. Fellows had the opportunity to partner with Kyla Carlsen, DEGC Small Business Manager and Challenge Detroit Alumni Fellow (2015-2016).

Following the project, Motor City Match staff implemented Fellow’s deliverables to address small business challenges including a YouTube financial challenge series, contractor and FAQ resources, a quarterly check-in survey, website and training infographics, and even a pilot internship program.


Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) is an organization dedicated to alleviating homelessness in Detroit by providing an array of services that enable people to achieve self-sufficiency and obtain quality affordable housing.

For this challenge project, Fellows helped COTS increase their awareness and stakeholder involvement. The Fellows engaged stakeholders including staff, volunteers, partners, supporters, and residents of COTS to learn more about homelessness and its impact on Detroit. Based on their findings, Fellows designed creative campaigns to attract new donors, better support the individuals served by the organization, cultivate existing relationships and increase overall recognition of the organization’s missions and services. Specifically, Fellows designed a highly impactful marketing and fundraising campaign - “One Step Away” - aimed at sharing the different stories and perspectives of COTS’ stakeholder groups to increase an overall awareness and understanding of the organization.

Following the project, COTS implemented the campaign idea and raised over $40,000 to support their work and shelter.

2020-2021 (Year NINE) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Advocacy & Youth Leadership
  • Digital Literacy & Inclusion
  • Economic & Community Development
    Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation
  • Youth Homelessness & Poverty
    Detroit Phoenix Center
2019-2020 (Year EIGHT) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Summer Impact Projects
    Multiple Project Partners
  • Neighborhood Engagement
    Michigan Community Resources
  • Community Development
    Sinai-Grace Guild
  • Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity
    City of Detroit Department of Civil Rights Inclusion & Opportunity
  • Financial Education for Women
    Rebel Nell T.E.A.
  • Youth Leadership
    Detroit Public Schools Community District
2018-2019 (Year SEVEN) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Community Economic Development
    Eastside Community Network
  • Arts & the Community
    Michigan Opera Theatre
  • Arts & the Community
    Hannan Center
  • Neighborhood Resources
    Century Forward
  • Prevention & Family Support Services
    Mariners Inn
  • Summer Impact Projects
    20+ Nonprofit Partners
2017-2018 (Year SIX) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Youth Engagement
    Urban Neighborhood Initiatives
  • Community Partnerships
    Slow Roll
  • Equitable Entrepreneurship & Small Business Growth
    Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
  • Community Partnerships
    Detroit Homecoming
  • Neighborhood Engagement
    Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • Youth Engagement
    Detroit Historical Society's Detroit67
  • Summer Impact Projects
    20+ Nonprofit Partners
2016-2017 (Year FIVE) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Art & Community Health
    Beaumont Family Medicine & Detroit Central City
  • Storytelling
    Belle Isle Conservancy
  • Place-based Entrepreneurship
    TechTown Detroit
  • Place-based Entrepreneurship
    Southwest Economic Solutions
  • Sustainability
  • Youth Development
    Downtown Boxing Gym
  • Food Security
    Forgotten Harvest
  • Community Development
    MACC Development
2015-2016 (Year FOUR) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Economic Development
  • Land Use
    Detroit Future City
  • Land Use
    Black Family Development
  • Neighborhood Engagement
    Downtown Detroit Partnership
  • Workforce Development
    Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS)
  • Workforce Development
    Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
  • Education Empowerment
    Detroit Public Schools
  • Neighborhood Small Business
    City of Detroit Mayor's Office
2014-2015 (Year THREE) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Community Engagement
  • Cars & Community
    Vehicles for Change
  • Education Empowerment
    Detroit Food Academy
  • Education Empowerment
    Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan
  • Education Empowerment
    The Future Project
  • Education Empowerment
    Detroit Youth Energy Squad
  • Education Empowerment
  • Education Empowerment
    Detroit Achievement Academy
  • Neighborhood Activation
    Detroit Collaborative Design Center
  • Economic Development
    8 Mile Boulevard Association
2013-2014 (Year TWO) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Community Arts
    Detroit Collaborative Design Center & Bleeding Heart Design
  • Multimodal Transportation
  • Homelessness
    Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS)
  • Land Conservation & Community Engagement
    The Riverfront Conservancy
  • Land Re-Utilization
    Detroit Future City
2012-2013 (Year ONE) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Community Impact
    Matrix Human Services
  • Food Access
    United Way for Southeastern Michigan
  • Immigration
    Global Detroit
  • Enrollment & Education
    Excellent Schools Detroit
  • Community Storefront Activation
    Detroit Collaborative Design Center
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Environment & Sustainability
    Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice
  • Arts & Culture
    Culture Source
  • Tech Entrepreneurship
    TechTown Detroit