Our Work In the Community

Throughout the fellowship year, Fellows work together and collaborate with our local nonprofit partners on Challenge Projects—the heart of our program. Every year our partners and project topics change, but one thing is consistent—these projects are designed to help our partners move their work forward in addressing our city’s greatest needs and opportunities, and ultimately contribute to Detroit’s diverse and vibrant communities. Through these human-centered, strategic, intellectually-based, community-focused projects, Fellows learn by doing while also making a positive, tangible contribution.


“I am so impressed by the ingenuity of the Fellows and the quality of work they produced in such a short time period. They really connected with the personality and spirit of the community and the work, and were able to produce creative and effective solutions that we look forward to implementing. Thank you, Challenge Detroit! Your projects will help to greatly advance our economic development plans and strategies.”

– Sherita Smith, Project Partner, Executive Director GRDC


  • Before each project, our nonprofit partners undergo a robust needs assessment. Findings are used to design projects that will most effectively leverage Fellows’ talent while achieving optimal impact for a nonprofit. 
  • As a part of their orientation, Fellows learn about Detroit’s neighborhoods, history and the policies that shaped the City to gain context. Fellows are then trained in the design thinking framework, a human-centered, creative, problem-solving tool where empathy is a key element.
  • At the beginning of a project, Fellows participate in empathy based activities to understand the needs of the partner organization, individuals and community they are serving through each project.
  • Fellows work on small teams using the design thinking framework and project management skills to execute their work, and are in constant communication with a liaison from the partner nonprofit who provides guidance and feedback.
  • At the end of each project, the nonprofit partner is provided with a comprehensive set of ready-to-go deliverables ranging from marketing and fundraising campaigns to organizational strategies and assessments and beyond. The nonprofits then leverage and integrate these deliverables both internally and externally to move their work forward.



Since 2012, we’ve partnered with over 170 nonprofits on topics ranging from youth development, sustainability, arts & culture, homelessness, food security, mobility, returning citizens and more. Here are this year’s partners.

  • Workforce Development
    Detroit at Work
  • Entrepreneurship
    ProsperUS Detroit
  • Community Development
    E. Warren Development Corporation
  • Youth Development
    Teen HYPE