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. 

Check out our 2023-2024 (Year 12) project partners and topics here, and learn about past projects in the dropdowns below:

  • Parks & Public Spaces
    Detroit Parks Coalition
  • Philanthropy & Innovation
    Wayne Metro
  • Community & Economic Development
    Joe Louis Greenway Partnership
  • Youth Empowerment
    Detroit United Lacrosse & Detroit Food Academy
2022-2023 (Year ELEVEN) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Workforce Development
    Detroit at Work
  • Entrepreneurship
    ProsperUS Detroit
  • Community Development
    E. Warren Development Corporation
  • Youth Development
    Teen HYPE
2021-2022 (Year TEN) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Black Business Support
    Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance
  • Fellow Team Choice Projects
    Multiple Organizations
  • Community Development with a Focus on Art, Culture & Entrepreneurship
    Marygrove Conservancy
  • Family Development & Neighborhood Engagement
    Brilliant Detroit
2020-2021 (Year NINE) Challenge Projects ARCHIVE view +
  • Summer Projects
  • 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