Entrepreneurship | Opinion

Stimulating economic opportunity in Detroit

This post is by Fares Ksebati, a Year Two Challenge Detroit Fellow.

In today’s global economic, social and technological realities, the path to opportunity is not linear. The goal of any urban center is setting the foundation for long-term economic prosperity that will advance social equity, promote cultural expression, and establish financial stability.

In Detroit, economic prosperity leads the discussion regarding the region’s long-term vitality. Beneath its fiscal problems is the tenacity of its citizens that are intent on validating to the world that the rebirth of the city is happening. To restore Detroit’s economic prosperity, it will take the collaborative efforts of leaders from city government, corporations, nonprofits, and the philanthropic sector.

Detroit’s leaders envision an atmosphere that attracts businesses, residents and visitors: A city with not only outstanding economic opportunity, but also amenities such as walkability, safety, and a vibrant cultural ecosystem. The city must cater to the growing millennial generation that is looking for diversity, social-racial inclusion and opportunities for volunteerism.

Innovative programs like Venture For America, Challenge Detroit, and the Detroit Revitalization Fellows are changing perception and creating new jobs. The financial and strategic investments of these programs connect young professionals to the city and its movers and shakers. These individuals are then enabled to do exemplary work in a multitude of sectors.

Empowering Social Entrepreneurship

Social innovation is one of Detroit’s greatest tools for solving some of our most difficult challenges. Current Challenge Detroit Fellows Miguel Davis and Alexandra Zisser recently completed D:hive’s “Build Social” class, a 10-week crash course to learn and develop a business plan alongside the social entrepreneurs making waves in Detroit. Miguel describes their social enterprise as a way to “provide a collaborative space for a free flow of ideas and people with a means for generating revenue to reinvest in the people, places, and ideas that are revitalizing our community.” Like other cities, Detroit will benefit from additional spaces that allow their citizens to mix, mingle and work beyond their home and offices.

Leveraging Technology in the New Era

By taking advantage of the technologies of our time, we can collaboratively design solutions to the challenges that at one point seemed “too big” or “too expensive” to tackle. Challenge Detroit believes in crowdsourcing innovative ideas through monthly TweetChats. These open digital conversations are designed to complement the work with the program’s partner non-profits.

These digital landscapes serve as the canvas for accelerating new ideas. Crowdsourcing knowledge empowers people to leverage and share their skill sets across industries to create the most diverse solutions.

Invigorating Detroit’s intellectual capital is just the start. Through the collaborative efforts of organizations across multiple sectors, Detroit is connecting its residents to economic opportunity by empowering them to engage with the resources available.

Developing a scalable model for urban revitalization is already taking place. The question is: how will you contribute to it?