Challenge Detroit overcame all kinds of challenges to launch a leadership and professional development program that recruits fellows from around the country to live, work, play and give back to Detroit. Now it’s a reality and Detroit has 30 new, enthusiastic people from all over the nation who want to support the city’s resurgence … and live, work and play here.
From a pool of over 900 applicants the 30 Detroit fellows were chosen to fill positions at partnering companies. Applicants range from artists to urban planners, lawyers and doctors, from recent undergraduates to those with several years of experience in their chosen fields. Fellows will work four days a week with the company they were placed with and spend each Friday on team challenges.
The focus of these challenges will be on one organization each month that addresses issues facing the Detroit community. With the combined creativity, energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the 30 fellows, they’ll be doing hands on service work as well as brainstorming fresh ideas to help move these efforts forward. More than 10 different organizations will be future partners, addressing everything from social and environmental justice, education, community health, access to healthy food and more.
“Together, we are building a new model for urban innovation. All eyes are on Detroit right now,” says Deirdre Green Groves, executive director of the Challenge Detroit Program. “We believe that in the future cities in transition will look to Detroit as a hub for that creativity, innovation, and resiliency that we are expressing today.”
Sarah Grieb, Challenge Detroit’s Chrysler fellow, is originally from Ann Arbor, but lived in New York for the past six years, working as a content manager for the New York City Parks Department. She had been thinking about moving back to Detroit for several months when she found out about the Challenge Detroit program. “It helped immerse me in in the community in a way that would normally take much longer,” she insists. “My first day I heard the major speak, and having worked for the park department in New York for six years, I had never heard the major speak.”
Jason Zogg, Challenge Detroit’s DTE Energy fellow, grew up in New York State and most recently lived in Providence, Rhode Island. He finished his undergrad and masters program in urban planning focusing on transportation and sustainability and worked for a planning firm that took up projects around the country for four years. “In many ways I feel like I’m working my dream job right now. My life goal is to create cities and organizations that are socially vibrant, economically viable, environmentally responsible, and undoubtedly safe,” he says. “I came to Detroit because, as an urban planner, I instinctively see a lot of potential in Detroit. It has strong bones and it’s a city of doers… but also Challenge Detroit offers exactly the type of model I’ve been looking for. I believe it will give me a good idea of what 21st century urbanism will look like.”
Though their year in the city, Challenge Detroit participants will be sharing their stories through blogging, social media, online videos and personal connections. To keep up with the fellows and their progress on Team Challenges, you can visit their blog and find them on Facebook and YouTube where fellow Ben Hershey will be documenting the project though video. You may also find them writing for this blog once in a while.