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Challenge Detroit leaders invited to the White House to celebrate their work and the spirit of innovation


Not long ago Challenge Detroit was just spark of an idea to get young people to come to Detroit – and stay here.

The idea turned into reality after a lot of hard work and persistence. It’s now in its fifth year, and every year has attracted 30 of the best and brightest innovative thinkers to live, work, play, give, and lead in metro Detroit for one year.

They are called the Detroit Fellows and they don’t just work for Detroit area companies. Every Friday they volunteer at nonprofits across the region.

They are making a difference.

That difference is being recognized. Challenge Detroit’s co-founders and leaders, Deirdre Groves and Shelley Danner, have been invited to the White House on Monday, October 3 for South by South Lawn, its inaugural festival of ideas, art and action. The idea is to bring together creators, innovators, and organizers who work every day to improve the lives of their fellow Americans and people around the world.

Deirdre Groves

Deirdre Groves

Challenge Detroit certainly does that. It was selected from a pool of more than 20,000 nominations to join top innovators and entrepreneurs from across the country.

Shelley Danner

Shelley Danner

“As we embark on the fifth year of Challenge Detroit, attending this event is a very special way to celebrate and be recognized for our dedication to the community,” says the Challenge Detroit team.

Challenge Detroit has accomplished a lot in its five years.

  • Nearly 4,000 people have applied for the program.
  • More than 60 companies have partnered with them and created more than 175 jobs.
  • More than $6 million dollars in economic value has been brought to Detroit.14 new ventures have launched by its alumni.
  • More than 100 apartments and homes have been rented and purchased.
  • Fellows have worked with more than 40 local nonprofits through 200,000 project hours valued at $700,000.
  • Fellows served an additional 4,000 volunteer hours above and beyond their community impact team projects.
  • More than 1,000 blogs have been posted changing the narrative of Detroit.
  • Close to 70,000 social media partners and connections have leveraged those stories.

South by South Lawn is inspired by the South by Southwest event held in Austin, Texas, earlier this year, which President Obama for a conversation on civic engagement.

South by South Lawn will challenge young leaders to build on our progress toward an America that is more tolerant, fair, and full of opportunities, the website says.

“We are excitedly preparing for ways to tell the Challenge Detroit story and engage with other young leaders doing important and innovative work,” the Challenge Detroit team says.

You can follow them on Twitter that day using #SXSL.

The entire festival will be streamed live on and so you can follow along.

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