CARSS Celebrates Detroit-Based Partners at the DIA!



On the evening of May 22nd, every seat in the Crystal Gallery room was filled, as partners, participants, and community and business leaders came to the Detroit Institute of Arts to learn more about CARSS Detroit-based projects. Representatives from each CARSS-sponsored team gave presentations about their progress and answered audience questions.

The first presentation came from Jeffrey Bross, of Data Driven Detroit (D3), and John Callewaert, of the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute. These two organizations have partnered with the goal of gathering, assessing, and mapping data on sustainability-related topics and creating a sustainability index for Detroit. CARSS has helped to extend this partnership by funding the Summer Data Institute Series, which will begin this summer and run through 2015. According to the presenters, this series of workshops aims to engage a diverse working group of key stakeholders currently involved in community planning in Detroit by helping to provide them with access to and understanding of environmental and sustainability data within the city. The plan is to use a participatory approach, which will allow information and input gathered at the three 2013 sessions to steer the direction of the 2014 and 2015 sessions.

Chris Coombe from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Donele Wilkins of the Green Door Initiative also discussed their project Healthy Neighborhoods for a Healthy Detroit (D-HIA). This community-academic partnership is conducting a health impact assessment that examines how the Detroit Future City (DFC) strategic framework plan may affect the health of people living in Detroit. By examining possible changes in neighborhood stability, social support, housing, environmental conditions and safety, the D-HIA will recommend strategies to protect and improve the health of those Detroiters affected by the plan. The health impact assessment process will engage neighborhood residents, planners, scholars, businesses, and decision makers using methods and tools that have been successfully used in other cities to inform “non-health” decisions, such as land use, jobs, and transportation.

Saving Strong Detroit Neighborhoods from Mortgage Foreclosures was the topic of the third presentation. Detroit was hit especially hard by the mortgage foreclosure crisis, but ironically, it has been some of the strongest neighborhoods in the city that have had the highest foreclosure rates. In partnership with local organizations such as Michigan Community Resources, the University of Michigan’s Urban and Regional Planning program has been working to find ways to keep these neighborhoods strong. With CARSS support, they are working with leaders in two traditionally strong neighborhoods, Grandmont Rosedale and Morningside/East English Village. These neighborhoods have experienced large numbers of foreclosures, but residents have been active in their attempts to prevent the spread of blight. By comparing these two neighborhoods with other similar neighborhoods that dealt differently with the crisis, this project will evaluate what efforts are working and also make recommendations to further improve these efforts.

Even the most marginalized youth in the city of Detroit have the same hopes and dreams as most young people, including having a stable home and job. But traditional job training is a challenge for residentially unstable youth, according to Detroit Youth Passages (DYP) team members Louis Graham from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Deena Policichio from Alternatives for girls (AFG). They discussed Detroit Youth Passages’ progress on their plan to convene the Ford Foundation and CARSS-sponsored DYP Social Enterprise Summit to be held September 18th-19th at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC). The summit will bring together national experts, community partners, faculty, students and at-risk youth to help design a new social enterprise program for Detroit that is specifically tailored to serve its most vulnerable and marginalized youth. Over the course of two days, the conference will feature lessons learned from flagship social enterprise programs in Detroit and across the USA. Successes, as well as ongoing challenges will be discussed, including the unique challenges of generating microenterprise for under-skilled and residentially unstable youth and adults. Additionally, several existing micro/social-enterprise programs will meet with DYP to explore the feasibility of incorporating them directly into the DYP Social Enterprise project.

According to Sheldon Danziger of the National Poverty Center and Ford School, and Peter Bahr from the University of Michigan School of Education, research shows that only half of students enrolled in community college programs earn a credential of any kind within six years after enrollment. Of those who do earn a credential, less than half end up working in jobs related to their credential. Paradoxically, employers continue to report that they cannot find qualified workers to fill job vacancies. Based on past research, the Community College to Career (CCC) partners, in consultation with Detroit-area community colleges, has identified three strategies that hold promise for improving the completion rates and labor market outcomes of community college students: 1. A technology-enhanced advising (TEA) tool that leverages web-based and mobile technologies to provide students with critical information and support; 2. A performance-based scholarship (PBS) of $1,000 each semester (paid out in three installments at the beginning, middle and end of each semester as students reach specific benchmarks) to ease financial problems while incentivizing students to access advising, earn good grades, and stay enrolled until they earn a credential; and 3. Work-based learning opportunities to help students make a successful transition to the workforce and acquire the soft skills that are in high-demand by employers. The first phase of this project, which will involve the TEA tool, will begin in fall 2013 in partnership with Macomb Community College and Wayne County Community College District.

We are excited about our partners’ progress and looking forward to future updates!