The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Oct 11, 2012

Strengthening Detroit a bowl of soup at a time

Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


On Sundays in Detroit, a group of residents gathers to share a bowl of soup, and an experiment in democratizing philanthropy.

For just $5, Detroit SOUP offers people a meal and a vote for which grassroots project should get a microgrant. First, participants hear pitches from some of the city’s most creative projects in the arts, urban agriculture and social justice. Following the presentations, they vote on which project they think will benefit the city the most.

With newly announced support from Knight, Detroit SOUP will expand its model to multiple neighborhoods, including a new chapter in Highland Park founded by former fund recipients.

We recently talked with the project’s coordinator Amy Kaherl, to learn more about some of the projects the group has supported, why people love attending the events and how the city’s social entrepreneurs are shaping the community’s future.

Detroit SOUP clearly resonates with people. What do you think makes it unique and appealing?

A.K.: I think we have helped to create a safe space for people to meet and gather and find out how people are problem solving regarding issues in Detroit.

What are some of your favorite projects you've been involved with and how have they benefited the community?

A.K.: Detroit SOUP has helped fund the Empowerment Plan, a designer that has built a coat that turns into a sleeping bag for homeless and disaster relief victims. I also love the people who urban farm and garden in neighborhoods like Food Field, Occupy Yourself Farm, Rhiza Farms and the Detroit Youth Food Brigade. These farms are finding new ways to engage the food system and land use.

Detroit is a city flush with social entrepreneurs. How do you see this movement growing?

A.K.: Detroit continues to write the future of what cities can look like. I think that in a setting where one engages in identifying and problem solving through some of the city's issues, we will continue to grow healthily as neighborhoods and a larger community.

Detroit SOUP brings together a diverse group of people in the community. How do you think this benefits what you're able to accomplish?

A.K.: Detroit SOUP acts as a catalyst of drawing people together. We aim to create an environment that allows new ideas to be spread and people to gather who want to support Detroit. Naturally, we have slowly gathered a diverse group of people at every dinner that shares the makeup of the city.

What do you love about Detroit? What do you think makes it a unique place to live?

A.K.: I love the people of this city. People here are doers and involved, not just passive consumers. No matter what status you put behind your name, you have the ability to create or make something. It doesn't take much to make a large impact. I also love that people work on projects that aren't particularly about them but the collective whole. It feels amazing to be connected to so many amazing people.

To find out when the next Detroit SOUP event will take place, visit its FAQ.

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