Social Innovation Can Help Solve Michigan's Toughest Problems

Expert and Author Stephen Goldsmith and Detroit Leaders Gather to Discuss Core Principles for Tapping the Region's Creative and Entrepreneurial Spirit for Change

Detroit, MI – Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, Harvard professor and New York City’s newest Deputy Mayor called on Detroit leaders to employ social innovation to bring about community change in Michigan. Goldsmith, author of the new book The Power of Social Innovation (Jossey-Bass), led the discussion at a breakfast forum that brought together key public and private sector leaders. Panel members included Mike Tenbusch, the United Way’s Vice President of Education Preparedness and Brenda Price, Program Director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Social innovation is based on individuals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors coming together to develop creative and transformative approaches for solving policy problems. To highlight several successful Detroit social programs that have successfully harnessed social innovation, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Knight Foundation engaged a wide array of community leaders to participate in today’s event.

“Social innovation provides a platform from which we can harness the entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, compassion and resources that live in our communities. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that government is the dominant player in delivering services to a given community. If any effective program is going to grow, it must interact with, and ultimately seek to change, government. People at all levels of government – including elected officials – must work to ensure citizens have more voice in the type and quality of services, whether through choice or new feedback mechanisms.”

“Social innovators are the true change agents that can transform communities and solve our most entrenched social problems,” said Brenda Price, Knight Foundation’s Detroit program director. “Stephen Goldsmith provides a new perspective for addressing Michigan’s most entrenched challenges.”

“Real change requires much more than funding programs,” said Mike Tenbusch. “From the start, we recognized that a successful school turnaround effort must include a strategy that would engage communities, and rally individuals and organizations around turnaround in their neighborhoods.  It also required advocating on the state and federal level for public policy that would best serve our community’s children.  Most important – it required thinking outside of the box – consciously letting go of every habit, strategy and excuse that is not fundamentally focused on the issue at hand,” he added.

The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks

By Stephen Goldsmith with Gigi Georges and Tim Glynn Burke, Foreword by Michael Bloomberg (Jossey-Bass)

The Power of Social Innovation was made possible by Knight Foundation. Knight Foundation fosters journalism excellence in the digital age and supports innovative approaches to community engagement. Knight has played a key role in helping develop the ideas driving this discussion.

This seminal book provides tools for civic entrepreneurs to create healthier communities and promote innovative solutions to public and social problems. It shows how to effectively tackle the intractable issues facing the country and world by exploring new ways to collaborate across sectors and leverage strengths for the greater good. Based on the authors’ experience, extensive ongoing research, and interviews with more than 100 top leaders from across sectors, this book is structured around the six levers and guiding principles employed in the most effective entrepreneurial interventions.

To learn more, please visit the following website:

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

About the United Way for Southeastern Michigan
United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes the caring power of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to improve lives in measurable and lasting ways throughout the region. The organization is led by a diverse group of volunteers from business, labor, government, human services, education and the community. United Way provides opportunities to invest in the metropolitan Detroit community through its annual Campaign and is a leader in convening partners to impact local residents each year by increasing economic self-sufficiency, protecting children and youth at risk, strengthening families, empowering neighborhoods and communities, and promoting health and wellness. Additional information is available at

Media Contact:  
Cara I. Belton, (313) 226-9484 or (313) 520-8454
Laura L. Rodwan, (313) 226-9484 or (313) 477-2750

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit