Detroit initiatives advance contemporary public life

Press Release

March 27, 2012


Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities announce support for nine organizations


"Participating in today’s public square" by Rishi S. Jaitly on Knight Blog

CEOs for Cities

Detroit, Mich. – March 27, 2012 – Nine Detroit organizations that are accelerating citizen participation in public life will receive $65,000 through a partnership between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders.

The awards are part of Knight and CEOs for Cities’ joint effort to strengthen contemporary public life.  Nationally, the two groups are exploring ways to foster more informed and engaged communities where people participate in decision-making, shape their neighborhoods with volunteer and civic commitments, enjoy communal spaces together and more.

In Detroit, individuals and institutions across the city are becoming part of a growing social innovation movement, seeding small-scale but transformational projects that are having an impact on community well being. This new support will strengthen a range of efforts – including virtual and real-world spaces where Detroiters can come together to discuss local issues, create new products and services and celebrate people having an impact on the city. A list of projects is below.

“Detroiters are blending entrepreneurship, creativity and civic action in imaginative ways. We hope these projects will help amplify all of the local momentum around social entrepreneurship and a citizen-centric public life,” said Rishi Jaitly, program director, Detroit, for Knight Foundation.

The foundation fosters an informed and engaged Detroit by supporting projects that allow people to engage, support and partner with the city’s growing urban innovation movement.

"Cities today are competing globally for talented people, and without engagement, people won't become attached to place," said Lee Fisher, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities. "Burgeoning trends like hyperlocal and collaborative consumption, when leveraged with social media and technology, create powerful mechanisms for engagement.”

The list of awardees includes Street Democracy, The People of Detroit,, Mt. Elliott Makerspace, LOVELAND Technologies, After 5 Detroit, Michigan Municipal League, Sunday Dinner Company, and

CEOs for Cities will track each project throughout the year and report on their outcomes and successes nationally.

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. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About CEOs for Cities

CEOs for Cities is a global learning community and partnership network that connects urban leaders to each other and to smart ideas and practices for making cities successful. We connect across sectors, borders, levels and generations in more than 40 North American cities. Additional information is available at

About the Projects

Organization: Street Democracy

Project: The Authentic Engagement Project

Amount: $7,500

Purpose: This project will help instill the core principles of participatory democracy through an academic course. K-12 and college students will partner to develop a  project that involves participatory decision-making and community input. The project's progress and data will be tracked at

Organization: The People of Detroit

Project: 2012 Photo Documentary Project

Amount: $7,500

Purpose: The People of Detroit will use funds to raise the visibility of its “photo-documentary” project on people who live in, work in or otherwise have a significant impact on the city. The project uses vivid portraiture and essays of dynamic residents and entrepreneurs to reform the popular notion of what it means to live and work in Detroit.


Project: Context Visualization Lab

Amount: $7,500

Purpose:, an interactive guide for voters, will create a Context Visualization Lab to build infographics and animations that explain – and explore solutions to – the challenges the city is facing. The Lab will partner with a coalition of data-driven research institutions and media organizations to give context to and substantiate conversations about how to advance public interests in the city, a particular need in light of the city’s financial crisis and debates over the city charter.

Organization: Mt Elliott Makerspace

Project: Integrated Maker Learning Experiences

Amount: $7,500

Purpose:  This support will help Mt. Elliott Makerspace, where Detroiters of all ages learn and develop entrepreneurial ideas through hands-on making, expand its efforts into more Detroit neighborhoods. Makerspace will create a series of  “experiences” across Detroit where residents can explore ways to develop market-worthy products and services related to transportation, electronics, digital tools and clothing.

Organization: LOVELAND Technologies

Project: Imagine Detroit Together

Amount: $7,500

Purpose: LOVELAND Technologies will help build a technological and organizational infrastructure so that more Detroiters are able to gather more quickly in large-scale community settings. The Imagine Detroit Together initiative works to promote barrier-free thinking and collaborative engagement in Detroit. Combining innovative use of technology with grassroots organizing, this initiative aims to help Detroiters reach across backgrounds to execute large-scale demonstrations of unity. Support will allow LOVELAND to build technology and a database that allows Detroiters to communicate with and see one another in real time on a city map.

Organization: After 5 Detroit

Project: Connect After 5

Amount: $7,500

Purpose: To encourage young Detroiters to build a career and life in the city, After 5 Detroit will provide compelling social programming for young professionals – including additional networking, sports and speaking opportunities.   After 5, which helps corporations connect their young talent to the city’s social offerings, will also invest in its website that provides Detroit’s young professionals with information about board seats, volunteer opportunities and more.

Organization: Michigan Municipal League

Project: Michigan Municipal League “Place Contest”

Amount: $5,000

Purpose: To renew thinking about public spaces, the Michigan Municipal League will launch a contest to encourage community groups to create high-impact projects that improve an underutilized public space   The league will award a series of prizes, ranging from $500 to $1,000, to partially or fully fund community projects that will make neighborhoods more attractive, more welcoming, safer and allow everyday citizens to play an active role in the design of their surroundings. The proposals will be judged by a group of nationally-recognized experts in placemaking, Successful projects will be professionally documented to inspire other community groups. This contest hopes to cultivate a new understanding that communities need to reinvest in public spaces, rebuild the public amenities that make people choose to live in Michigan's cities and put residents at the forefront of the conversation.

Organization: Sunday Dinner Company

Project: Community Hub

Amount: $10,000

Purpose: Sunday Dinner Company, a soul-food restaurant on Detroit's east side, along with its nonprofit arm the Sunday Dinner Company Foundation, will increase its role as a community gathering space by hosting more forums on governance issues in Detroit. The restaurant will also augment the workforce and character development services it provides for the at-risk youth and returning citizens it seeks to employ. 


Project: Knit the Mitten

Amount: $5,000

Purpose: looks to make it easy for leaders, their organizations and the public they serve to connect, communicate and collaborate to solve shared challenges.  This grant will help advance improve its platform and promote greater use of the network across Michigan as part of its summer “Knit The Mitten” campaign.



Andrew Sherry, VP for Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; [email protected]