Detroit Future City Presents: Lots of Stories, Featuring Challenge Detroit Partnership

In April, I had the pleasure of serving as Project Coordination Lead for the Challenge Detroit Land Use project with the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office and Black Family Development Inc. I oversaw the project timelines of six teams of Challenge Detroit fellows working on the Safe Routes to School initiative in the Osborn community, an initiative to make it safe, convenient and fun for children to bicycle and walk to school using federal, state and local funding to construct new pathways and sidewalks. Along with the input of community residents, the Challenge Detroit fellows used the following design question to inform their work over the course of five weeks: "How might we strategically use side lots as a component of a larger open space strategy to promote future land development at the neighborhood level?"  

The Safe Routes to School initiative in the Osborn community, along with the Field Guide to Working with Lots, assists with addresses the obstacles of blight by giving residents the tools they need to be ambassadors for the Safe Routes to School initiative, and also by beautifying vacant lots in their neighborhoods.

As the project coordination lead for this project, I learned a great deal about how to effectively communicate with a group of 30 fellows, as well as balancing different working styles to keep everyone on track and working toward the common goal of providing recommendations to the DFC Implementation Office and Black Family Development, Inc. around neighborhood land use.

The most powerful learning experience for me during this challenge came before the project even began. Being on staff with  the DFC Implementation Office gave me the unique opportunity to observe and assist in designing the Challenge Detroit Land Use project. What I experienced was a true collaborative effort between three organizations working together to identify how they could maximize the fellows' skillsets while fulfilling the needs within each organization. The process required all of us in the room to listen to each other to ensure that our challenges could be addressed within the given timeline, while also fitting into the Challenge Detroit designing thinking framework. 

Thank you to Shelley Danner with Challenge Detroit, and to my colleagues at the DFC Implementation Office for giving me the opportunity to learn how a collaborative project is designed.

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2990 W. Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202