Week 4 – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 4

Its hard to believe that I’m almost half way through the program, it seems that time days fly by at an uncontrollable pace! My time at Metro Matters has been really enjoyable. A large part of that experience has been the office culture and the really interesting discussions had; sometimes only tangentially related to our work. It’s fun and interesting to talk to people who are passionate about and committed to finding ways to use policy to create a more equitable and strong metro-Detroit. All the employees in the office, and my supervisor particularly, immerse themselves in current events and policy discussions happening around the region. Because the office is generally pretty laid back and conducive to open discussion, a lot of times everyone’s knowledge and understandings are put forth in the open for discussion and debate. While I certainly enjoy the work that I do and have learned a great deal from it, these opportunities to argue about everything from technocratic transit policies to equity in media portrayals have perhaps taught me more than anything else I’ve done this summer.

I’ve also been lucky enough to incorporate a few informational interviews in my work, and to travel to the offices of other organizations throughout the city. Through these experiences I’ve gotten a little bit of a taste of the culture of other organizations, and compare and contrast them to my own experiences. Its interesting to see how something as simple as the layout of an office or the lighting of the room can affect the culture of the work environment. I feel like the small signals these office characteristics send¬†certainly correlate to the opinions and types of discussions the people in the office themselves.

Its also interesting to see how people perceive different issues based on their own cultural experiences. I’ve been having a lot of conversations surrounding gentrification and displacement, and been met with reactions that run the whole gambit of possibilities. Everything from personal stories about watching change in Detroit¬†that demonstrates the problems associated with gentrification, to claims that gentrification and displacement are not something worth investigating. Its certainly a difficult topic to discuss, and there is no one silver-bullet answer, but the way it is perceived is certainly shaped by individuals’ cultural heritage. As I continue to have these conversations, hopefully I can draw some conclusions that will be helpful for my organization and that I can take with me to become a better person.

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