Week 5 – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5

I interviewed one of my site mentors, Laura Dean and asked her the following questions:

What is your background and how did you get involved with nonprofit work?

After I graduated from college, I worked for a few for profit companies because my background is event management. But then I started to enjoy the work more and seeing its impact with non profits, so I worked at Henry Ford for a while until this opportunity opened up at the Downtown Detroit Partnership and I think it was a good fit. I liked how the events directly impacted the community and the people who worked in/visited Detroit. Helping local business owners through food trucks and market programs was pretty rewarding and also being able to directly work on a program for a while and see it come to fruition is something I really like about this job. All the programs are free for the public to attend so there is also no barrier for anyone from any background to attend any of the things we work on. I also think because there is such a wide range of diverse events that happen throughout the year like live music, markets, or fitness activities, our main impact is seeing how the community reacts to our work as we try to plan things with the community in mind.

Insights about Detroit and community

The community in Detroit is very welcome and opening to the types of programs DDP does and I have had the change to interact with a lot of members of the community while working at the DDP. Operationally over the years we have added more public restrooms and water bottle refill stations and making sure the parks are clean and offering the parks as a third space for people outside of their home and work. I talked to people in the parks and their reactions to the programs I helped create really showed me the impact of my work. I think the people of Detroit are also very connected to each other and even though people come from different backgrounds they all are connected through where they live. Another aspect that has helped us stay connected with the community is our BIZ sector which is Business Improvement Zone which launched a social worker program that works with communities in parks to help the people who have been displaced to find housing again and essentially give them a program to rely on in an insecure housing market. Their ambassador program has also become a second chance program where Detroit based residents can have help with employment and housing to help them get back up on their feet and make a difference in the city.

What you do to stay focused when times becoming challenging

There is a long term game when you are planning for events but there are a lot of short term things that can go wrong or that do go wrong but by not getting hung up on them you can keep yourself motivated. Many small term things that do go wrong for events are things like funding, or if the sponsorships are not secured, but by just believing that the event will work out even if the timing does not always align, is a good motivator and keeps you more focused on solving the problem. One project that might have taken a year was a launch of a committee of stakeholders and our organization has been working hard since COVID to launch this group of stakeholders and was launched this year and although it took more time than expected it was a great way to get more insight into what other stakeholders should be doing and what the parks should be doing. In general she does not let things going wrong bug her but rather learns from them and moves on by creating change.

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