New action plan to drive inclusive, design-based revitalization in Detroit, Michigan

On April 12, 2018, Design Core Detroit (formerly the Detroit Creative Corridor Center), unveiled the Detroit City of Design Action Plan, which aims to drive inclusive growth through 2025.

The Action Plan, which includes a vision, strategy and recommendations, is the final outcome of the organization’s year-long process to activate Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation.

The Detroit City of Design Action Plan outlines a plan for developing Detroit as a global leader in the practice of inclusive design, which considers the entire spectrum of human diversity and individual experiences to create solutions with a social impact.

The plan calls for three areas of strategic focus: developing and promoting 21st century talent that is representative of Detroit; investing in Detroit’s design businesses and resources to advance design-driven industries; and developing a policy environment that embraces inclusive design.

Detroit has a unique ability to expand the development of inclusive design more rapidly than any other city, and develop a model that’s distinctively Detroit,” said Ellie Schneider, director of advocacy and operations at Design Core. “In understanding the difference design can make in Detroit—especially as we strive for inclusive growth—we recognize it is about moving toward a different way of designing. This Action Plan can serve as a resource to other cities—nationally and globally—with similar goals.

Design Core partnered with Urbane Development and The Work Department to identify and define the strategy for growing inclusive growth in Detroit and develop values for the initiative. The effort engaged more than 1,000 people through 100 interviews, 20 public meetings and workshops, and a week-long summit to wholly understand Detroit’s design ecosystem. The report includes quantitative research from case studies, industry reports and economic development papers regionally, nationally and globally.

This research process solidified that while Detroit’s design economy may be small, it is mighty,” said James Johnson-Piett, founding principal and CEO of Urbane Development. “It not only provides good jobs for Detroiters, but it’s growing at a faster rate than Detroit’s economy as a whole. Detroit has the diversity and the design talent to further a growing economy, while leveraging inclusive design to help address a series of barriers preventing inclusive growth throughout the city.”

To collectively move the Detroit City of Design Action Plan forward, Design Core invited local businesses, organizations, community leaders and officials to become a Detroit City of Design partner. Of the 100 applicants, 50 partners were selected as the initial coalition that will help ensure the Action Plan is followed, measured and reaches its goals.

Accepted partner projects include 400 Forward’s Architecture Summer Camp, The Platform’s Fourth Floor at the Fisher, and Detroit Justice Center’s Just City Innovation Lab. Applications for new partners will open again later this year.

Design Core has an important part to play in developing Detroit’s model of inclusive design, but we cannot do this alone,” said Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit. “The development of this Action Plan was truly a collective effort and will continue to be so to successfully develop talent, garner investments and create the environment that demands inclusive design as the way we do business.”

The Action Plan (the full name is “Detroit City of Design Action Plan: Leveraging Detroit’s UNESCO Designation to Drive Inclusive Growth Through the Power of Inclusive Design“) was supported by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the William Davidson Foundation. The William Davidson Foundation recently approved a two-year $300,000 grant to Design Core Detroit to implement the Action Plan.

Design Core Detroit champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. It offers services to strengthen, grow and attract design businesses, increases market demand for design services, and tells Detroit’s design story locally and globally. Design Core is the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation and is a partnership of the College for Creative Studies and Business Leaders for Michigan.

Featured image shows designer Jack Craig, who combines his studio with his living space in the Banglatown neighborhood to keep his operating expenses low. Photo by PD Rearick / copyright Design Core Detroit 2018.

See full Detroit City of Design Action Plan report.(PDF)

See Design Core website.

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