ASSEMBLE@Mackinac to bring new voices to the policy conversation

Starting May 27, the good and the great of Southeast Michigan's business, political, and media circles will pour onto Mackinac Island from its ferry docks for the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference. This year's conference seeks to "create a globally competitive, financially attractive business environment in Michigan" by focusing on the pillars of entrepreneurship, education, and impact.

Each year, the conference serves as a stage for spirited public policy debates and expert presentations. Backroom deal-making is brought out in the open over cocktails on the porch of the island's Grand Hotel. Many important decisions about the future of the city of Detroit, the metro region, and the state originate on Mackinac Island at this event.

Seems like a great vacation, right?

Well it is if you can pay the $2,725 ticket price ($1,950 for Detroit Regional Chamber members).

The high cost of attending the Mackinac Policy Conference, along with the belief that young leaders lack platforms for participating in important policy discussions, got the people behind ASSEMBLE thinking about ways in which to make policy decision making more inclusive.

ASSEMBLE is the evolution of the recent bid to bring the X-Games to Detroit. When the bid failed last year, organizers Garret Koehler and Kevin Krease decided to channel the high levels of excitement and engagement they had generated into a continuous effort to bring Detroiters together. Thus ASSEMBLE was born.

Inspired by the opportunity to engage people who do not have entree into the policy discussions happening at the Mackinac Policy Conference, ASSEMBLE has decided to host a concurrent event called ASSEMBLE@Mackinac(ish) at a farmhouse on Lake Charlevoix.

"We thought it was important to present a united, youth-driven voice," says Chad Rochkind, co-organizer of ASSEMBLE in the event's press release. "The future of our state might be determined at the Mackinac Policy Conference, but the actual future of our state will be at ASSEMBLE@Mackinac."

The ASSEMBLE team plans to use this event to launch a beta version of ASSEMBLE:IDEA, "an initiative that helps Detroit-based community partners address real challenges to their work through an immersive and collaborative idea competition."

“We hope to have a productive conversation that will result in recommendations that are informed by a diverse group of young leaders and will be heard by the leadership of our state,” says Kevin Krease, co-organizer of ASSEMBLE. 

Participants will be briefed on the work of RecoveryPark, "an ambitious Detroit urban farming initiative [that seeks] to create jobs through innovative projects that benefit communities in recovery and individuals with barriers to employment."

The IDEA model will harness the expertise of the interdisciplinary ASSEMBLE@Mackinac group to help RecoveryPark find tangible solutions to issues it is currently facing around community involvement and water infrastructure.

"We were pursuing community partners for IDEA through our official  partnership with Detroit Future City, and Recovery Park kept coming up as a potential target," says Chad Rochkind. "As we pursued the opportunity further and got to know the good folks over there better, it became clear that Recovery Park was a project with a vision, but also with an openness to ideas that originate outside the organization -- two key factors for partners of IDEA to possess." 

In addition to the sessions related to RecoveryPark, ASSEMBLE@Mackinac participants will view livestream sessions from the Mackinac Policy Conference and respond with structured group and panel discussions culminating in the creation of their own formal recommendations. All video content and recommendations will be released publicly and integrated into broader Mackinac Policy Conference media coverage. 

Would-be ASSEMBLE@Mackinac participants must apply online for a limited number of spaces.

If accepted, participants are expected to contribute $80 to help cover the cost of motorcoach transportation to and from Charlevoix (departing from downtown Detroit), accommodations for three nights (May 27-30), and eight onsite meals (three breakfasts, three lunches, and two dinners).

Model D will be present at ASSEMBLE@Mackinac and will recap its outcomes.
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