Forward Cities is a national learning collaborative among four cities undergoing transformation - Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland and Durham - with the goal of developing and supporting business and social entrepreneurs active in those places. This two-year pilot project gives participating cities an opportunity to explore issues of inclusive innovation and identify effective ways to support and develop leaders and entrepreneurs from low income and minority communities.
Over three days in June, Forward Cities council members convened in Detroit and visited business incubators and neighborhood businesses, attended panel discussions on pressing topics like blight and developing immigrant entrepreneurs, and listened to dinner talks with Matt Cullen, president and CEO of Rock Ventures, and Maurice Cox, the new director of Detroit's Planning and Development Department.
Photographer Doug Coombe captured much of the multi-day event.
1: Day one included field trips to tech incubators and start-up resource hubs Bizdom, Detroit Labs, Grand Circus, and Detroit Venture Partners, all located within the Madison Block, downtown Detroit's startup neighborhood. The "You Are Here" sign can be found at the entrance to the historic Madison Building.
2. The field trip continued at TechTown, Detroit's most established business accelerator located along the Woodward Technology Corridor SmartZone. Between 2007 and 2014, the organization served 1,026 companies, which raised over $107.26 million in start-up capital and contributed 1,190 jobs to the local economy.
3. We stopped for lunch at the newly renovated Shed 5 in Detroit's historic Eastern Market, where Eastern Market president Dan Carmody talked about the local food economy and we had the chance to meet food entrepreneurs from Food Lab Detroit and Build Institute.
4. After lunch, we all hopped on bikes provided by Wheelhouse Detroit for a ride along the Dequindre Cut down to the Detroit RiverWalk…
5. …and took in some spectacular views.
6. That night, we headed back to the Madison Building for a conversation between Peter A. Reiling, executive vice president for leadership and seminar programs and executive director of the Henry Crown Fellowship Program at the Aspen Institute, and Matt Cullen, president and CEO of Rock Ventures…
Peter A. Reiling and Matt Cullen
7. …and enjoyed some more spectacular views during a strolling dinner on the Madison Building's rooftop event space.
8. Day two took us to One Woodward, where we took in panel discussions featuring accomplished speakers from each city on topics including food entrepreneurship as a strategy for neighborhood revitalization, working with women entrepreneurs and social innovators, teaching entrepreneurship in public schools, and measuring the impact of innovation through quantifiable metrics with IBM and the Urban Institute.
9. Detroit's favorite youth entrepreneur Asia Newsom, aka Super Business Girl, was also in attendance.
10. The afternoon field trip took us on a walking tour of Southwest Detroit where we got to meet neighborhood business owners and pick up some sweets from the popular Sheila's Bakery.
11. Maurice Cox, the new city of Detroit's new planning director, speaks with CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux about his vision for Detroit's future (and draws a lot of cheers from the crowd) during a dinner talk at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.
12. The Co-Founders of Forward Cities, Denise Byrne and Christopher Gergen, celebrate the end of a successful day during the Max M. Fisher Music Center dinner reception. Byrne is the board secretary and the executive director of Friends of New Orleans and Gergen is the CEO of Durham-based Forward Impact.
13. Jerry Paffendorf, president of Detroit's Loveland Technologies, and Jim Rokakis, a vice president of Cleveland's Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the director of Thriving Communities Institute, talk about the fight against blight on day three during a panel discussion at TechTown.
14. Andy Didorosi of the Detroit Bus Company, Pashon Murray of Detroit Dirt, Gina Reichert of Power House Productions, and Sebastian Jackson of Social Club Grooming Co. represented Detroit's home-grown entrepreneurs and got real about the local issues they struggle with during an all-Detroit panel discussion.
Andy Didorosi, Pahon Murray, Gina Reichert, and Sebastian Jackson
15. Denise Byrne, Christopher Gergen, and Peter Reiler show us their Detroit love.
Learn more about Forward Cities: forwardcities.org