On the Ground: Model D launches summer media hub in Osborn

Starting next week, you might notice the name "Osborn" more often in the pages of Model D. That's because we're testing out an idea: What happens when we hang out in a Detroit neighborhood for a period of 90 days? Who will we meet? What will we learn? Can we eat enough at Capers Steakhouse to get some sort of discount?

If you're not familiar, Osborn is a community in Northeast Detroit, roughly bounded by 8 Mile, McNichols, Gratiot and Van Dyke. The neighborhood name derives from the high school -- which, in turn, was named for suffragist and school reform advocate Laura Freele Osborn. (Fun fact: Mrs. Osborn was the first woman elected to a citywide office in Detroit. Pretty cool, right?)

Our little temporary media hub is an experiment -- one we've been eager to try out ever since our sister magazine piloted the project in Philadelphia. They're on their fourth neighborhood now; we're just starting with two -- Osborn in Northeast Detroit (this summer), and Brightmoor in Northwest (this fall).

Why Osborn and Brightmoor? Well first, they invited us. It won't come as a surprise that our friends at Osborn Neighborhood Alliance (ONA) and Brightmoor Alliance are eager for people to get to know a different side of their communities -- not just the well-documented challenges, but also real opportunities and solutions for the future.

And as luck would have it, YOU, our dear readers, have been asking for this, too. You want to learn more about the people and projects driving neighborhood transformation. You want to meet residents and leaders, educators and students, artists and entrepreneurs. You want to know how they're creating impact and moving communities forward.

We heard you. And in a city of hundreds of neighborhoods, all worthy of more coverage, Osborn and Brightmoor are great places to start. Both are ripe for innovation, with civic engagement as the cornerstone of their work.

You've heard of Dan Gilbert and Sue Mosey, right? They get a lot of media attention, yes? How many Osborn community leaders can you name?

I'll start. A few years back, the only leader I knew in Osborn was Scott Benson. I knocked some doors for his campaign, and thanks to a tip from Rita Thomas, enjoyed my first of many delicious meals at Caper's. But this was all I really knew about Osborn. This and harrowing headlines.

Fast-forward to today, and thanks to a series of introductions and a focus group with local innovators last summer, I'm a bit better informed -- and hopefully you are, too.

We've introduced you to a few folks leading change -- Quincy Jones and Wayne Ramocan of ONA, Ron Lee of The Yuinon and Nakesa Woods & Natrina Groce of SIS Mentoring. Osborn High School student Stepha'N Quicksey spoke on our panel about education, and Kate Daughdrill shared the Edible Hut project she and Mira Burack are creating in Calimera Park.

We've also reported on the DAY Project (which Model D first covered back in 2006), and the Conner Creek Greenway, and Kitchen Connect, just to name a few.

But we're the first to admit: we've only scratched the surface. This summer, we're excited to dive a little deeper, to report on what's new and next for Osborn. And perhaps we can begin to address a concern shared by Quincy Jones of ONA.

"There is a perception that there is no action or organization, that people don't care," says Jones. Not true. "This is an opportunity to introduce community leaders people might not know."

To do this, we'll be camping out at The Matrix Center at McNichols and Gratiot, where there is always a hum of community activity. If you're nearby, please stop by to say hello. If we're out on assignment, leave a note on our community board. If you're working on a local project or have a special connection to the neighborhood, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to send story tips to our lead editor Matthew Lewis at modeldmedia[at]gmail.com.

You're also welcome to join us this Thursday, July 11, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Detroit Public Library Franklin Branch where we'll be listening and learning, with notebooks in hand.

Thanks to ONA for hosting us, and Skillman Foundation for supporting the project. We're excited to begin! Follow along here and on Instagram and Tumblr.

Claire Nelson is the publisher of Model D and Urban Innovation Exchange. She thanks Bobby Smith for first saying, "You've gotta meet Wayne Ramocan," and Quincy Jones, Scott Benson and Chris Uhl for being such great neighborhood champions.
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Read more articles by Claire Nelson.

Claire Nelson is the founder of Urban Consulate, a network of parlors for urban exchange. Most days you can find her in Detroit or New Orleans.