March 22, 2017

Collaboration between nonprofits and city government is powering Detroit’s comeback

City Connect Detroit believes that the right partnerships can help the Motor City solve its most pressing problems

City Connect Detroit team member Mia Sanders leads goal-setting training to young women from Southwest Detroit. Photo courtesy of City Connect Detroit


Meet the finalists for The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, underwritten by Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $100,000 in grant money. Five winners will be announced March 30 at The Renewal Summit in Washington, on, and here, on The Renewal Project.

Dierk L. Hall became interested in community work when he was in college and participated in one of the first classes of the Clinton-era Americorps program.

Now, the 45-year-old is president and CEO of City Connect Detroit, an organization that serves its community by bringing together area nonprofits and civic leaders to work together to solve the city’s most pressing problems.

Meet Dierk and follow City Connect Detroit on Twitter at @CityConnectDet and on Facebook.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your community:

I am personally committed to lifting up vulnerable children and youth in my community, Detroit.

What inspired you to do this work?

I was first inspired in this work when I went to Africa on a study abroad program in college, and saw firsthand the way that communities could lift up vulnerable children and youth. I wanted to bring these efforts to bear on young people in my community.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

At City Connect Detroit, we work as a backbone intermediary to bring business, government, and nonprofit leaders together around pressing community challenges, and to seek out solutions to those challenges. Our work involves bridge building, fundraising, and always keeping an eye on what is going to move Detroit forward as a community. Since 2009, our work has focused heavily on getting young people in our community ready for work. We have trained and employed more than 20,000 young Detroiters over the past eight summers, and we expect to train and employ another 8,000 this year.

What do you love about your community?

I love the spirit of Detroit, that we can, we must, and we will. There is real drive in this community.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

Detroit is a city with a great legacy and, despite its recent challenges, is becoming an even greater city with each passing day.

What leader or leaders inspired you?

Nelson Mandela; Martin Luther King Jr.; and Eleanor Josaitis, founder of Detroit’s Focus Hope.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project