April 11, 2019

Solution-minded Detroiters are changing the city

This map shows you where, and how.

Innovation is happening all across the city of Detroit, and now it's being tracked. Photo by Doug Zuba

In Detroit, Michigan, 40% of residents don’t have internet access. Instead of relying solely on larger institutions to change this, youth activists have started building out internet connection themselves in the Islandview, North End, and Southeast Detroit neighborhoods. The Equitable Internet Initiative is one of many programs that has been written about through the lens of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. By learning about this style of writing, it has become clear to me that there are solutions such as the Equitable Internet Initiative happening all across the city of Detroit.

I have spent the last year as a Story Fellow for the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), a non-profit that is spreading the practice and reach of solutions journalism. One of the organization’s goals is to build the Solutions Story Tracker, a growing database of articles highlighting policies, communities, and individuals working to respond to challenges across the globe. From Montana to West Virginia, and London to Nepal, my work focused on solutions in the area of economic and community development. Throughout the year, I read hundreds of news stories, wrote descriptions of the articles that met the rigorous criteria set out by SJN, and uploaded them to the Solutions Story Tracker.

I also spent the past summer living in midtown Detroit as part of a training program for my new full-time job, which gave me firsthand experience learning about the city’s economic development from the ground up. I experienced — both through my SJN work and my time living in Detroit — a city that is working its way out of a housing crisis and bankruptcy to become a place brimming with creative responses to the challenges that remain. When presented with the chance to do a capstone project at the end of my fellowship, I decided to create an interactive map showing exactly where solutions are taking place throughout the 139 square miles of Detroit.

The “Detroit Solutions Map” is a geographic representation of 50 stories that encompass a wide range of solutions: health innovation, educational efforts, sustainability achievements, and more. This map is interactive. By navigating across the city and clicking each location, users can see the title of each solutions story, where it occurred, and a link to the article in SJN’s database. Some exciting solutions include:

  • An urban beekeeping program that transforms vacant lots into beehives and provides honey for local businesses (Detroit Free Press)
  • Pedal to Porch, a non-profit that helps neighborhoods document stories and memories through community bike rides (Philadelphia Citizen)
  • A creative technology solution that uses data to help prevent evictions (Next City)

The Detroit Solutions Map shows 50 solutions happening all across the city of Detroit.

The Detroit Solutions Map shows the city’s revitalization across many different sectors. It highlights efforts being led by youth, veterans, organizers, and artists, many of whom are native Detroiters. While much mainstream media attention focuses on Detroit’s downtown redevelopment, this map shows that solutions can happen anywhere in the city — they aren’t limited to one area, one group of people, or one type of project.

Ideally, this map can act as a source of information and inspiration for leaders. Policymakers, activists, and entrepreneurs can look at what works in Detroit and learn from these successes, potentially even bringing some of these programs to other cities and achieving similar results.

For journalists, this map is meaningful because it illuminates which areas are experiencing solutions, and which are not — as well as areas where solutions may exist, but haven’t been written about as extensively. This is an opportunity for journalists to cover those stories in greater detail. Overall, the map shows how bottom-up solutions have helped Detroit become a more successful city.

This map is static, but the Solutions Story Tracker is constantly growing. Those interested in learning more can explore the resources below. I hope that seeing a visual representation of solutions galvanizes people to learn, engage, and feel a bit of hope about what’s happening in the world.

This article originally appeared on the Solution Journalism Network’s Whole Story.

Serena Deutch

Serena Deutch is passionate about entrepreneurship, social impact, and storytelling. She is a Venture for America Fellow and Solutions Journalism Network Fellow.
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