Detroit

Residential Property Analysis: Motor City Mapping

The economic turmoil in the city of Detroit has devastated the housing market. Over the years, the conditions of many homes across the city have slowly eroded from dense, stable neighborhoods to blighted, barely-habitable structures. As buildings and neighborhoods have deteriorated, more families have vacated their homes in pursuit of destinations with more opportunity. This has left many architecturally-sound homes that are in good condition, unoccupied due to the “blight” of the surrounding environment.

In order to change the narrative that is taking place with the residential housing market in different Detroit communities, Data Driven Detroit (D3) and LOVELAND joined forces to develop the Motor City Mapping project (MCM), conducting the largest public data collection initiative in the history of Detroit. With the support of Rock Ventures, The Kresge Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, JP Morgan Chase, Michigan Nonprofit Association, and other amazing organizations, D3 hired over 200 Detroit resident surveyors to conduct a parcel by parcel survey of Detroit properties using LOVELAND’S mobile surveying application.

With hard work, diligence, and in the snowiest winter in Detroit’s recorded history, the team collected data from approximately 380,000 structures in Detroit, ranging from the condition of the structure to the occupancy of the structure. The cumulative efforts of the different parties lead to the development and launch of the Motor City Mapping online website which displays a map of the different Detroit properties by neighborhood with an in-depth breakdown of the structures in each community. The goal of the MCM portal was to create a comprehensive database of detailed information including the condition of each and every property of Detroit that would allow policy makers/community organizers to make analytical decision making when it comes to the redevelopment of different Detroit communities.

The research conducted by these different parties is the basis of my PowerBI presentation titled: MCM Residential Property Analysis. Using the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS) dataset (details the information about the residential properties surveyed in 2009) and the 2014 MCM dataset (details the information about same residential properties surveyed in 2009, along with commercial properties), both extracted from Data Driven Detroit, I created visualizations using Microsoft’s PowerBI to compare the changes in residential properties for both years. The objective of this analysis was to determine how the residential housing stock in the city has changed from 2009 to 2014 and to offer some innovative strategies that the city of Detroit could apply to rebuild the housing market.

visual-1-1

The visual above displays information comparing the changes in Detroit residential properties from 2009 to 2014. Table 1.1 (Top-Left) shows detailed information about each residential property surveyed in both years, comparing the changes in the housing conditions. Information in this table includes the properties’ address, neighborhood, the property condition 2009, the property condition in 2014, and the whether or not the property has improved, declined, or maintained condition. Table 1.2 (Top-Right) displays the total amount of homes that have maintained, improved, or have declined in condition rating between the initial survey in 2009 and the most recent survey in 2014. According to the data, 190,876 homes have maintained condition, 26,508 homes have declined, and 17,425 homes have improved from 2009 to 2014.

The four graphs on the bottom of this visual display the conditional changes of all the residential properties surveyed from 2009 to 2014.  Graph 1.3 (Bottom-Left) shows in 2009, 1,468 homes were suggested for demolition (the worst condition rating) compared to 2014 where 4,042 homes were suggested to be demolished (an increase of 2,574 residential properties). Table 1.4 (2nd from left) shows that in 2009, 5,992 residential properties were in poor condition compared to 2014 where 8041 properties were determined to be in a similar condition (an increase of 2,049 residential properties). Table 1.5 (3rd from left) shows that in 2009, 21,357 homes were determined to be in fair condition compared to 2014 where 27,546 homes were in a similar state (an increase of 6,189 residential properties). Table 1.6 (Bottom-Right) shows that in 2009, 205,996 homes were measured to be in good condition compared to 2014 where 203,992 homes were determined in a similar state (decrease of 2,004 residential properties).

The data from these different charts show that the quality of residential properties has declined since 2009. More homes have declined than have improved since 2009, showing (as most Detroiters know) that there is much more to accomplish in order to improve the housing market. One of the biggest statistics that jumps out to me is the increase of homes suggested for demolition from 2009 to 2014. The number of homes basically tripled in this housing condition state, showing the severity of the housing decline from 2009 to 2014.

visual-2

The second visual posted above displays more information from the MCM data, with a detailed focus on residential properties by neighborhood. Table 2.1 (Top-Left) is a slicer tool that contains the different neighborhoods surveyed in the MCM dataset. When selecting a checkbox (or checkboxes) for the displayed neighborhoods, the information in the other tables related to the selected neighborhoods are highlighted. Below is an example of using this tool when selecting the neighborhoods Conner, Denby, and Tireman (To reference the Master Plan Neighborhoods mentioned in this dataset, click here).

visual-3

Table 2.2 (second from left) is a treemap that displays the number of properties that have declined in condition by neighborhood. The five neighborhoods where the most residential properties declined were:

  1. Tireman (1,417)
  2. Conner (1,274)
  3. Mt. Olivet (1,254)
  4. Mackenzie (1,167)
  5. Harmony Village (1,105).

Table 2.3 (Top-Right) shows the number of residential properties that are in poor and suggest demolition conditions by neighborhood. The five neighborhoods with the most homes in these conditions were:

  1. Tireman (806)
  2. Conner (696)
  3. Davison (534)
  4. Chadsey (485)
  5. Brighmoor (463)

Table 2.3 (Bottom-Left) shows the number of unoccupied homes by neighborhood in 2014. This table includes the name of the different neighborhoods and the number of structures unoccupied by number of housing units. This table could be used to build neighborhood redevelopment strategies based on the number of unoccupied residential units. For example, there are large amounts of unoccupied single unit homes in nearly all of the surveyed neighborhoods, which would be ideal for young couples and single parent families. To attract individuals to live in these neighborhoods, strategies should be implemented to make these particular neighborhoods more attractive to small families including making these homes more affordable, as well as injecting these communities with after-hour establishments for the entertainment of young couples, parks/community centers for parents to take their children, and other institutions.

Table 2.4 (Bottom-Middle) displays details about the different homes that have fire damage according to the 2014 survey. This table includes the property’s address, zip code, unit type, neighborhood, and the current condition of the property. Table 2.5 (Bottom-right) shows information on the number of homes that needed boarding by neighborhood in 2014. The five communities that have the most properties in need of boarding were:

  1. Conner (1,617)
  2. Tireman (1,428)
  3. Mackenzie (1,248)
  4. Burbank (1,195)
  5. Mt. Olivet (1,163)

The tables presented in this visual show the Detroit neighborhoods that should be focal points when it comes rebuilding the residential housing market in the Motor City based on the declining conditions of residential properties. The common trend I see in three of the five tables is with the neighborhoods of Conner and Tireman. These two communities have the highest number of declining residential properties, the most residential properties in poor/suggested demolition condition, and the largest number of residential properties that need boarding. These are definitely two communities where additional intervention is required.

One program that generates great optimism in regards to the Detroit residential housing market is the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative. Established by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), Bank of America, Opportunity Resource Fund, and the City of Detroit, this outstanding collaborative makes home ownership a reality through the creation of a remarkable mortgage program designed to make residential housing more affordable for prospective Detroit homeowners. I believe this initiative will have a profound impact on the Detroit housing market. This program offers the following benefits to citizens that sign-up:

  • No down payment
  • No closing costs
  • No fees
  • Below market fixed rates (3.5% – 30 year / 2.875% – 15 year)
  • 30 year – One percent of mortgage permanently reduces rate by .25% to virtually zero
  • 15 year – One percent of mortgage permanently reduces rate by .50% to virtually zero
  • Available on all property types: new, existing, single to four families, condo
  • RENOVATION FUNDING INCLUDED IN MORTGAGE
  • Credit Score never considered in mortgage process
  • Homebuyers individual payment history utilized
  • Underwriting done by NACA

Including renovation funding in the mortgage will play a huge role in improving the quality of housing in the Detroit area. Before the creation of this program, obtaining renovation funding to improve housing was a huge barrier for prospective homeowners. Mortgages can only be issued for the appraised value of a house, but due to the low values of residential sales ($10,000, for example), individuals are unable to finance renovations when buying a house as costs exceed $50,000 in some cases. Including renovation funding with the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative bypasses this barrier giving prospective homeowners the power to invest in the homes they desire to purchase while sequentially rebuilding the residential housing market through the renovation funding poured into the property.

Pairing the MCM dataset with the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative would be a great strategy to track home improvement and to also formulate blueprints toward rebuilding the residential housing market. Knowing the communities with deteriorating residential properties along with the specific details about the infrastructure of each property would give more insight to urban planners and community advocates looking to strengthen community stability. While other strategies and efforts must be ignited to help improve housing in Detroit, the Motor City Mapping dataset, and Detroit Neighborhood initiative serve as two beacons of hope for restoring Detroit’s residential housing market.

To view and interact with the MCM PowerBI visualization, click here.

Cold Temps, Warm Hearts in Detroit!

Oh, the weather outside was frightful last week, traveling from sub-zero Chicago to sub-zero Detroit. I felt like I was in a “Frozen” version of Groundhog Day, repeating Chicago’s coldest weather in how many years as it arrived in Detroit. Lucky me. I had my flannel-lined jeans, my Omni-Heat Pillsbury Dough-girl coat and, of course, my Uggs. I can do this!

First stop was Tech Town for a full morning with our great friends DataDrivenDetroit@D3. Met with the whole team and got to play Mrs. Claus as Microsoft donated a sleigh full of Surface Pro 4’s to the D3 team to use for CUT Groups, community work and analysis. We even got red type pads to mark the holiday season.

Group with Surface Devices

In addition to playing with our new toys, we discussed plans for 2017, including expansion of CUT Groups and looking into a regional data collaborative. D3 is doing amazing work to accelerate the civic tech ecosystem.

My next meeting was with Mark Crosswell, of Points of Light. Mark and his wonderful colleague Megan Christenson, run the Civic Accelerator, a Points of Light program. Our Civic Tech Fellow, Ivoire Morrell and I wanted to learn more about this program, which is focused on Youth Education and Workforce Development. “CivicX” is the first national accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on “civic ventures”—for profit and early stage ventures that solve social problems by including people as part of the solution to critical social programs. The 10 week, boot camp-style program convenes 10-15 teams in person and online with the goal of equipping each venture to seek investments and scale their social innovation. You can learn more about the Civic Accelerator at @civicaccleratr#CivicX, and cvcx.org.

Microsoft has been a big fan of CivicX and Ivoire, my Chicago colleague Adam Hecktman, and I have attended mentoring workshops through the 2016 program, which focuses on my two favorite (and freezing!) towns of Chicago and Detroit. We discussed the overall program goals with Mark, then Ivoire and I headed off to Ford Motor Company’s corporate headquarters in Dearborn, where Ford graciously hosted CivicX Demo Day 2016, which was organized and run by Megan…

At the gorgeous auditorium at Ford, we saw the various teams presenting their concepts in a Ted-talk format. The entrepreneurs each had 3 minutes to pitch their solution. The audience voted for Most Innovative Solution, Greatest Social Impact and Most Compelling Story. I absolutely LOVE these categories! Having worked 1:1 with some of the teams as they were developing their plans, it was awesome to see the progress and inspiring to see the focus on social impact.

Here are some photos of some of the Pitches:

As I bundled off to return to 8 inches of snow over the weekend in New Buffalo, I reflected on the incredible momentum and positivity in Detroit. Truly a great revival story, that has a broad spectrum of organizations and very committed people. If Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders, Detroit is the city of Warm Hearts.

Oh, yes, it could have been worse. Ask the Chicago Bears. Happy Holidays!!!!!

Celebrating the Hour of Code with Detroit Middle School Students

dsc_0178

In recognition of Microsoft reaching over 300 Detroit Middle School students for Hour of Code on Friday December 9th, 2016, Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, awarded Microsoft Technology Center the prestigious Spirit of Detroit award.  In addition, the Technology Center was also recognized by Congresswomen, Brenda Lawrence, with a Proclamation declaring December 9th Microsoft Technology Center Day.

dsc_0173The Microsoft Southfield MTC hosted Hour of Code with students from Hamilton Academy Middle School in Detroit. The Hamilton students won an essay competition for the privilege to attend Hour of Code at the MTC.  The 13 middle schools who participated in the competition were able to experience Hour of Code via Skype. Charles Stacy Harris and Kevin H. Smith broadcast from the MTC while the Hamilton students were treated to a tour.

We are honored and humbled with the award and proclamation.

dsc_0163 Thank you to the Drew Costakis and the entire MTC Staff and a special thank you to our partner, Sandra Ware, Director of Community Engagement, MTA Elementary School, for creating a great day for the students!

A week in the life of a Civic Tech Evangelist Part 2: Points of Light Civic Accelerator

This is part of a series by Ivoire Morrell, a Microsoft Chicago Civic Tech Fellow and all-around civic tech enthusiast. See part one of this series here.

Points of Light

The next stop after the #micities conference was on Thursday, October 13, where I attended the Points of Light Civic Accelerator First Look event in Detroit. The Points of Light Civic Accelerator is a program that truly embodies civic engagement. With the increasing number of unemployed young adults in the United States who lack the workforce-ready skills to land employment in growing industries, and with Detroit having one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the nation, the proactive problem solvers at Points of Light proposed the question: How might we improve educational outcomes and ensure workforce success for youth in Detroit and the Great Lakes region? The solution to this dilemma: The Civic Accelerator.

Civic Accelerator (CivicX) is a groundbreaking program that serves as an advocate toward furthering the advancement of emerging for-profit/nonprofit civic ventures within the Midwest and beyond that focus on education and workforce development. Placing these different ventures into a 10-week entrepreneurial boot camp/investment fund, Civic Accelerator focuses on building expedited innovation of educational outcomes and youth workforce development in areas including: Alternative learning models, experiential training, developing 21st century job ready skills, carving workforce pathways, and creating greater access to internal liberators (social services, professional mentoring, career services, and healthy living).

CivicX

Before heading to CivicX First Look, I made a stop at Data Driven Detroit for a meeting with my friend Dustin O’Hara, who is a doctoral candidate in Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). We met to talk about CUTGroup Detroit, which is one of the projects Dustin is researching for his dissertation focused on Smart cities and civic engagement. During our conversation, Dustin mentioned an awe-inspiring community revitalization project he is researching in the Highland Park called Avalon Village. Knowing of my passion for rebuilding communities through reading my blog series, Community Takes Commitment, Dustin invited me to take a tour of Avalon Village and to meet the individuals behind this conception.

CivicX First Look

Moments after leaving D3, Dustin and I arrived at Avalon Village. The atmosphere of the area was simply astounding. Construction workers were wrapping up one of the parks many imaginative institutions called the homework house. The homework house will serve as an after school destination of creation allowing students to receive help with homework through tutoring programs, create music at the in house recording studio, learn about STEM, and so much more. Avalon Village will also host other environment enhancers including a restaurant called the Blue Moon Café, a store called the Goddess Marketplace where female entrepreneurs can sell their products, a greenhouse to café food system, alternative living/business spaces made out of shipping containers, urban gardens, basketball courts, and other enlightening establishments.

The mastermind behind this virtuous vessel of communal cohesion, Shamayim Harris, became inspired to initialize Avalon Village after a tragic hit and run incident claimed the life of her 2-year son, Jakobi Ra (rest peacefully young Jakobi). In his honor, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Avalon Village. Her Kickstarter campaign was a huge success raising $243,690 and gaining donations from others who strive to see positive change in impoverished Detroit communities. The first installation at Avalon Village was Jakobi RA Park which serves as a gathering place for celebrations and other community events.

I did not get a chance to meet Shamayim during my visit at Avalon Village, but I would just like to say your story of tragedy to triumph is compelling and truly admirable. Through your resilience during affliction, you have pioneered a grassroots movement that is not only reshaping the infrastructure of Highland Park, but transforming the minds and hearts of the citizens that dwell in the community, giving them hope for a brighter tomorrow. I pray that your movement scintillates the cerebral sensors of citizens living in impoverished communities throughout the globe, inspiring them to initialize similar strategies to revolutionize their neighborhoods.

After leaving Avalon Village, I headed to MASH Detroit, a dynamic community co-op that hosts collaboration efforts between innovators and creators across Detroit, which was the destination for CivicX First Look. After greeting the magnificent Points of Light team which includes Ayesha Khanna, Mark Crosswell, Megan Christenson, and Jasmine Cato, I took my seat and awaited the start of the evening’s main event.

The format for CivicX operated like a friendly shark-tank style even where the newest class of Civic Accelerator participants were given three minutes to pitch to the audience what their respective ventures are doing to stimulate educational and workforce development in the city of Detroit. After each ventures pitch, the audience was given two minutes to ask questions and provide intuitive insight on the content of each pitch, highlighting what was effective, what was ineffective, and what could be improved or modified to increase the vitality of the presentation. The ventures were divided and presented in three different categories: 21st Century Skills, College Prep & Completion, and Workforce Success.

Points of Light

21st Century Skills

Amongst the different ventures that presented for 21st century skills were Atlantic ImpactDetroit Food AcademyFlying ClassroomHenry Ford Learning Institute, and WeThrive. Each venture offered a refreshing perspective on how to impart 21st Century Skills to the youth of Detroit. Atlantic Impact, a nonprofit organization from Detroit, MI, for example transmits educational growth to Detroit students attending highly impoverished schools by using local and global travel to traverse the terrains in which students live, exposing them to different environments, which sequentially triggers a new found sense of hope for the student’s future. WeThrive, a nonprofit entrepreneurial mentorship program from Santa Monica, California, collaborates with college students from different universities, pairing these students with middle school students from under-resourced communities, allowing the middle school students to learn life/educational skills from individuals who are activity pursuing academic excellence.

College Prep & Completion 

ALEX (Anyone’s Learning Experience)FletchGenFKD, and Overgrad were the four ventures that pitched their solutions for College Prep & Completion in Detroit. While all of the ventures were great, the venture that really caught my interest was Fletch. Fletch is a For-profit organization out of Chicago, Illinois, that helps colleges increase utilization of student support services including tutoring, advising, and financial aid. Using a mobile application, Fletch allows students to input their college courses and form study groups with other students on campus. Students are able to upload course material, share notes, and receive virtual assistance from other students in their study group. The app also allows students to receive updates on different university support services like financial aid, tutoring, advising, and career services through push notifications. The overall goal of this initiative is to help all college students achieve academic success through using the plethora of resources implanted on college campuses, which will result in higher college retention rates.

Workforce Success

BLOCDetroit Training CenterGrow Detroit’s Young TalentThe Impact LabJOURNI, and Skill Scout were the ventures that pitched their solutions for Workforce Success in Detroit. While each venture presented unique and insightful approaches to enhance workforce success in Detroit, JOURNI and Skill Scout thoroughly impressed me. JOURNI, a non-profit organization established in the city of Detroit, strives to empower individuals from undeserved, urban communities by providing them with the tech education needed to compete and thrive in the local ecosystem. Through providing youth centered programming courses, beneficial job opportunities, social economical resources, and other services, JOURNI is depositing vital technological skills to those who are less fortunate. Learning these skills will allow individuals to break through the barriers that barricade their brilliance, uplift their communities through technological progression, and earn better employment opportunities.

Skill Scout, a For-Profit company located in Chicago, Illinois, was simply sensational. This organization transforms how companies and candidates connect with each other through using video job posts and engaging work sample applications. Instead of reading through a long job description, candidates can view the job they desire through simply watching an engaging video showing what the position entails using this platform. Skill Scout takes an inventive, future focused approach to linking job candidates with job opportunities in a way that will rewrite the future of job searching.

Points of Light

October 13th was one of the most inspirational days I have had as a civic tech evangelist. From visualizing the remarkable community transformation at Avalon Village to learning about the invigorating educational and workforce development ventures at CivicX, I feel extremely encouraged about the future of Detroit. Not only do I feel encouraged, but I feel empowered to work more diligently toward making a substantial impact in Detroit. One narrative that is shared between Avalon Village and CivicX is the passion for positive progression. The individuals at both of these destinations have heroic hearts and astounding ambition. Their movements are not driven off self-gratification or personal personification but off the liberation of other individuals who are in less fortunate situations. I have nothing but deep gratitude for what each entity is doing to help others and I wish them all overflowing success.

Stay tuned for the third part of my blog series where I document my experience at the Sunlight Foundations Transparency Camp in Cleveland Ohio.

Civic Tech in Chicago — October’s Top Events

mschi-events-october

Welcome, October! We’re gearing up for tricks and treats throughout the whole month in Civic Tech, STEM, and beyond. Fall into October with us:

October 4

Chi Hack Night
6pm — 10pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.

Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

October 5

Data on Inequality of Life Expectancy in Chicago
6pm
The Microsoft Technology Center Chicago | Aon Center 200 E. Randolph Ste 200 Chicago

Judith Singleton and Euan Hague DePaul faculty from the Departments of Health Sciences and Geography respectively team up with DePaul students Eric Phillips and Sophie Mimica at Chicago City Data Users Group on Wednesday evening, October 5th at the Microsoft Technology Center to showcase their research, creation of maps and their website (http://chicagolifeexp.tumblr.com) examining life expectancy in Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods along with measures of social determinants of health.

October 8

UChicago Second Annual Civic ScopeAthon
9:30am — 7:30pm
Center for Innovation and Exchange 1452 E 53rd St 2nd floor, Washington Room, Chicago

A civic scope-a-thon is a hackathon, whose main objective is to focus on a civic-minded or community-based problem, form cross-functional teams to scope out the problem, break the problem down into its parts and develop a plan to address the problem. The solutions may or may not be entirely tech-oriented, or only parts of the solution may have a tech component.

Our civic scope-a-thon provides the opportunity to gain problem-scoping skills, learn about other civic-tech organizations, network with community leaders, and to join a team and enjoy the thrill and excitement of a full day scope-a-thon. If any or all of this pique your interest—we look forward to seeing you at the event!

October 11

Chi Hack Night
6pm — 10pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.

Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

October 13

CivicX First Look Fall 2016
6pm — 9pm
MASH Detroit 14711 Mack Avenue, Suite B, Detroit

How might we improve educational outcomes and ensure workforce success for youth in Detroit and the Great Lakes region?

October 13

Chicago Women Developers Hack Night
6pm
1871 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago

This weekly event gives ladies a space to code together. Whether you’re just getting started, or are a veteran in the tech world, there’s a seat for you at the table. BYOL: Bring your own laptop!

October 13

SIU Technology and Innovation Expo
2pm — 6pm
1871 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago

Join inventors from SIU Carbondale, the SIU School of Medicine, and SIU Edwardsville to experience innovation at SIU and find ways to partner with our faculty, students, and spin-out companies

October 14

Chicago Women In Tech Conference
8:30am — 6:30pm
Gleacher Center 450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive, Chicago

We believe women in tech can transform society through their unique experiences and resources. Join technologists from across Chicago and beyond for a one-day conference dedicated to growing and investing in yourself and the Chicago women in tech community. Open to women and men across platforms and technologies, the Chicago Women in Technology Conference will bring the achievements, aspirations, and career interests of women in technology to the forefront. Hear from successful women on topics like failing fast and moving forward, overcoming roadblocks, and continuing a successful career while also having a family. With plenty of built-in discussion time, a fireside chat, and a screening of “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” you’ll walk away empowered and with a stronger community of supporters.

October 17

Election 2016: What to Expect & Why
10am — 11:30am
The Standard Club 320 S Plymouth Ct, Chicago

Join ICPR for a free forum on the November General Elections and what to expect in national and state races.

October 17-23

The Sixth Annual Chicago Ideas Week
600 West Chicago Suite 775, Chicago

Don’t miss out on seeing one of the most diverse speaker lineups in the world for only $15 per ticket. Get inspired to change your world by these policymakers, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, business leaders, activists and more.

October 18

Chi Hack Night
6pm — 10pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.

Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

October 19

DisruptHR Chicago, Part Deux
5:30pm – 8:30pm
1871 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza #1212, Chicago

12 speakers with a recognized voice and something really disruptive to share will be given 5 minutes each to wow you – they’ll do it while 20 slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. It’s energetic, thought-provoking, and high-impact. We’ve identified some of the best in the area to take the stage.

October 25

15th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards
5pm — 8:30pm
Harris Theater 205 East Randolph St., Chicago

Join 1500 people as Chicago’s innovation community comes together to shine a bright light on the creative spirit of Chicago by focusing attention on the most innovative new products and services introduced in the region. The winners each year are innovations that uniquely fill unmet needs, spark a competitive response in the marketplace, exceed market expectations, achieve financial success, and improve people’s lives. They emerge from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Most importantly, the Chicago Innovation Awards remind us that innovation is thriving in the Chicago region.

October 25

Chi Hack Night
6pm — 10pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.

Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

 

CUTGroup Detroit Proves to Be Cutting Edge

I’ve been reflecting on the past year we’ve been supporting civic tech programs in Detroit. We started with the recognition that “something neat” was going on in Detroit and perhaps Microsoft could provide a bit of a boost, energy and support to some key groups to help the Civic Tech Ecosystem. Through a bit of research and human networking, we landed on our great partners at Data Driven Detroit. We interviewed a ton of students who were interested in joining the Microsoft team as Fellows and thankfully landed on Ivoire Morrell, a talented young man with an amazing combination of tech skills, commitment and values (read more from Ivoire here). We explored the priorities of the City of Detroit, working with Garlin Gilchrist II, who accurately describes himself as a servant leader and father of twins (with a passion as @DetroitCivTech). One of the key priorities of the City of Detroit was figuring out how to use technology to efficiently and effectively deliver city services to its citizens. All of us had various levels of exposure to Smart Chicago Collaborative’s fantastic Civic User Testing program (CUTGroup) and as a team—a true public/private partnership—we decided that this was going to be our launch into true civic tech for Detroit. Voila! @CUTGroupDetroit was born!

cutgroup-flyerCreating a new CUTGroup is a process and a labor of love. It seems simple: create a Civic User Testing Group which is a community of residents of Detroit who get paid to test out websites and apps. While this seems straightforward  to people in the tech industry or a thriving civic tech ecosystem, try building it when your community members may not have internet at home, or a device at home, or the digital skills necessary to go online and figure out if a website or app even works. So, how do you find the people to build the community? You hit the road—putting up flyers on lampposts and delivering notices to nonprofit organizations. You send a ton of tweets, and re-tweets. You call your friends to help spread the word. Oh, yes, during the hot, hot days of August. And over time, word spreads. And from zero to hero, you sign up over 200 interested users (and growing).

Then, you need to figure out what to test. So many websites, so little time. Working with the City, the decision was made to review a commercial property website and mobile app. We really didn’t know what to expect in our first test, because we don’t really know in advance the skills of the users who sign up—will they be able to give us the feedback we need to tweak the website to make it “usable” for the citizens of Detroit.

Ford Resource and Engagement Center at 2826 Bagley in Detroit

Then, you need to get people to actually sign up for your test. So they need to be available on the date you pick. And they need to be able to use public transportation (or drive) to the user testing site. Good parking, a space that is open after 5 pm, a space that is accessible….all of this plays into the details of running a CUTGroup for the very first time. We are indebted to the hospitality and accessibility of the Ford Resource and Engagement Center at 2826 Bagley in Detroit. They staff was fabulous to work with, and it’s a wonderful, local community center close to expressways with free parking.

Then, you need to go to Costco. Because what is a CUTGroup without munchies. Cookies, candy, water, soda…oh, yeah!!!

Joel of CUTgroup instructing a new userSo, we assembled everything—the gift cards to pay the users, the food, checked the internet, trained our facilitators (thank you Sonja Marziano!), and got ready for our users to show up. And show up they did! We had 100% attendance, which I am told is something of a record as CUTGroups go. That tells me that we are on to something here…the users of Detroit are really, really interested in understanding their data and providing feedback to City officials on what is meaningful and understandable. We ran our program from about 4 pm-7:30pm. After a short wrap up and a lot of self-congratulations (well deserved), we set a time to convene and analyze the data we received through the program. The feedback from Joel, who works for the City and was a terrific facilitator, was that he “could start making changes now based on the feedback”. That’s the kind of 360 degrees circle you want to have.

So our journey is on its way. We still have to roll up our sleeves and drill deep into the evaluation for each user. Joel and his team need to figure out how many changes are doable and what the ROI will be. But we are getting there. We’re getting people who are interested in providing feedback. And they are going to tell their friends to come to the next testing day. We have a place and space, and a process that we know works. And we have lots and lots of websites and apps to test in the future. So, Detroit, get ready for CUTGroupDetroit!

PowerBI Visualization: Community takes Commitment, Pt. 3

This is the third and concluding section to the three-part series of Detroit Crime statistics, causes and potential solutions. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell shares a powerful story of the history, economic impact and future narratives of Detroit’s most economically depressed communities. It is our hope that by shining a spotlight on the raw data, and illustrating the potential impact on Detroiters, that we can together build a stronger future.

In our last two discussions, we looked at Detroit Crime data and compared Detroit to other similarly sized cities. This discussion will focus on creative approaches to tangibly change Detroit’s impoverished neighborhoods, starting where the crime statistics are the most challenging.

Visual_4_8_15_Edit

My solution (presented on the visual above) to decrease the crime and improve the economy of Detroit is simple: cultivate urban communities. The data shown on this visual is from the motor city mapping dataset. Visual 4.1 (Top-Left) displays the number of unoccupied non-residential buildings in Detroit by neighborhood, with Harmony Village having the most unoccupied non-residential buildings at 253. Visual 4.2 (Top-Right) shows the number of unoccupied homes in Detroit by neighborhood, with Conner (2,325) having the most unoccupied residential properties. Visual 4.3 (Bottom-Left) displays employee statistics by zip code in Detroit. This chart presents the number of employees, the annual payroll, and the number of establishments per zip. Visual 4.4 (Bottom-Middle) displays a chart of all of the unoccupied nonresidential properties in the city of Detroit, which includes the address of the property, structure type, neighborhood, and the condition of the building. This property list is where the rebuilding process should begin. Unoccupied non-residential properties are potential building blocks that can be used to fuel economic, technological, social, and mental breakthroughs for impoverished communities in Detroit. With strategic planning – well positioned businesses, development centers, schools, medical centers, and other developmental institutions – internal liberation of citizens and external growth can be brought to fractured communities.

In order to effectively use the unoccupied non-residential properties in the city of Detroit as pillars to initiate change, two types of buildings/institutions should be strategically placed in impoverished, high crime communities: internal liberators and external generators.

By internal liberators, I am referring to infrastructure/institutions that promote the internal growth of citizens who have suffered far too long from living in the neglected urban communities in Detroit. Internal liberators function as support systems to help overcome internal struggles caused by the broken environments. These include, but are not limited to counseling centers, drug rehabilitation centers, skills development centers, and other facilities that target the personal development of citizens. In order to reconstruct an outer reality, change must come from within. Internal liberators also help with the professional development of citizens by equipping them with skills to achieve employment, particularly in fields of high demand.

By external generators, I am referring to businesses, organizations, and other institutions that promote healthy environments for citizens living in impoverished communities. External generators function as forges for long-term communal cohesion. Building hospitals, schools, libraries, community centers, and other facilities will bring positive socio-economic growth in these neighborhoods. New start-ups, tech companies, community owned grocery stores, construction businesses, and other forms of enterprise should be planted in these empty locations to give the citizens opportunities for employment in well paid, highly-demanded fields. Gardens, parks/playgrounds, greenhouses, artworks, and other outdoor establishments should be brought to each community as well. A visually stimulating landscape helps promote positive thinking and gives the community positive energy. Investing money to promote internal growth of citizens and the external growth of the environment they live in raises the morale of the citizens living in the communities. In turn, this promotes economic growth through new job opportunities, decreases crime, and ultimately makes Detroit a more desirable place to live.

The best example of internal liberators and external generators working together to bring positive change is in Downtown Detroit. The economic advancement and growth of Downtown Detroit over the past decade has simply been amazing. “Billions in investments” have been put into the development of downtown Detroit making it place where “where more people” want to live, “more people work and more people see potential for profits” (Gardner). Some of the most recent projects that have and will serve as external generators in Downtown Detroit include the “$1.2 billion plan by Olympia Development Co. to complete a new Red Wings arena” along with new office, housing, hotel and retail space”, “$950 million estimated for future riverfront development”, “$2.2 billion in property investment by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate”, “$279 million” toward the “renovation of Cobo Center” and “an estimated $2 billion in investment” towards the redevelopment of Midtown (Gardner). Downtown Detroit has also seen an increase in other external generators like restaurants (378, an increase of 77 from 2013), outdoor dining cafes (81, an increase of 32 from 2013), and retail stores (352, an increase of 41 from 2013) (Gardner). The increase of external generators has led to an estimated 58,000-person surge in the neighborhood’s workforce (Gardner).

Downtown Detroit is also home to internal generators like the Detroit Training Center; a cultivating organization that focuses on the enrichment of communities, families, and individuals through initiatives that improve “urban education, foster personal growth, and support training/employment initiatives for adults” (Detroit Training Center). The Downtown Detroit Partnership serves as an internal generator by “supporting advocates and developing programs and initiatives designed to create a clean, safe, and inviting Downtown Detroit” (Downtown Detroit Partnership). Companies like Grand Circus Detroit serve as internal generators by teaching individuals the art of computer programming through 10-week boot camps that equip them with the necessary skills to achieve employment in high demand technical fields. Businesses like Bizdom serve as internal generators by “helping entrepreneurs launch, fund and grow innovative, web and tech-based startups” which eventually lead the entrepreneurs to becoming external generators through being able to provide employment opportunities to applicable candidates (Opportunity Detroit).

The combination of the external generators and internal generators has made downtown Detroit a thriving foundation of economic and social development. More jobs are being created and more people are being educated, making downtown a flourishing facility of hope for Detroit. In context to the discussion, the development of Downtown Detroit has coincided with a sharp decline in crime in the area. Between 2009 and June 24, 2016, 5,494 crimes (excluding miscellaneous and sexual crimes) have been reported in downtown Detroit. When you compare this number to some of the other neighborhoods in Detroit, it presents a stark example of how the economic development of a neighborhood can impact the crime in the community.

When resources are poured into a community to help generate employment, personal growth, socio-economic growth, and environmental advancement, citizens are ingratiated in world full of internal and external growth. The ambiance of this environment creates not only a plethora of opportunities for citizens to escape the claws of poverty through making a better living, but also a sense of hope for a brighter future (along with better policing systems). The mental metamorphosis from psychological discouragement to psychological encouragement combined with the environmental alteration from community scarcity to community prosperity creates an environment were using crime as a method of survival begins to diminish. While the heart of the city (Downtown) should continue to receive funding to increase economic growth, initiatives with the same diligence must be nurtured in neighborhoods that need it the most. Imagine how much could be changed if a similar level of investment that occurred in Downtown went towards bringing more internal liberators and external generators to disadvantaged Detroit communities. Lives and communities would be greatly impacted.

To initiate the process, a meeting of minds – government officials, investors, community leaders, creators, and innovators – should take place to take stock of the statuses of Detroit’s many neighborhoods. Each community must have legitimate representation at this meeting in order to talk about the specific needs of each neighborhood. After a thorough deliberation and strategic planning – cost/expenses, and other viable information has been discussed – collaborators can begin to map out where to place different facilities based off the unoccupied non-residential property list. As more money is invested into urban development, more jobs will be created and communities will become safer to live in. This will result into more people being able to become homeowners and also cause more families to move back to Detroit, which will lower the amount of unoccupied residential properties and improve the city’s tax base.

To help provide additional funds for broadening the rebuilding process, government officials can start by cutting the costs of developing prison systems and reinvest those funds directly into communities. By placing more money into development of better communities, instead of prison systems, more opportunities are created for citizens to escape the grasp of poverty. Having establishments in place to help improve the personal, professional, and economic development could ultimately result in less crime. We do not need more prisons or prisoners; we need more scholars, educators, and self-sufficient citizens who can be integral parts of a rebuilding community. The system in impoverished communities seems, in my opinion, as if it is designed to create deprived citizens who are forced into a life of crime due to lack of opportunity for social and economic advancement. This system must be changed if Detroit wants to become the city that it is destined to be.

When the redevelopment of urban communities begins, the city should track the changes in crime based off economic growth. If the Rebuild Urban Detroit initiative leads to decrease in crime, it could serve a potential blueprint for how to decrease crime in other cities. The city should track the amount of internal liberators and external generators placed in each community, how much money is placed in each community, and gather information from different communities to learn more about how citizens feel regarding the changes being made. If a city like Detroit, which has been plagued with high crime, can decrease its crime through helping rebuild the economic and social infrastructures of urban communities, it would give other cities hope that if similar principles are applied, crime will decrease as well.

Placing an emphasis on the social and economic development of impoverished communities gives citizens a chance to escape the pitfalls of the environments in which they live. Facilitating development in fractured communities can promote economic growth and social/educational advancement, decrease the amount of crime, and give citizens hope for a positive change. When I think about the city of Detroit, I cannot help but think of the phrase: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). The failure of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is the root to many of the problems that exist in America today.

Step inside the shoes of a citizen struggling to make ends meet; attempt to feel the blues of a battered and bruised individual with nothing to lose, whose picture painted on the news is so often misconstrued. Imagine waking up every day not knowing if it’s your last because the environment you live in is plagued with violence and a lack of opportunities for positive growth.

Whether you accept it or not, the data clearly shows that this is the reality many Detroiters face every single day. Until people who are in a position to extend their hand to those who need it the most and treat those with the same love that they expect to be treated with, the world will remain in a state of disarray. While there are a plethora of problems that must be addressed in order to induce positive change, placing a focus on cultivating deteriorating urban communities will have a huge impact on raising the morale of all citizens and could contribute to a decrease in crime. When individuals who are greatly suffering start to receive the love and support from those who have the power and resources to change the city, it has the potential to ignite change that will greatly benefit the city of Detroit.

For more information on the Detroit crime statistics and other data shared in this report, visit this link.

PowerBI Visualization: Community takes Commitment, Pt. 2

This is the second in a three-part series of Detroit Crime statistics, causes and potential solutions. Microsoft Chicago Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell shares a powerful story of the history, economic impact and future narratives of Detroit’s most economically depressed communities. It is our hope that by shining a spotlight on the raw data, and illustrating the potential impact on Detroiters, that we can together build a stronger future.

On the third visual of the Detroit Crime statistics report (displayed below), I conducted an analysis of the cities Detroit, Denver, Seattle, El Paso, and Washington DC; all are cities that have populations between 600,000 – 700,000.  The goal was to gain an understanding about how economic factors can influence crime rate. The year 2014 was used because it is the most up-to-date crime data set on the FBI’s crime statistics website pertaining to the different cities mentioned above. Also, this dataset only includes major crime fields as opposed to the dataset used in the first part of the series, which included all reported crimes in Detroit (excluding miscellaneous and sexual crimes). Comparing the crime rates and economies of cities with similar populations gives the most accurate analysis of how these two factors may correlate.

Visual3_8_15_Edit

Figures 3.1 and 3.2 (Top-Left/Top-Right) compare major crime totals of Detroit, Denver, Seattle, El Paso, and Washington DC. Detroit led in 6 out of 7 major crime categories including: aggravated assault (9,191), burglary (9,177), motor vehicle theft (10,083), robbery (3,570), murder/non-negligent manslaughter (298), and rape (557). The bottom three graphs depict the reason why I believe crime may be perpetrated more in Detroit compared to the other cities: fractured economy; an economy that remained overly dependent on its established workforce infrastructure instead of focusing on future economic and workforce development, causing a high demand in newer fields of employment as the market changed, but a low supply of applicable workers to fill the positions. The lack of future-focused economic and workforce development leads to shrinkage of applicable jobs as the established economy diminishes, making it increasingly difficult for people to find employment, which subsequently lodges more individuals into impoverished living due to lack of applicable employment.

Figure 3.3 (Bottom-Left) shows the median household income of the five cities. Detroit had the lowest median household income at roughly $26,000 and Washington DC had the highest at roughly $72,000. Figure 3.4 (Bottom-Middle) shows a scatter plot comparing the segments of the population living in poverty (by percentage) in each city. With the 2nd largest population at an estimated 669,071, Detroit’s poverty rate was 18 percentage points higher compared to the next similar sized city (over 100,000 more citizens living in poverty). Figure 3.5 (Bottom-Right) displays the percentage of people living in poverty in each city, with Detroit having the highest rate at 39.3%. The data shows that fractured economies could have a major influence on the rate of crime.

The fractured, unbalanced economy, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why crime is so prevalent in Detroit. “Once the capital of the U.S. auto industry, Detroit has been crippled by the closing of factories, falling home prices, the exodus of tens of thousands of residents, rampant violent crime and massive poverty” (Ghosh). Graduating high school and going to work for one of the big three (GM, Chrysler, Ford) was once the norm for many in Detroit. Working in the factories allowed many Detroiters to become homeowners, earn great wages, and become affluent middle class citizens.

The job market in Detroit took a steep shift January 2007 after over 50 years of consistent decline with the beginning of the Great Recession. With the closing of factories and other local businesses came a rise in unemployment. In 2007, the unemployment percentage (for workers 16 and up) in Detroit was 21.6% (US Census Bureau). By 2014, the unemployment rate in Detroit grew to 27.1% (US Census Bureau). With the rise in unemployment came the rise in poverty with 32.5% living in poverty in 2007 to 39.3% living in poverty in 2014 (US Census Bureau). The Great Recession left many Detroiters unemployed and without the necessary skills to apply for employment in other fields. With lack of income and difficulty finding employment, many Detroiters were left and still remain in a state of financial insufficiency. Due to this state of financial desolation, some citizens turned to crime as a method of survival to escape impoverished living.

When crime is seen as the way of escaping the harsh reality of impoverished living, the social, economic, and psychological advancement of a community is severely crippled.  First and foremost, higher crime rates lead to higher incarceration rates. On the East Side of Detroit alone, “1 out 22 adults are under some form of correctional control, amounting to an annual cost of over 45 million” (Thompson). Once incarcerated, prisoners are not set up for rehabilitation. Rather, they are cultured to depend on the system even upon their release from correctional institutions. Chances at finding employment are stifled simply because a criminal record renders a candidate as “dangerous” and “unemployable”, especially if the potential candidate is African American (Thompson). With limited options to earn income, many go back to a life of crime for survival, eventually leading them back to incarceration i.e. recidivism. Some even commit crimes purposely because they would rather be in prison where they at least have food/shelter rather than be on the streets homeless and starving. This vicious cycle repeats itself in broken, impoverished communities throughout the United States, leaving individuals hopeless, heart-broken, and desperate for survival.

From viewing the crime and economic statistics from Detroit, Denver, Seattle, El Paso, and Washington DC, there appears to be a strong indication that a fractured economy leads to greater crime. At $25,769, Detroit had the lowest median household income of the five cities, which was $15,452 less the 2nd lowest city El Paso ($41,221). Detroit also had 262,767 citizens (2/5) living in poverty, which was approximately 115,200 than the next closest city, El Paso, which had one-fifth of its citizens living in poverty. The economic woes create an environment where crime can flourish. Detroit had 5,187 more aggravated assaults, 2,078 more burglaries, 4,569 more vehicle thefts, 339 more robberies, 193 more murders, and 87 more rapes then the then 2nd closest city. Fractured economies create destitute environments for citizens, especially in urban neighborhoods with lack of economic development, which eventually leads to communal destruction.  

Stayed tuned for the third and concluding part of the series, where I will present my potential solution to the economic problems going on in Detroit, specifically in urban communities, which could lead to a stronger economy and lower rates of crime.

PowerBI Visualization: Community takes Commitment

This is the first in a three-part series of Detroit Crime statistics, causes and potential solutions. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell shares a powerful story of the history, economic impact and future narratives of Detroit’s most economically depressed communities. It is our hope that by shining a spotlight on the raw data, and illustrating the impact on Detroiters, that we can together build a stronger future.

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success — or are they holding you back?” (W. Clement Stone).

There is truth to this statement spoken by the late Chicagoan and philanthropist/businessman William Clement Stone. Environment has a huge impact on who we become. While the environment we live in does not fully guarantee our success or failure in life, it plays a significant factor on the outcome. Sadly, we do not get to choose the environments we are born into. In Detroit, Michigan, many citizens live in some of the most poverty-stricken and crime -ridden communities in the United States. It would be astonishing if everyone could live in enriching environments where the landscape is beautiful, employment opportunities are plentiful, security is nearly guaranteed, and crime is close to obsolete.

How do we change an environment from one riddled with crime and poverty, to a flourishing environment with economic growth and declining crime? This question led to the development of my first PowerBI visualization titled: Community Takes Commitment. Using Microsoft’s powerful data analyzation and visualization tool PowerBI, I extracted data from Data Driven Detroit’s (D3) vault of information, creating visuals that detail information about crime in Detroit. The goal of this visualization was to analyze the crime in the city, determine how economic factors influence crime, and to consider what solution(s) should be applied that could lead to positive change.

Visual1_edit3

 

The visualization above, titled Crime in Detroit, displays detailed information about all of the reported crimes committed in the city from January 2009 to June 24, 2016 (minus sexual crimes, which are not included in the data, and excluding miscellaneous crime in all figures). Figure 1.1 (Top-Left) displays a tree-map showing the total amount crime by category. Categories include aggravated assault, burglary, homicide, and stolen vehicle to name a few. According to the data, the top five offense types over the past 7 years were:

  1. Assault (141,129)
  2. Larceny (133,272)
  3. Burglary (108,862)
  4. Damage to property (93,528)
  5. Stolen Vehicle (89,243).

Figure 1.2 (Top-Right) displays the rate of crime (total crime divided by total population) by year from 2009 – 2015 (2016 not measured due to incomplete data). The highest rate of crime was in the year 2010, which measured at 20%. Figure 1.3 (Bottom) displays a bar chart of the total amount of crime committed by neighborhood over the 7-year span. The neighborhoods with the most offenses were:

  1. State Fair-Nolan (33,258)
  2. Burbank (30,184)
  3. Greenfield(28,584)
  4. Warrendale (27,129)
  5. Denby (26,404).

One of my biggest takeaways from the data was that three of the top five categories were related to some form of theft (larceny, burglary, and stolen vehicle). Another big take away was the fact that three of the top five communities with the most offenses occurred are on the eastside of Detroit (State Fair-Nolan, Burbank, and Denby).

Visual2_edit2

The second visual above is a continuation of the first; with a focal point on the 2015 offenses (minus sexual crimes, which are not included in the data, and excluding miscellaneous crimes in all tables). Table 2.1 (Top-Left) shows the total offenses committed by month in 2015. February (6,465) had the fewest crimes while August (9,423) had the greatest number. Table 2.2 (Top-Right), displays the sum of crimes by precinct. Precinct 8, at 12,404, reported the most crimes in 2015. Figure 2.3 (Bottom-Left) contains information about the time frames when most crimes occur in Detroit. The data shows that in 2015, the greatest number of crimes were committed between 12pm – 1pm, with approximately 5,905 reported offenses. The least amount of crimes were committed between 6am – 7am, with approximately 14,848 reported offenses.  Table 2.4 (Bottom-Middle) displays the neighborhoods with 2,000 crimes or more committed in 2015. Greenfield reported the most offenses in 2015, with 3,542. The last Table 2.5 (Bottom –Right) contains information about the communities displayed in Table 2.4 and the percentage of household in the community living under the median household income ($25,000).

The information displayed on this figure, particularly Tables 2.4 and 2.5, shows that crime occurs most strongly in high-poverty neighborhoods. Nearly half of the population for each neighborhood where the most offenses occurred is living in poverty. Each of the neighborhoods exceeds the city average of citizens living in poverty by at least six percentage points. These statistics indicate to me that there may be inadequate development in these communities, which leads to fewer employment opportunities for individuals to earn substantial income.

When you are living in a community that lacks the opportunity to excel beyond the constraints of impoverished living, it places citizens in a state of economic oppression. When citizens are lodged into this environment, the notion of crime as a method to earn revenue is reinforced. Impoverished environments breed criminals; criminals do not breed impoverished environments. If I am living in an environment where the damaged school system is set up to prepare me for a scarce factory job, instead of preparing me for higher education; if the primary opportunities for employment in my community are minimum wage paying jobs that lack the likelihood of growth pertaining to wage increase; when there is acute neglect from the city in regards to development of community infrastructure to help me advance; crime becomes a feasible option to generate revenue. When survival is dependent upon earning revenue and the environment hinders chances at financial growth, crime becomes a way of making a living, resulting in higher crime rates in impoverished communities.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series, where I will compare Detroit’s Crime statistics to similarly-sized US cities.

Building Community in Metro Detroit

Ivoire Morrell Southfield Community Day

Last week, I had the pleasure to participate in the Southfield Michigan Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) Community Day. This is a volunteer and technology consulting day, hosted by our terrific staff at the Southfield MTC, and organized by the amazing Donna Bank-Hoglen, the Great Lakes Operations and Community Manager. Across the country, our Microsoft Technology Centers host Community Days, to support local nonprofits with their technology needs and to help local students learn about technology and careers in STEM.  While Community Days can take all shapes and formats, this one was super interesting as it included both an Envisioning Session with the nonprofit Southwest Solutions in Detroit and two classes with students from the Boys and Girls Club in Southfield, Michigan.

Southwest Solutions provides a broad range of programs in the areas of human development, economic development, and community engagement. These three areas together form a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy and effort that impacts more than 20,000 people a year. Microsoft Technology Specialists spent the day with the leadership team of Southwest to discuss both their internal needs (collaboration, combining databases, hardware and software upgrades, etc.) and their external needs (social media, outreach across a large number of nonprofits with different systems, Cloud access, etc.) Of special interest are the Workforce Development programs  to  help individuals acquire the education, skills, training, and job opportunities to secure sustainable employment. These programs are designed to address the particular needs and barriers of the individuals seeking work and greater economic security and success. Programs include:

Adult Literacy
An Adult Learning Lab in southwest Detroit helps adults improve their literacy, math and computer skills so they can be better qualified for employment. These services are free for eligible participants.

Center for Working Families
Our Center for Working Families (CWF) is based on a promising national concept and is designed to help low-income families reach financial stability, access income supports, develop educational and employment opportunities, build wealth, and move up the economic ladder. To participate in the program, eligible families and individuals must commit for at least three months. Participants are assisted by a financial coach, workforce development coach and benefits coach.

Earn + Learn
Earn + Learn is an innovative and comprehensive model of workforce development that has helped more than 1,000 jobless individuals in the Detroit area participate in training opportunities. Many have gained long-term employment.

Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP)
The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) helps homeless vets find meaningful employment so that they can be productive members of the community. HVRP is funded by the federal Department of Labor. The program assists homeless vets with resources, vocational training and job opportunities.

PATH (Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope.)
PATH (Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope.) assists welfare applicants and recipients to become self-sufficient and integrated into the labor force, based on the workforce needs of Michigan’s current and emerging economy. PATH provides Family Independence Program (FlP) applicants and recipients with employment-related services, training and supportive services to obtain and retain employment. The program offers participants education and training opportunities and job search and job readiness activities to increase the participant’s income.

Supported Employment
Supported Employment Services (SES) is designed to help people with severe and persistent mental illness find work at employment opportunities that they choose and for which they are qualified. The foundation of the program is that work can promote recovery and wellness.

The Microsoft team will continue to work with Southwest Solutions to prioritize both their internal and external “pain points” and part with Southwest to develop technology solutions to increase their capacity and serve their clients better, with greater efficiency.

Concurrently, the Southfield MTC also hosted two large groups of students from the Southfield Boys and Girls Club (Oakland and Macomb Counties).

While familiar to many of you, it’s worth a few minutes to remind everyone of the remarkable mission of the Boys and Girls Clubs nationally:

To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Our Boys & Girls Clubs provide…

  • A safe place to learn and grow.

  • Ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals.

  • Life-enhancing programs and character development experiences.

  • Hope and opportunity.

The students who visited the Southfield MTC and each group participated in classes learning to code and experiment with technology. Both programs were hosted by our Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell, who is also a volunteer for the Southfield Boys and Girls Club in his spare time. Ivoire worked with the students on coding, experimenting with Brain Pad and other fun games. This was a great way for the students to see a corporate setting and have a better understanding about future careers in STEM and with technology companies. Also, Ivoire is a terrific role model with the students—as a Computer Science major himself, he is a living testament to their future. What was especially great was to see the interaction, the high level of interest on the part of the students and the enthusiasm for learning about technology.

I’m especially proud of our volunteers throughout the country who support the MTC Community Days. It’s a terrific way to “open up” the walls of our innovation centers and extend the reach of Microsoft’s technology and volunteers. While I know the team at Southwest Solutions and the students at the Boys and Girls Club had meaningful programs and really enjoyed themselves, I also know that the Microsoft volunteers gained the higher benefit—knowing that you really made a difference in the lives of Metro Detroiters, helping people reach their full potential.