Lessons from Detroit: Empowering the Community through Data Training

In June, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) at the Urban Institute and Microsoft released a collection of resources and recommendations on extending and expanding training opportunities for staff at civic organizations and governments to help them leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities.  To illustrate the foundations, learnings, and impacts that informed the NNIP study, we are delighted to have NNIP partners from around the U.S. sharing their experiences in developing and operating their local training programs in a series of guest blogs.  Below is one of these experiences. Other posts in this series are available from the Urban Institute and the OaklandPittsburgh, and Seattle partner organizations.

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

Data Driven Detroit (D3) is metropolitan Detroit’s community data hub. We collect, analyze, interpret and share accessible, high-quality data and information to drive informed decision-making. Our work is focused on increasing data-driven outcomes and collaborative planning processes throughout metro Detroit and Michigan. In that vein, D3 offers trainings and workshops to help community leaders and residents learn how to utilize data to improve their work.  

I spoke to Monique Tate, a community activist who has served her community for over 25 years. Monique works to increase resident participation in community development activities; redevelop commercial corridors; and enrich all Detroiters with improved internet access and digital literacy skills through the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition. From 2013 to 2015, D3 offered a series of workshops that taught attendees how to collect their own data, access D3 and the city’s open data portals, and visualize the data. Monique attended several of these trainings and in turn helped plan workshops during the Motor City Mapping project.

What did you learn from the D3 data workshops?

In those workshops, we learned to use the LocalData app to collect data in the field as well as how to use the D3 and City of Detroit’s open data portals. Knowing how to use the open data portal and the Motor City Mapping platform helped me integrate data in my own work.

I also use the portals to answer other people’s questions about property conditions in their neighborhoods. I’ve taught residents and community organizations how to look up information like tax foreclosures and vacancies so that they can more quickly obtain that information.

D3’s workshops taught me how to collect data in ways that support community development, and Motor City Mapping showed me the relevance and influence of mapping. I later applied these skills in a project about the East Warren Business Corridor. The local community organization, residents, and the District manager wanted to assess the retail corridor, build more cohesive relationships between the businesses and other organizations, and inspire the business development association along the corridor. I trained residents from the community so they could assist in data collection, and we documented information about each business and its structure.

The process strengthened connections on the business council and provided new data so we could work together to apply for community block grants for beautification and development of our commercial corridor. The data collection also led to the identification of some businesses that are interested in continuing the project. We also published all the data from the corridor initiative online to help future researchers and planning efforts.

How have our data workshops, both the ones you attended and the ones you helped plan, affected your own work in community development?

I’ve learned how to visualize data, which is important because graphics and maps tell the story more persuasively than writing out the information.

In my work for the Morningside neighborhood, we created a map to highlight the many amenities of the neighborhood. The excitement it created increased participation in the community group and encouraged people to move into the neighborhood because they understood what is available.

What would you tell other community activists about the value of data and technology training?

Learning about using data from experts like D3 helps you become better at your own job. It makes grant applications and reporting easier because you understand how to get data directly from the source instead of spending hours trying to sift through reports to find it. We’re blessed to have D3 staff in our community.

Data allows you to quickly respond to questions with accurate information. Data also helps us understand our own community more completely, which assists our organizations in maintaining relevance and supporting sustainability. If you build a central repository of data, your organization can preserve knowledge over time and reduce the challenges of staff turnover.

For Motor City Mapping, you helped us organize a variety of data workshops. What would you say is the key to developing quality training sessions?

Workshops need to be easy, relevant, and clear.

First, have an easy-to-understand message that takes into consideration the diversity of age, education, and experience. Don’t dumb down the concepts, but make sure they are accessible to the audience.

Second, think about the format. For example, it would be helpful to create and share videos on how to analyze data. Many people don’t want to read, but they will watch a video.

Third, inspire participants and communicate the relevance of the training. People need to understand why they need data and why it’s important to their project.

Lastly, understand how your audiences are going to use the data. For example, lay people utilize D3 data and tools for grants where they need to select a geography and easily filter to specific data. Showing them clear steps for accessing and analyzing data to do what they need for their jobs makes trainings worthwhile.

About the Author

Stephanie Quesnelle is a research analyst at Data Driven Detroit, a social enterprise that provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making.  Stephanie holds a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University and loves developing quantitative models to understand the world around her.  In 2012-2013, Stephanie served as a Fulbright Scholar in Gdansk, Poland and remains passionate about preserving her Polish heritage in Detroit.  

Stitching Data Stories: Detroit Fiber Artist Creates Piece Informed by Data

Artist Dolores Slowinski grew up in the 1950s on Detroit’s Westside. During her childhood and in subsequent conversations with people she met, she remembered hearing that West Warren was a marker of racial divide, with Black families living north of West Warren and Polish families living south of it. In 2016, Slowinski received an invitation from graphic artist/printmaker, Ryan Standfest, to participate in his comic strip inspired collaborative project: Detroit Sequential, which later became an exhibition hosted by Signal Return, a letterpress studio in Detroit. She decided to make a piece that explored the truth of the West Warren myth. She ended up stitching a data visualization.

Her sequential piece, Detroit West Side Patterns, explored the changing demographics and population loss of her neighborhood based on census data. Though Slowinski could locate the information on her own, she did not have the skill to isolate the data she needed. She reached out to Data Driven Detroit (D3) for help. D3 is a data intermediary that provides accessible high-quality information and analysis. D3 Data Analyst Ayana Rubio helped Slowinski identify the data she needed to bring her vision to life.

Slowinski chose to highlight census data from 1950, 1960, 1980, and 2000 to show how the neighborhood changed during her lifetime.

“I made black French knots for the black populace; white French knots for the white populace; and used grey cross-stitches for the lost populace. I had to count the knots carefully, to try to be as accurate as possible,” she said of her piece. “The title alludes to the two ‘zones’ I designated on Detroit’s west side; ‘patterns’ alludes to not only the shifting racial demographic but also to the idea of cross-stitch patterns.”

Slowinski integrated geospatial and census data into her piece: “I reduced a map… to fit inside a 4 in x 4 in square. I transferred the outline of the map to perforated cross-stitch paper. I translated the percentage of black and white residents of the total population of each zone to the percentage of holes in the cross-stitch paper…a lot of simple math calculations. I worked with census data provided by Data Driven Detroit from 1950, 1960, 1980, and 2000…each decade in one of the 4 squares.”

In the 1950s, Slowinski was told that north of West Warren was a black neighborhood, and south was white. However, census data from 1950 reveals that there were actually more black families living south of West Warren at that time. The 1960s census data reveals that, while the area north of West Warren was becoming much more diverse, the population was still majority white.

“I come from a family of makers. This was my way of both exploring my family’s mythology and dispelling it, visually and by hand,” said Slowinski of her piece.

Detroit West Side Patterns also highlights how dramatic the demographic shift was in this neighborhood between 1960 and 1980. As Detroiters new and old work to understand the city’s complicated past, this data visualization stitches together the story of a neighborhood that changed. Slowinski’s piece invites viewers not only to explore her own lived experience, but to ask why this shift occurred in a larger context.

Her work also reveals the change in population between 1980 and 2000. This highlights population loss even increasing well after the 1967 rebellion. Slowinski was able to examine the accuracy of her lived experience through exploring census data.

“Obviously, mine is not a scientific representation by any means, but rather my impression of what happened based on my experience and conversations and made clearer by the data,” said Slowinski, reflecting on her piece.

Learning to work with data helped Slowinski separate the familial from fact. She describes her previous work as more organic and says that data helped her to develop a more informed concrete end-piece. She plans to continue working with data; for her next project, Slowinski will explore the impact Catholic school closings had on the Detroit education eco-system. She is working with Loveland Technologies to obtain this data, as well as information on the closing of public and charter schools in the city.

Closing the Digital Divide in Detroit’s Lower East Side

Eastside Community Network in Detroit offers hands-on training to bridge the digital divide. Have you ever struggled to use an app or a website? Who did you turn to for help — friends, family? Bring Your Own Device Technology Training (BYOD) provides this kind of help to residents of Detroit’s Lower East Side. BYOD was brought to the community by the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) and longtime community development organization, Eastside Community Network (ECN). The two main spearheads of this project are Suzanne Cleage, Director of Neighborhood Growth at ECN and Kentaro Toyama, PhD, W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at UMSI. The program is also supported by Orlando Bailey Director of Community Partnerships at ECN and students from University of Michigan (U of M).

Eastside Community Network in Detroit offers hands-on training to bridge the digital divide. BYOD works to close the digital divide in Detroit’s Lower East Side neighborhoods. East Side hotspots, like West Village and Jeff-Chalmers, are experiencing rapid growth and receive lots of attention from the media and the city government. Other areas have yet to benefit from civic investment initiatives centered in areas like midtown and downtown.

Once a month, tech-savvy residents as well as graduate students and professors from U of M gather at the ECN headquarters to help residents increase their digital literacy skills. Questions can range from “How do I set up email?” to “What is the cloud and what happens when I put stuff in it?” ECN has both community members and academics to assist. This creates an inclusive environment where residents feel comfortable asking for help, while at the same time providing enough expertise so that all questions can be answered.

Technology can help people solve problems and connect, but only if people know how to use it. As technology becomes an increasingly essential part of everyday life, it is important to make sure no user is left behind. ECN uses email, mail, flyer canvassing and door-to-door outreach to let residents of the Lower Eastside know BYOD is happening. Sometimes, closing the digital divide means embracing analog, low-tech solutions that meet people where they are.

Orlando Bailey, Director of Community Partnerships at ECN, shared one of his favorite stories about BYOD. Ms. Minnie, a Lower East Side resident did not know how to use Skype to speak with her grandchildren in California. Once she learned how to register for and use the application, Ms. Minnie immediately Skyped her grandchildren and was able to see and chat with them. She plans to use Skype regularly to stay in touch with her family.

Eastside Community Network in Detroit offers hands-on training to bridge the digital divide. Civic tech often conjures images of large scale projects dealing with open data portals or fancy apps that help the cities communicate better with residents, but it’s important to remember that some of the most impactful civic tech work can be as simple as helping a neighbor set-up email for the first time. To ensure that civic tech does not exacerbate existing societal divisions, it’s important to proactively work on closing the digital divide. Programs like BYOD are a model for community-founded, community-led programs that increase digital literacy in America’s urban neighborhoods.

Detroit Hosts First Neighborhood Tech Talk in Cody Rouge

On June 20th in the Cody Rouge neighborhood on Detroit’s far west side, the first Neighborhood Tech Talk was held in the basement of Grace Community Church. Hosted by Grand Circus, this event brought technologists and entrepreneurs of color to one of Detroit’s westside neighborhoods to talk about their paths to careers in tech. The term “neighborhoods” in Detroit typically refers to areas that have not seen the same kind of economic investment and growth as thriving areas such as Midtown, Downtown, and Corktown. This discussion series aims to increase diversity in Detroit’s growing tech scene and connect people in the neighborhoods with potential tech mentors.

Panelists Marlin Williams, Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TechTown and founder of Sisters Code, Justin Cook, Co-Founder of Pro:Up, Ashley Williams, founder and CEO of RIZZARR, And Monica Wheat, Lead at Detroit Startup Week and founder of Digerati Girls / Digerati Kids, talked about what led them to careers in tech.  They also discussed both positive and negative experiences they had as minorities in the industry.

An audience of about thirty people listened to the panel talk about computer science and entrepreneurship. For some panelists, their inspiration to pursue a career in tech came from the desire to build a business. Justin Cook told the audience how his idea for an app that helps students find job, volunteer, and scholarship opportunities came from working as a high school guidance counselor.  Other panelists echoed this sentiment, encouraging students to seek out solutions to challenges they face everyday because diverse perspectives identify a wider range of challenges and more innovative solutions.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q+A. Local community benefits advocates asked about opportunities to get coding programs started in the Cody Rouge neighborhood. While programs currently exist in Midtown and Downtown, due to inadequate public transportation, some Cody Rouge residents are unable to get to those locations. This concern highlights the need for increased access to computer science education programs in the neighborhoods.

At the end of the event, the panelists, all from Detroit, offered to connect and serve as mentors for students who may not have previously considered a career in tech. Studies have revealed the importance of having a mentor from a similar background who can empathize with and guide mentees through challenges they may face. Events like Tech Talks in the Neighborhood are an important part of creating a more diverse and inclusive tech community and providing opportunities for all Detroiters.

Fellow Profile: Meghan Urisko

Meghan Urisko, Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow in DetroitWhere are you from? I’m a nomad who has lived in Los Angeles, Detroit, Paris, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Boston, Greenville, and Grosse Pointe. Currently, I live in Ypsilanti, MI.

School/grad year/major: I just finished the first year of my Master of Science in Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and will graduate in 2018. I’m specializing in Civic Experience Design.

Last thing you searched on Bing: Surface Pro

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I was honored to be selected as the Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow in Detroit so I can utilize my user-centered research and design skills to improve citizen experience. I look forward to learning more about serving communities with open data.

What’s your favorite civic project in the Detroit area? The Digital Stewards Training Program, which trains community members to build and maintain their own wireless communications infrastructure. I’m also inspired by the city’s payment kiosks which provide residents without connectivity a convenient method to pay water, tax, and electricity bills.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I’m thrilled to be working with Erica Raleigh and the whole team at Data Driven Detroit. I have admired their work for years.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft Chicago?

My main goal is to help Microsoft foster a meaningful role in supporting Detroit’s civic tech scene. Some of my projects will include developing an in-depth understanding of the existing civic tech community, supporting Data Driven Detroit in documenting local government and community data, training non-technical partners on technologies useful to the civic space, and supporting the Detroit Civic User Testing (CUT) Group.

What excites you about civic tech? Technology has the ability to have a large and positive impact on a wide variety of civic issues. It’s really exciting to join Microsoft at the forefront of exploring new ways that technology can support cities.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? I hope the civic tech sphere will continue to champion public education on data and technology literacy so that tech solutions are inclusive solutions.

What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumnus Ivoire Morrell

Where did you study? I Graduated Manga Cum Laude from Lawrence Technological University earning my Bachelors in Computer Science.

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow? As a Microsoft Fellow, my main duty was to serve the city of Detroit through using Civic Engagement, Civic Technology, and data analysis as vehicles to drive positive change. I was able to carry out this mission through spearheading recruitment and managing the civic tech movement CUTGroup Detroit, creating informative visual reports through data analysis of some of Detroit’s most critical issues using Microsoft’s powerful data processing tool PowerBI, authoring several blogs about insights from my data analysis, instructing students throughout Detroit at Hour of Code workshops, serving as the technical partner for a data collaborative with the Census Bureau, and so much more.

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team? I had the privilege of being a part of so many great projects during my time as a fellow that I can’t say I have one particular favorite. Two that I really enjoyed were the CUTGroup Detroit project and teaching students at the Hour of Code classes. Both of these projects were driven by making a positive impact on the community, which is something I strive to do every day. Being able to voyage throughout Detroit and interact with the people that make this city so great with CUTGroup Detroit recruitment was an amazing experience. Being able to inspire students through instructing coding classes was equally gratifying.

Where is civic tech taking you next? My next step in the world of civic tech will be at Data Driven Detroit (D3) where I will serve as a full-time Microsoft Civic Tech fellow for the city of Detroit. D3 has been a gracious host to me over the past year as a Microsoft Fellow and I look forward making an even greater impact on the city of Detroit as I step into the full time role.

What advice do you have for future fellows? My advice to all future fellows is to never lose sight of the mission that propels you. Stay focused on making the community a better place for all of those around you whether it be through Civic Engagement, Civic Technology, serving others, or simply being a voice for the voiceless. Don’t let the fact that you’re working for the world’s greatest company or the clout that can come from being in a position of influence distract you from the mission of impacting the community.

What You Can Do to Empower the Public and Nonprofit Sectors with Data and Technology

At Microsoft, we partner with civic organizations and governments to create new ways to leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities.  We see first-hand both the opportunity for these capabilities to help groups achieve more effective outcomes and the challenges facing busy non-profit and public sector staff in gaining the skills they need to strategically select, design and use key tools such as data analytics, visualizations, and tech infrastructure.  That is why we joined with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) at the Urban Institute to study the landscape of Training on Data and Technology to Improve Communities.  Today, we welcome Kathy Pettit of the Urban Institute as a guest blogger to describe the project and the newly-released resources and recommendations for how we all can work together to extend and expand these sorts of impactful training opportunities. Other posts in this series are available from the Detroit,  Oakland,  Pittsburgh, and Seattle partner organizations. 

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

CivTech St. Louis, a collaboration of nonprofits, local governments, universities, and local technologists, launched a new open source website and text reminder system enabling residents to look up their own municipal tickets and warrants and easily access information about how to resolve or contest them. In Boston, the City of Boston’s Division of Youth Engagement and Employment in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council revamped the city’s algorithm for matching students to summer jobs incorporating applicant job preferences developed by youth and alternatives for youth living farther from job opportunities.

These are just two examples among many efforts around the country to apply data and technology in innovative ways. But we need to equip all our local nonprofits and governments with the knowledge and confidence to use data and technology to identify community priorities and design effective responses. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) and Microsoft’s Civic Technology Engagement Group believe training is a critical part of the efforts to accomplish this goal. Based on the lessons from our year-long joint project, we now offer a new set of resources to help local communities expand training on data and technology for local governments and nonprofits, including a brief summarizing the study results, a guide on designing and executing training, and a catalog of training materials.

A wide variety of organizations are well suited to providing training: libraries, applied university centers, local government agencies, coalition leaders, nonprofit support organizations, and civic technology groups. But many other players –  government agency and elected leaders, nonprofit executives, and funders – also have a role in ensuring that the people working to improve our communities have the skills they need to perform their jobs successfully. We suggest four ways that local and national actors can improve the quality and quantity of training and thus increase the application of data and technology in public and nonprofit planning and programs.

  • Expand the training available to government and nonprofit staff: More organizations – libraries, university centers, nonprofit support organizations, civic technologist volunteers, public agencies, or local data intermediaries like NNIP partners – should provide training. In-person classes enable participants to gain hands-on experience with data and technology while connecting with others interested in continuous learning. Our new guide for organizations interested in providing training offers steps for getting started.
  • Foster opportunities for sharing training materials and lessons: We need to encourage more regular exchange among trainers within a community and across the country. We have created a catalog with descriptions and materials from selected trainings. Other networks and interest groups should curate tailored materials for specific audiences. To advance the field of training, we also need to foster more interaction among trainers through virtual and face-to-face gatherings.
  • Identify allies who can enhance and support local training efforts: Even organizations that do not provide training directly have critical parts to play in expanding training opportunities and participation. For example, foundations should provide financial support and encouragement for developing and attending training for their grantees. Government and nonprofit leaders can create work environments that value efforts to improve staff data and technology capabilities. Changing Culture by the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence shares ways to influence a government agency’s culture to have staff become more adept with using data. Collected Voices from the Nonprofit Technology Network offers guidance to nonprofits on building a culture of using data.
  • Assess the local landscape of data and technology training: Local actors across sectors should understand their community’s capacity to employ data and technology, including gaps in training on these skills. This information can help localities prioritize the audiences and topics for training. Our guide offers suggestions and a sample interview protocol on how to assess training opportunities and needs based on the experiences of the NNIP partners.

Today’s communities are facing many challenges with the prospect of more limited resources from the state and federal government. Leveraging data and technology can help our public and nonprofit sectors make more informed decisions and adapt to changing circumstances. Progress on this can be made more quickly and in more places if we invest in training development and implementation and create opportunities to share promising practices from around the country.

Our project highlights how community training delivered in person helps to ensure it is tailored for local audiences and context. Over the next month, you will hear from NNIP partner organizations in Detroit, Oakland, and Pittsburgh on how they are helping to meet the need for training on data and technology in their communities.

Microsoft Technology Center to Open in Detroit

Microsoft is coming to Detroit!

Our Michigan Microsoft team, currently hosted in Southfield, is moving to a 40,000 square foot space at One Campus Martius, where Detroit will host its own Microsoft Technology Center (MTC). At our Microsoft Technology Centers (like our Chicago location), we offer interactive and immersive experiences surrounding Microsoft technologies and initiatives. Our MTCs drive customers, partners, and everyday people looking to use cloud technology to drive impact in their communities.

“We are excited to relocate and be part in the revitalization and the growing tech hub of Detroit,” said Tracy Galloway, General Manager of the Great Lakes region for Microsoft. “Our new location will be home to Detroit’s Microsoft Technology Center; where we provide world class technology solutions and innovation for our customers as well as a home for community outreach around STEM.”

As part of our growing involvement in Detroit, we’re looking forward to building new innovations and opportunities to engage with the people of Detroit. The Motor City has embraced innovation as part of its core values, and we’re thrilled to join the city to boost these initiatives.

The Microsoft Technology Center Detroit is expected to open in early 2018.

Learn more about the Microsoft Technology Center Detroit at our MTC hub.

Read the latest on our partnership via the Detroit Free Press.

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.


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.


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).


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
  • 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

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!!!!!