What Can Detroit Learn From Nairobi?

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Loren Dealy Mahler

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New York, NY (June 24, 2014) – At the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative America meeting this week, the World Policy Institute announced The Motor City Project, a two-year pilot project to repopulate and revitalize Detroit using lessons learned from thriving communities in developing world megacities.

“Detroit is the poster child of urban decline and mismanagement,” says Greg Lindsay, World Policy Institute Senior Fellow and co-director of the Motor City Project. “Detroit needs jobs. Jobs need people to create them.”

Detroit has lost more than half of its population since its post-war peak in 1950, and a third of the roughly 700,000 who remain are impoverished. Attracting new urban migrants and providing the space they need to live, work, and create jobs in the community requires resources that don’t exist through formal channels.

Meanwhile, in the slums of Nairobi and Lagos and copycat pirate enclaves of Shenzhen, communities of impoverished rural migrants are embracing the informal practices of microenterprise, re-purposed space, and community engagement, thriving despite meager access to formal resources and complete neglect — if not outright persecution — from the government.

“Our strategy for repopulating Detroit and unlocking its frozen resources is to lean on the practices we see in places like Alaba and Kariobangi,” continued Lindsay, “and tactically ignore, broker, and hack the formal regulations that are stymieing its entrepreneurial energies. Imagine if Detroit’s empty factories and Tudor-style mansions were reoccupied and rehabbed tomorrow by anyone willing to homestead and invest their own entrepreneurial vision into the community.”

"People are the focus of the Motor City Project," adds co-director Scott Francisco, founder of Pilot Projects Design Collective. "We're helping to build a more resilient Detroit through entrepreneurship, community partnerships, and regional immigration. The emphasis will be on activating the built environment to harness and cultivate local skills and knowledge –which we see as the pillars of neighborhood resilience."

The Motor City Project is a collaboration between the World Policy Institute and Pilot Projects Design Collective, with support from the Project for Lean Urbanism. The Project will repurpose an unoccupied Lyndon corridor site into a Resilience Center that will recruit urban homesteaders, help them hack through red tape to incubate their entrepreneurial ventures, and integrate these new arrivals with longstanding residents through collective community restoration projects.


About World Policy Institute
A center for global thought leadership, the World Policy Institute focuses on the crucial but neglected challenges and opportunities of an increasingly interconnected world. World Policy Journal, fellows, events, and policy projects stress innovative, transformative thinking; diversity of ideas; and a global perspective.

About Pilot Projects Design Collective LLC
Pilot Projects Design Collective LLC is a design and consulting firm founded on the belief that small things, well designed, can catalyze big changes. The firm is made up of professional designers, strategists and craftspeople, all skilled at creating concrete solutions to challenging problems.

About the Clinton Global Initiative America
The Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America), a program of the Clinton Global Initiative, addresses economic recovery in the United States. Established in June 2011 by President Bill Clinton, CGI America brings together leaders in business, government, and civil society to generate and implement commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and support workforce development in the United States. Since its first meeting, CGI America participants have made over 300 commitments valued at more than $15 billion when fully funded and implemented. To learn more, visit cgiamerica.org.

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders year-round and at its Annual Meeting to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI also convenes CGI University, which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their communities and around the world. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 2,800 Commitments to Action, which are already improving the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $103 billion. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.

For additional information, please contact:
Loren Dealy Mahler, Vice President Corporate Communications
MWW Group


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