Last weekend, I attended Another Detroit Is Happening. The invitation-only event included 125 thinkers, doers, entrepreneurs and activists from across North America. In short, it was an exclusive, but grassroots gathering of big brains who came to Detroit to explore, reflect, let loose and contemplate on how they could affect and potentially enter the local economy. What I walked away with was a glimpse into what Detroit could look like in the future.
The agenda was casual. Most of the participants camped in tents set up in the parking lot of ADIH’s home base at Ponyride, a DIY warehouse enclave in the Corktown district that houses young, artisanal and cool small businesses in its 30,000 sq.-ft. structure. Local hosts, including Ponyride founder Phil Cooley, pitched in to prepare the campsite. But while participants slept in tents, they weren’t entirely roughing it. Every morning, local roaster Anthology coffee served pour overs and lattes.
Another Detroit Is Happening (ADIH) was not a traditional power-point conference. The weekend was designed to let participants experience a section of Detroit on more intimate terms. The meetup kicked off with a four-course dinner prepared by local chefs at a Saarinen built structure on the island park Belle Isle. The theme of the evening was celebratory and playful, honoring the author and co-host dream hampton’s birthday, and included multiple rides down a giant slide. Detroit’s cultural draws were emphasized throughout the four-day gathering. ADIH participants toured the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Cranbrook Academy. They also caught a rare performance by folk musician Rodriguez, who is featured in a new award winning film Searching for Sugarman. They visited the community based Alley Project to see Detroit organizing at work. Some took part in a thirty-mile bike tour and played softball in a fabled match — the ’35 Tigers vs the ’84 Tigers. A dinner catered by Slow’s Barbecue and hosted by Google was held just outside of the abandoned train station on another evening. Guests got around town by old school shuttle buses and the five Chevrolet SUVs (Suburbans, Tahoes and Traverses) provided by GM.
The more formal discussions were focused on the challenges in the city. One Google presentation focused on strategies for dealing with the high number of abandoned and torn down houses. At the fundraising lunch Detroit Soup, local activist upstarts pitched projectsin urban farming and educational music programs to the ADIH group. After eating their soup, attendees voted on which organization the soup fund would support. Kevin Conroy Smith wrote this blog post about his visit to the winning entrant’s headquarter at the Occupy Yourself Farm.
Detroit is a fascinating backdrop as a metaphor for America – its hidden cultural gems, its industrial revolution legacy, the fortitude of diligent business owners and its stark and vivid displays of neglect. But what made this visiting group different was the caliber of insight offered by the attendees whose list of accomplishments is nothing short of outstanding.
Click HERE to read the full article on Forbes!