Social innovation and social entrepreneurship can be found anywhere, most certainly all over Detroit. Even tonight returning from downtown, my Uber driver recounted his entrepreneurial exploits to create technology that's safer to use behind the wheel. Everywhere I look it seems there's a conversation about innovation going on. Our first Friday, the entire group of us decided to cash in on Katherine's and Matt's invitation to a very unique event. A local barber shop called the Social Club that donates their collected hair trimmings as fertilizer for trees hosts a once a month Shop Talk. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship and Detroit was welcomed in for free food and drinks as local entrepreneurs Melissa Butler from The Lip Bar and Niles Heron from Michigan Funders got their hair cut. Melissa talked about the reasons why she moved her vegan lip stick business from New York to her home town of Detroit and Niles shared about how he created a group of angel investors for local businesses. The audience seemed to encompass a variety of hipsters all bubbling with questions for the panelists about Detroit's business environment. Melissa and Niles both model the values of social entrepreneurship, starting something new that impacts their community for their better.
After spending my first full week at NextEnergy, my partner Chris and I have finally gotten a crack at our main summer project. NextEnergy is an energy accelerator for energy technologies, businesses, and industries. Everything NextEnergy does can be connected to social entrepreneurship. They help out new energy technology companies by renting lab space, consulting, and assisting them with grants. Those companies then have the potential to go on a reduce the world's energy footprint, one of the most defining issues of our generation. I'm proud to be working at a company that has such a multifunctional role in helping Detroit. One aspect of what they do is a variety of demonstrations of the latest techonolgies such as changing parking lot, hallway, and lab space lights to more efficient LEDs using Michigan based companies. They have been collecting data on the efficiencies of these lights; however, they haven't really done anything with that data. That's where us interns come in. Chris and I are analyzing the data and calculating energy and cost savings of a variety of different lighting updates and creating graphs that will ultimately turn into graphics for a one-pager and case studies about each of the projects NextEnergy has worked on. With these materials, NextEnergy will better be able to show tangible products of how its campus models the energy ideals it sets forth as well as how it helps Michigan companies.
Last Friday, us Duke Engagers got to sit down for lunch with Detroit's Mayor Dugan. The lunch took place in a place called Green Garage, an old Ford car showcase that got repurposed as an extremely environmentally building that rents office space to companies that help the environment and community. In all the reconstruction, only 1 truck load of materials was sent away from the site. The rest of the materials were creatively reused for the new building such as old pipes for a stair case and extra wood blocks for an artistic wall. Mayor Dugan, a little shorter than expected, came in as we were already eating lunch and took comments from the eclectic group of the 40 or so people who took advantage of this open lunch opportunity. The theme of the discussion was the "spirit of Detroit." Many brought up issues in the public school system and the hard time for locals to be entrepreneurs themselves. The Mayor responded with a program called Motor City Watch in which students learn in high school how to develop their own business plan and can be funded to execute it. Even if these funds can only be awarded to a lucky few, others will still be able to see those in their own community taking the initiative to start their own business, and then they will be able to believe they can do it. The Mayor stressed as well his commitment to make Detroit and environment for entrepreneurship.