Detroit is the perfect environment for social entrepreneurship to thrive. The city’s issues are a result of a complicated set of circumstances. Detroit is caught in harsh cycle where high unemployment leads to residents moving away. This leads to less economic activity, job loss, and the cycle repeating itself. The fallout of this cycle is similarly damaging as the job and population loss has decreased the tax base and left the city unable to properly fund its services. Although the complexity of Detroit’s situation makes the task of revitalizing the city daunting, it is also what makes the city so receptive to social innovation. The multiple factors that contributed to Detroit’s downfall provide many specific problems for social entrepreneurs to tackle.
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at TechTown. Their main goal is to assist the economic revitalization of the city by supporting small brick- and-mortar businesses and tech startups. However, they also provide crucial funds and resources that enable many social entrepreneurs. The most striking example of this that I have witnessed was the Detroit Teachers’ Store, a small business that presented during Tech Town’s Retail Boot Camp pitch competition. Detroit Teachers’ Store was founded by Ingrid Macon, a math teacher who has worked in the Detroit public school system for the past seven years. Ingrid began her pitch by describing the state of education in Detroit. She highlighted the fact that Detroit students performed the worst in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam and drew attention to the severe lack of funding. She then went on to describe how impactful individualized teaching tools and hands-on learning are for her students. However, she had previously struggled to locate the necessary tools and supplies in Detroit. After identifying this need, Ingrid established the Detroit Teachers’ Store to make educational tools more readily available to parents, students, and teachers alike. Ingrid is just one example of the many social entrepreneurs creating innovative solutions to help revitalize the city of Detroit. I am extremely excited to interact with more this summer through TechTown and fully immerse myself in the Detroit’s thriving social entrepreneurship scene.