Even though our project is completely data-driven and relies on the feedback and experience of TechTown clients, it can often feel just as abstract as some of the less qualitative missions. Spending time staring at spreadsheets and calling other incubators is fully enriching, but the experience is removed from the day-to-day lives of Detroit entrepreneurs. Our work feels meaningful, but for me, it takes a human reminder to get back to the core of its impact.
Our interviews with clients and TechTown-affiliates have pushed me to understand the struggles and vulnerability of being a small-business owner. Not only this, but they have helped me to comprehend what it’s like to enter a space dominated by privilege after spending your life overrun by your lack of it. Conversations with people who will be directly impacted by our work, who have a real stake in this effort, motivate me to do all that I can to turn their concerns into new policies, to examine their problems and cut them at the roots. Faces, stories, and words supersede numbers, growing in importance and depth in my mind. The qualitative, emotional impact of our gritty work has become my benchmark, deeming the numbers somehow small and insignificant in comparison.
When I leave Detroit, I hope to continue my relationship with TechTown virtually. I hope to follow up on our work, checking in periodically on the demographic makeup of their clients, the volume of their data, and the economic output of their startups. But when the charts and graphs have blurred and faded, what I will remember most is my relationships with the staff here, my witty banter with Kristin over the Oxford Comma, and sitting around the tables at the TechTown kitchen, talking about life.