Blog: Matt Clayson and Rose Giffen

Matt Clayson is an attorney who works as a Promotion Manager with ePrize, LLC, an interactive promotions company in Pleasant Ridge MI.  At ePrize, Matt manages the legal compliance and administration of interactive promotions with Fortune 500 brands such as adidas, Coca-Cola, MySpace, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., General Motors, Ford and Intel. 

Matt and his wife are currently restoring a historic home in Detroit's historic Indian Village, and have been residents of Detroit since they began their study of law in the city. Matt currently serves as the Chair of Leadership Next, a program with the United Way for Southeast Michigan focused on engaging emerging talent in initiatives that create vibrant and caring communities in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. 

He is also active with the Detroit Yacht Club, Detroit Renaissance's "Road to Renaissance" initiative and numerous statewide policy efforts geared towards re-establishing the prominence and importance of the state's urban areas.  He is a strong proponent of creating a culture that embraces accountability, innovation and community driven results.

Rosemarie Giffen is the Director of Fund Development for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion.

The Michigan Roundtable seeks to reduce discrimination and racism by working proactively across racial, religious, ethnic and other cultural boundaries. Rosemarie is responsible for managing and implementing all fund development initiatives, management of all grants, individual giving and directs a major corporate diversity conference.  

Prior to joining the Michigan Roundtable, Rose spent over 8 years in the human resources field. She serves as Vice-Chair of Leadership Next, a program of the United Way.

Matt and Rose will be writing about developing strong leadership in SE Michigan and engaging new talent.


Photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.

Matt Clayson and Rose Giffen - Most Recent Posts:

Post No. 5


Matt: Well, looks like we'll conclude with one final adoption of a movie title.  

Rose: And we will wrap up these discussions with a view of where we would like to see the region in 20 years. It's the sort of vision that can be a reality if we hold each other accountable, demand results and expect greatness.

Matt: We chose the title "North By North Coast" for a variety of reasons. First, albeit of least importance, it keeps within the theme of referencing film. Second, it references the North Coast vision articulated by The Center for Michigan, the Brookings Institute, GLUE and other stakeholder initiatives focused on transforming Michigan's economy. Third, it reverses the current ideology that one must go south and west for personal/professional growth and opportunity.

Rose: Our vision for the future is most likely a vision shared by many. At its heart: community that can articulate and respect its values, its identity and its image just as much as it respects its economic resources. A region that see’s itself as integrated - meaning that it is a region comprised of engaged residents that have a deep sense of commitment to each other, regardless of racial, geographic, economic or political boundaries. 

We will recognize and appreciate that we are responsible for each other success and failures. We will be a place that is deeply committed to learning and values education. And we will be supported by leaders who are willingly to make tough choices to secure the resources necessary to build one Southeast Michigan.  

Matt: I like that, Rose. And, to add to that...

We'll have an infrastructure as progressive as our collective attitudes. Rather than arguing how we're going to fund, maintain and expand a 20th century network of roads and traffic clogged highways, we'll unite around the reality of a 21st century infrastructure of clean and efficient rapid transit. We'll unite around not only increasing funding commitments to existing universities, but around creating new universities and/or university programs geared towards the 21st century economy. Detroit will be a center of education, innovation and knowledge – just think what a 21st century version of Michigan Tech with specialized degrees in software engineering, software architecture, flash design and digital animation could do.

Rose: Yes, random thought. Where'd you get that idea about a University focused on degrees in software engineering and related fields?

Matt: I heard some stuff on WDET this morning that got me thinking…  Just had to spit that one out.

Rose: Well, I agree with the general intent behind your comments. Infrastructure and education will be the foundation of the region we desire. An educated society is a prosperous and open society. And a modern, 21st century infrastructure will give its users the tools necessary to maximize and leverage our regional assets. 

As emerging leaders, we look forward to working with existing stakeholders and other emerging leaders to build this 21st century infrastructure that values community, inclusion, innovation and education.

Matt:  I second that.

Post No. 4


Matt: Hey – I'm confused, why are we starting this blog with a quote from a movie, as opposed to a movie title.

Rose: Well, I thought it was a good line encompassing what we're going to talk about today – that is, what corporate and civic stakeholders can do to create an environment that welcomes and includes young talent.  Unfortunately, I did not know of many movies with a title about good offers.

Matt: Not bad, then.  And not a bad quote, either.  The Godfather.  Amazing movies, it's too bad that Godfather III was…

Rose: I think I know where you're going to go with this, Matt.  Back to the topic at hand.  How can the current community of stakeholders create a region that welcomes and embraces young talent?

Matt: It's funny, as there are countless blogs, studies, theories and concepts featured in Metromode and other sources that articulately advocate what young talent needs to grow and prosper.  Yet, despite the studies, the grassroots advocacy, the strategic planning, it appears that we still have a ways to go in creating that environment.

Rose:  Talent thrives in an environment that is open, an environment that is mobile, an environment that values education, that is diverse and that is inclusive.  For us to create this region, we must commit to building comprehensive regional transit.  We must fund our universities and advocate for policy that creates more connections between academic research and for-profit enterprise.  We must invest in the tools necessary to heal our communities racial divide.  We must entertain the concept of hate crime legislation.  We must fund the arts, culture and protect our resources.  If we value these priorities, we will attract more talent.  

Matt: Obviously, these are some pretty large asks.  Moreover, they're repetitive asks – I don't think we'll take any credit for re-inventing the wheel with these.  Rose, I think it's safe to say that these are asks require time and patience.  

Rose: Indeed, time and patience are important.

Matt: But, it is also important to note that we live in a day and age where people are more mobile than ever.  If Southeast Michigan will not provide these amenities that you and others have so eloquently described, then young talent will move to locations where these amenities exist.  Every minute we waste in regional quibbling, in protecting political fiefdoms and in preserving antiquated and stale notions of self-interest is time and energy that could be spent executing strategy enabling us to create this environment that welcomes, embraces and nourishes emerging talent.

Rose: So, in making emerging talent this offer they cannot refuse, we must hold each other accountable.  When a fellow business leader, political official or civic stakeholder falls in the trap of pointing fingers or making the same old stale excuses for why something cannot be done, or why it can't work on a regional level, we need to call them out.

Matt: Exactly.  For us to shake off this perception of economic funk, we need to approach things a little differently.  We need to embrace healthy conflict.  Not the same old Detroit vs. suburbs non-sense or us vs. them garbage, but the sort of conflict that arises from new thoughts, new perspectives and new solutions – conflict that creates as opposed to conflict that divides and destroys.  This conflict arises from holding each other accountable for our actions: whether it be in creating meaningful, growth oriented policy, executing strategy that will attract and retain talent, distributing increasingly limited resources and in engaging new parties and perspectives into the regional planning and decision making process.

Rose: So, I guess it can be said that "the offer we cannot refuse is accountability," as accountability is the foundation for all the good stuff – the amenities, the perspective, the attitude – that will attract and retain talent.

Post No. 3


Rose: In Leadership Next, we're taking a model of connecting people to meaningful engagement through a skills based approach. We seek to connect people to opportunities for community development and engagement based on their skills and passion. 

Of course, for us to assist in making these connections, we need to enable our membership to identify their skills and passions, refine those skills and passions and get connected to opportunities that enable them to share and utilize those skills and passions. Skills building seminars, community partnerships, learning communities: all are tools that help us build this model.  

Matt: Through empowering young talent to take ownership of their communities, of their jobs and of their future, we want to help create the next generation of leaders. Leaders that recognize and appreciate differences, but strive for consensus and the common good of all in the region, not petty political, geographic or corporate interests. Leadership that unites, not divides. Leadership that presents, accepts and implements long term solutions to systemic problems; and leadership that has the guts to build bridges across communities, races, special interests and generations.

Rose: And we're very fortunate to have the support and infrastructure of the United Way to help us execute this work and connect young talent in a solution-based discussion about financial stability, educational preparedness and basic needs – regional issues that detracted from our collective quality of life for far too long.

Post No. 2


Matt: It's as if we're constantly searching for solutions to the same old issues that have haunted us for the past 50, 100 years. Why don't we have transit?  Why are we so segregated? Why is education not valued? Why is the media so negative? Why are insurance rates for city residents so high? Why can't we expand or even renovate Cobo Hall? Why can't we appreciate who we are as a region? Why can't we hold ourselves, our leaders accountable? Why are we so caught up in entitlements? Why can't we live united in the dream of a city and region of opportunity? Why can't we expect greatness? 

Yet, a lot of solid solutions to these problems have been proposed over the years. And a lot of solid solutions are continuing to be proposed. So, could it be that the issue is not with solutions, but rather the execution of those solutions?  

Rose: Regional solutions need regional execution. Unfortunately, we tend to isolate ourselves when the going gets tough. Rather than uniting behind executing solutions, we point fingers and hide behind our barriers and fears.  This failure to implement solutions across borders is a regional liability, resulting in a lack of regional vision, lack of a regional plan and a lack of regional leadership that inspires and conveys opportunity.   

Matt: To me, nothing steers young persons away from the region more than the perception that there is no opportunity here. Perception remains an important piece of attracting and retaining young talent. Branding campaigns and initiatives; incentives to live in urban areas; networking events and a vibrant nightlife – sure they help. Nonetheless, when they're not supported by effective, meaningful policy that is executed at a regional level, they're merely icing on the cake.   

Rose: Well, don’t forget that lot of great solutions are happening at the grassroots, civic and not-for-profit level. From Focus Hope to ACCESS to United Way to One D to our work at the Michigan Roundtable, we're talking and innovating in ways that we never have before. We're building a foundation of collaboration that includes various perspectives and innovative ideas.   

But, maybe, could it be that a central piece to overcoming the stigma that there is no opportunity in Southeast Michigan is ensuring that young talent is welcomed and engaged in finding and executing solutions to regional problems.  It's essential to find avenues to get young talent invested and engaged in their communities, and much of the work around regional transformation that is occurring provides the perfect opportunity to create those on-ramps to meaningful community engagement. 

Matt: That's the key – meaningful on-ramps to community engagement.  Engage young talent in the policy making and policy executing process. Rather than ask "hey, young talent – where's the next cool bar where we can host a happy hour and networking event," maybe we should ask "hey, young talent – what are the amenities that will keep you in this region" and "hey, young talent, how can we co-create and co-execute policy that will enable you and your peers to grow and flourish in Detroit." 

Of course, as young talent, we must take it upon ourselves to define our vision for the future, know about and understand the current regional transformation initiatives underway, learn from the successes and failures of current stakeholders and, most importantly, learn to walk that fine line between being patient and demanding results.

Post No. 1


Matt:  Well, when one titles a blog with a trite and over-used music quote, it has to be good.  But, with all the good, bad and the ugly – another quote, from albeit a better movie – happening in Southeast Michigan, who can help from feeling dazed and confused about our current direction and, more importantly, our future.

Rose: Wow – that was cheesy, but pretty true.  It's pretty clear – as a region, we're confused.  Who should we look to as leaders, what policies are good for our future, what is the role of the city in the new economy, what is the role of the suburbs?  And as a generation of new leaders, how do we become engaged and a meaningful part of any solution tackling the issues affecting our region. 

Matt: So, as you see, this blog will be a little different.  In an effort to spur meaningful and action oriented dialogue, Rose and I will be taking a point counter point perspective on issues and needs central to Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials; and different initiatives led by Generation X, Y and Millennials focused on addressing those issues.

Rose: Matt and I have worked together in various capacities on multiple projects.  Most recently, we have been working to co-create the Leadership Next initiative with the United Way for Southeast Michigan.  Though our backgrounds and experiences are different, we share a common desire for the civic, economic and social advancement of the region.  

Matt: We desire a region that is confident in its future; a region that learns from and respects its past; and a region that is strategic about its growth and distribution of resources.

Rose: Matt – I think you missed something big – we want a region that is inclusive.  A region that seeks solutions from many and that knows how to engage and leverage its diverse populations.  I strongly believe that once you give people an opportunity to impact their community they will stay.  

Matt:  So, let's get down to the nitty gritty.  In our next posts, we hope to talk about the following: (1) what do we believe is the problem that can be most easily addressed to attract and retain talent; (2) what Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials can do to address this problem; (3) what corporate, civic and political stakeholders can do to support Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials in addressing this problem; and (4) what is our ideal region?

More tomorrow...

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