Blog: Kat Owsley

Kathleen Owsley is the Director of One D, a collaborative initiative seeking to transform regional Detroit. She has been the VP of Market Development for the Detroit Regional Chamber, VP of Public/Private Partnerships for Issue Media Group and is a graduate of Kalamazoo College. Kat will be writing about One D, what it is and, more importantly, what it hopes to accomplish.

Post No. 1

Just what the heck is One D anyway?

I think there’s a lot of confusion out there about One D so I’m here to set the record straight. 

To be honest, we’re not too concerned that you actually know who we are or what we do. Instead we’d rather you know about the work we care about. 

For instance, we’d rather you know that metro Detroit's "entrepreneurship ranking" is 29 out of 50 ...when compared with other U.S. metro areas (Source: Entrepreneurship Magazine "Hot Cities for Entrepeneuers, 2006"). 

We’d also rather you know that our region ranked 50th out of 50 when compared with other large metro areas in terms of job growth for 2005-2006 (Source: US Census Bureau). 

Furthermore, we’d probably rather you know that according to the 2006 MEAP results, 18% of 6th graders in the tri-county region—not the city of Detroit but the region--- are not reading at their grade level. 

So now that you know all this, maybe I can tell you a little more about how One D fits in and what we hope to accomplish. 

One D is not an organization but a collaborative that is made up of six founding CEO’s:  Doug Rothwell (Detroit Renaissance), Dick Blouse (Detroit Regional Chamber), Larry Alexander (Metro Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau), Maud Lyon (The Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan), Shirley Stancato (New Detroit) and Michael Brennan (United Way for Southeastern Michigan).     

This group came together to eliminate some of the redundancies in the work their organizations were doing individually and to address five priorities identified through extensive community surveying in southeast Michigan. 

What did these survey results reveal? Well, first of all, that people want to see more regional collaboration. But they also identified five particular areas where they would like to see improvement in the region: 

  • regional transit
  • quality of life
  • economic prosperity
  • educational preparedness
  • race relations 

And so the six founders of One D created a vision statement, objectives and supporting strategies for tackling each of these priorities.

For example, one of our objectives in Educational Preparedness is to achieve a rank in the top 10 of 20 largest metro areas with individuals with post-secondary education (our current rank is 18). Both our economic prosperity and our educational preparedness work supports this objective with strategies such as retaining college educated talent in the region through an aggressive, regional internship program or linking college graduations to entrepreneurial opportunities.

Here’s another example, we have an objective to increase the number of third graders who can read at grade level. We often hear (especially from Mike Brennan!) that by third grade you should be reading to learn not learning to read.  So part of One D’s work is to raise awareness about how many kids are not reading at grade level and to continue to measure and report those statistics, to share that information with the region so we can create community will toward changing this problem.  And finally, One D can help facilitate the recruitment and mobilization of volunteers to work with students on a weekly basis as reading tutors in the schools (to find out more on how to get involved click here)

The work we do every day in pursuit of those objectives is really the heart of One D. Our measure of success will not be whether the "man on the street" can identify what One D is, but rather if we can move the needle forward toward achieving those objectives.

Tomorrow I’d like to talk about other ways people can help and tell you about some of the work that others are doing outside of One D.