In September, Detroit will host a gathering of innovators, community activists and entrepreneurs working to help their cities grow. It's not your typical economic development conference, though; UIX will focus on small-scale projects like pop-up stores and urban farms.
Is your city next?
This was the headline TIME Magazine ran for their cover story
on Detroit's bankruptcy last August--a sort of cautionary tale for other cities.
That's one way to ask the question. Another might be:
What's next for your city?
This is what Urban Innovation Exchange
will explore at its first national convening this September 24-26 in Detroit.
To be clear: This is not a conference about macro-level municipal reform; there are many important convenings for that. UIX is about change happening at the neighborhood level, led by people leading creative small-scale projects.
What kind of small-scale projects are we talking about? Makerspaces and incubators, public art parks and pop-up markets, green alleys and urban farms. Places made by and for the people who live there.
Why are small projects a big deal for cities? Increasingly, more research
suggests the implementation of small-scale projects just might have a larger potential collective impact than any single top-down approach to revitalization.
In other words: The power of small is big.
This is the story UIX has been telling over the last three years as it chronicles the growing network of innovators
driving transformative change in Detroit. And this is the conversation UIX is inviting more cities--including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Minneapolis--to share ideas and lessons across communities.
What can you expect from UIX?
UIX is an opportunity for all people who believe in the potential of cities and the power of small-scale change to come together and trade ideas for the future.
Over the course of three days, participants will convene for meaningful exchanges on three subject areas: The Art of Place, The Future of Food, and The Maker Movement. Morning forums will showcase innovative projects and dialogue between them; afternoon site visits will take guests inside local spaces and places in Detroit. For a preview of the schedule, click here
If you've been curious about Detroit's transformation, September is the time to dive in. The entire month is jam-packed
with events, culminating with Detroit Design Festival
(Sept. 23-28), North America's festival of independent design; Dlectricity
(Sept. 26-27), Detroit's nighttime exhibition of art and light presented by DTE Energy; and Meeting of the Minds
(Sept. 30-Oct. 2), a global convening on the future of urban sustainability and technology.
UIX, DDF and Dlectricity are all supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
. Dlectricity is a 2013 Knight Arts Challenge
UIX participants will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in DDF happenings throughout the week--including Hip Hop Architecture at University of Detroit Mercy (Sept. 24), Eastern Market After Dark (Sept. 25), and a conversation with Knight's Alberto Ibarguen and Carol Coletta titled "Designing Cities to Accelerate Talent, Opportunity and Engagement" (Sept. 26).
The curious (and if you're reading this, you can count yourself among the curious) know there is more to Detroit's reinvention than its financial restructuring. The UIX story is about human creativity and ingenuity.
As Knight Foundation's Carol Coletta said recently
: "The future of a city is not made with a few broad strokes by a few key people. The future is a product of thousands of people making small decisions every day about what they believe about the future, and their role in it."
Detroit, of course, is in good company. Many cities across the U.S. have seen a groundswell of creative projects from local artists, entrepreneurs and community leaders bringing their passions to the places they live.
Just to give you an idea, here are some of the people you will hear from at UIX:
- John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock, PA, a former steel town with an audacious motto: "Reinvention is the only option"
- Eve Picker, founder of cityLAB in Pittsburgh and new real estate crowdfunding platform, smallchange.com
- Ryan Myers-Johnson, founder of Sidewalk Festival of the Arts, an outdoor celebration of Detroit landscape, architecture and culture through site-specific performance
- Jen Guarino, American Made evangelist, co-founder of The Makers Coalition in Minneapolis and current VP of Leather goods at Shinola in Detroit
- Kim Bartmann, owner of several restaurants in Minneapolis, including the new Tiny Diner and Farm, "a small place with big ideas"
- Phillip Cooley, founder of creative incubator Ponyride and co-owner of Slow's BBQ in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood
- Dwayne Wharton of The Food Trust in Philadelphia, ranked #2 high impact nonprofit in America for their work in child nutrition and health
- Hunter Franks, GOOD 100 innovator and Knight grantee for his work with the League of Creative Interventionists and Neighborhood Postcard Project
- Devita Davison, community food advocate and leader of Detroit Kitchen Connect and FoodLab Detroit, a community of triple-bottom-line food entrepreneurs
- Matt Anthony, co-founder of First Batch, Cincinnati Made, and The Launch Werks, working to grow the community of small-batch manufacturing in Cincinnati
- Joan Vorderbruggen, multidisciplinary artist and founder of Artists in Storefronts and Made Here in Minneapolis
- Jeff Sturges, founder of Detroit's Mt. Elliott Makerspace and Director's Fellow at MIT Media Lab
- Megan Deal, creative director of city-minded design studio Tomorrow Today, whose projects include CoSign and People's Liberty in Cincinnati
- Bobby Fry, founder of Food Revolution Pittsburgh and co-owner of Bar Marco and The Livermore
- Sebastian Jackson, owner of Social Club Grooming Company, a barbershop and salon working to break down racial barriers and promote sustainability in Detroit
- Sara Blumenstein, co-founder of Pittsburgh Canning Exchange and contributor to cityLAB experiments Tiny Houses and Garfield Night Market
- Noam Kimmelman, owner of Fresh Corner Cafe delivery service and co-founder of Detroit Food Academy
- David Jurca of Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, whose Pop Up City project explores ideas for urban reinvention through temporary interventions
- Mark Covington, urban farmer and founder of Georgia Street Community Collective on Detroit's East Side, whose work has been featured in films like "Urbanized" and "After the Factory"
"Through our reporting over the last decade, we've seen a remarkable rise in catalytic small-scale projects," says Brian Boyle, co-founder of UIX and co-CEO of Issue Media Group
(parent company of this publication). "They are changing the way we think about economic development and urban transformation. We're excited to bring these innovators together to meet their 'twins' from other cities and get smarter about what's working and what they need to grow."
So, is your city next?
Maybe TIME asked the right question after all. The answer, of course, is YES. Your city is the site of innovation--the home of people driving transformative projects that can serve as inspiration for other cities.
As Matthew Naimi of Detroit's Recycle Here
likes to say: "Share your candy." Bring your ideas, experiences, and passions to Detroit, and let's exchange.
See you in September
Matthew Lewis is the editor of Model D in Detroit and Claire Nelson is the director of Urban Innovation Exchange. Follow UIX for news & updates @UIXDetroit #UIXDET and register here. UIX is made possible thanks to generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.