Michigan Ross Social Impact Challenge - Turning Detroit Buildings into Business Hubs

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UPDATE: Feb 19, 2015 -

After three finalist teams delivered their presentations to a panel of judges, a re-skilling proposal titled “FBP 21: A Place for Makers” was selected as the winner. FBP 21 looks to transform the Fisher Body Plant 21 into a live-make community where skilled tradespeople would rehabilitate the building they would ultimately live in. The proposal would create green jobs while fostering an arts and culture community in Detroit’s North End.

Winning team of the 2015 Social Impact Challenge

Winning team members include Fulton Breen from the Ross School of Business and School of Education, Dannan Hodge from the School of Natural Resources & Environment, Arthur Endsley from the School of Natural Resources & Environment, and Drew Phillips from Taubman College for Architecture & Urban Planning.

Judges for the final round were David Williams from the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office, Eleanore Eveleth from Vanguard CDC, Geraldine Gardner from the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and Harley Etienne from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning


The third annual Social Impact Challenge from the Michigan Ross Center for Social Impact has started and 15 teams are off and running in a race to develop the most effective and creative solution to a pressing social issue facing the city of Detroit.

This year’s big challenge: How can commercial blight and abandoned buildings around the city be turned into economic development opportunities? Teams will design proposals to redevelop the Fisher Body Plant 21 as a hub for creativity and the arts in the North End community that creates economic opportunity for the City and jobs for Detroiters.

Student teams comprised of at least two different graduate programs across the University of Michigan will take a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to solving complex issues that has historically generated meaningful results.

Last year’s challenge, to improve transportation access for Detroit neighborhoods, resulted in a pitch for a social enterprise that would transport Detroit citizens from their homes directly to centers of employment. A winning team member is now working with Detroit Bus Company to bring ideas like this to life.

Using their varied skills and classrooms learnings, teams have until Feb 11 to investigate, develop and submit their proposals, which will then be evaluated by judges. Three finalist teams will be selected.

Finalists will then present their recommendations to a panel of judges made up of Detroit leaders and business executives, who will discuss emerging issues and opportunities in Detroit’s redevelopment. The final presentations, delivered in a free, public pitch competition will be held from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Colloquium at Ross. The winning team earns a $2,500 cash prize.

The Social Impact Challenge is sponsored by the City of Detroit, Detroit Future City, Vanguard CDC and the German Marshall Fund. Campus sponsors include the Ford School of Public Policy, Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, School of Natural Resources & Environment, School of Social Work, and Stamps School of Art & Design.

Learn more about Social Impact Opportunities at Ross