The Opportunity:

Current forums for Detroit-centric dialogue were lacking inspiration. Existing and emerging leaders felt tirelessly exposed to the same panel of local speakers. Same faces. Same stump speeches. Not a whole lot of action. Wayne State University was searching for a way to inspire the next generation of Detroit leaders by calling them to action in new and unexpected ways. 

The Method:

The Van Dusen Urban Leadership Forum was a series of events that provoked knowledge transfer between local and national leaders; demonstrated new ways of thinking, doing and problem-solving; and inspired individuals towards action. Each event was organized around a central theme—Joy, Beauty and Welcome—and included student exclusive interactions, public keynote forums, small-scale civic interventions opportunities for hands-on learning and locally produced, family-style means for curated groups.

The Result:

In 2013, the Van Dusen Urban Leadership Forum brought seven nationally recognized visionaries to Detroit to engage with existing and emerging leaders. Participants included: Candy Chang, Archie Lee Coates, Kemi Ilesanmi, Tamara Harkavy, Alison Cross, Eric Weiner and Baratunde Thurston. More than 400 individuals attended the public forums and more than 100 individuals participated in civic intervention workshops. 

The Lessons:

  • Leave a footprint
  • You are needed
  • Edutainment moves the masses
  • Teach people to fish
  • Convert residents to citizens
  • Accelerate serendipity
  • Design is not an afterthought