As the city of Detroit continues to shift into an age of resurgence and rebirth, the question continues to arise concerning the community. How do we keep the original identity of the city while still inspiring growth and change? Additionally, how do we provide connection and outreach to the neighborhoods and communities of Detroit?
Elite Detroit seeks to confront these questions with their unique networking model. We got to sit down at Detroit’s Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters with the leaders of Elite to discuss their involvement in the city and their future goals for the organization.
The idea of Elite dates back to 2011 and has now grown into a movement of self-betterment and empowerment, all with the hopes of impacting growth and change in the city.
“We saw a lot of things happening in the city of Detroit during the early stages of the revitalization and we had the idea to build a brand that actually delivers value to people,” said Bill George, executive director of Elite Detroit.
“We asked ourselves how we could build a brand that people would want to identify with, that had attributes that matched what a citizen – someone striving to grow in their own personal self – would have. If everyone strived to be their best self, the whole city gets lifted as a result.”
The Elite Detroit model encourages both individual and community growth, insisting that one is not unique to the other. The idea is that if everyone adopted and achieved higher levels of success, then as a result, it would spark change in the community as a whole.
“I’m a Detroiter and Elite Detroit is right up my alley,” explained Gerald Daniel, director of content at Elite. “It really hit close to home, because I grew up in the city where it was not the best, and just to be involved more in the city and doing community events really shows that we can make an impact and turn things around, but more importantly, bring people together.”
Recently, Elite completed a community mural project in the East Warren Avenue community. Teaming up with Detroit Hives, Heidelberg project artist Erin Kruczek and Tangent Gallery artist David Shammas, Elite Detroit brought the community together to beautify Detroit Hives’ new fence around their lot turned bee farm.
The first event, hosted in August, focused on priming the fence and brainstorming the final design, for lead artists Kruczek and Shammas to bring the vision to fruition.
“The network of people we team up with are people who are creative and want to take initiative,” said George. “They can be that core group of people that would drive this mission forward, so our focus is how do we build a network of people that are going to go out and learn new things, talk to new people, build things together and serve the community.”
The Elite brand is built on three core mindsets, or “three guiding arrows:” Open-mindedness, creativity and dedication, insisting that they drive learning, creativity and service, respectively.
“Our three guiding arrows give us direction for where to go, not just for this project, but our personal lives and aspirations,” said George. “It’s a large vision that can manifest itself in different ways, but when we look at why we’re doing something, these core mindsets are the goal. There are a lot of ways we can make that happen, but we wanted to narrow in on creating community.”
In addition to the Detroit Hives project, Elite has participated in Arise Detroit, a summit of Detroit neighborhood leaders and community members gathered together to discuss blight, neighborhood organization and opportunities to collaborate with other organizations.
“We’re constantly changing,” added Paul Pinet, director of outreach at Elite. “We’re trying to improve the city in ways where it doesn’t become this peak or finality, because there is no finality. Emergence is key to instill into the culture to know that we can always improve and reach a new standard.”
Elite’s future aspirations are to grow outside of the city of Detroit, bringing their core mindsets and models into other cities that need change. However, Detroit will always remain the focal point.
“Detroit, is full of culture. There’s so much history behind the city in the people, fashion, music – it all came from Detroit. We want to bring out the potential of the city.”
What do you think of the Elite Detroit model? Are there any areas in the city that you think can benefit from Elite’s network of community service? Let us know in the comments below.