I had the chance to sit down with Bryan Baker Signal-Return’s printer-in-residence. The moment you start talking letterpress with Bryan, you can feel his passion for the art of printing. A Hamtramck resident, Bryan started teaching workshops and classes at the studio two years ago, and he’s been with Signal-Return full time since February. Here’s Bryan’s take on this unique Detroit business.
Fellowships are making a major impact on the lives of a few millennials in Detroit. They’re not only shifting perceptions of the city; the fellowships are molding future leaders and building connections between businesses and communities in Detroit.
Each year, fellowship programs draw qualified and passionate individuals who are seeking to develop ways to impact lives and serve Detroit communities. Skilled recent graduates or mid-level career individuals are sought by these organizations seeking to enhance workforce development. Below is a quick overview of a few fellowship programs making a difference in Detroit: The Detroit Revitalization Program, Challenge Detroit and Venture for America.
The Detroit Revitalization Program
The Detroit Revitalization Program prepares talented, mid-career professionals to lead Detroiters in collaborative ways. Training for these exceptional leaders makes this fellowship critical to building capacity amongst various communities and initiatives. The program includes “executive-style leadership education, professional coaching and mentoring, and essential ‘Detroit Dialogues’ with other leaders of business and community.”
During the two-year fellowship, participants build a dynamic network among civic and business leaders. Each fellow is placed in organizations making major contributions to the revitalization of Detroit. Areas of focus include real estate finance and development, community and economic development, land use and planning, and workforce development.
Challenge Detroit is a leadership and professional development program that invites approximately 30 young leaders to live, work, play, give and lead in and around the greater Detroit area for one year. Each fellow is a recent graduate seeking work in the city’s creative and professional core. The goal of Challenge Detroit’s year-long engagement is to attract and retain talented young individuals who would otherwise take their talents to nearby metropolitan cities. And after talking to Miguel Davis, a Challenge Detroit year two fellow, Challenge Detroit’s strategy appears to be working:
“One year later, the city continues to exceed my expectations. To say there’s just something for everyone here is an understatement – the lack of complacency amongst residents and entrepreneurs brings new vibrancy and opportunity to living and playing in Detroit each day,” said Miguel.
Community partnerships and philanthropy are the strongest pillars of the organization. During the one-year period, fellows have weekly intimate engagements with non-profit organizations. Challenge Detroit sets itself apart from other fellowship programs in the area with its direct impact on the non-profit sector.
Venture for America
Venture for America is a career accelerator for recent grads who want to learn how to build a business while making an impact. In this highly-competitive, national program, college graduates undergo intense training in preparation for their sendoff to one of hundreds of partner companies in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Detroit.
According to Kate Catlin, a Venture for America fellow who works with Grand Circus, Detroit’s business community has been “overwhelmingly supportive.”
“When I was ready to dabble in my own startup ideas, I got willing feedback from several experienced startup founders, and THIRTEEN local small businesses donated in-kind goods for me to sell as a fundraiser,” said Kate.
The goal of the program is simply job generation. The unique aspect of the fellowship is found in the robust training for fellows. As up-and-coming entrepreneurs, each fellow is tasked with the challenge of building capacity in well-networked startup communities that could benefit from the talent. Upon completion of the two-year program, fellows are able to build businesses and generate new jobs.
Interested in learning more about the fellowships? Take an opportunity to connect with each organization and engage with the fellows on Twitter at @DetroitFellows, @ChallengeDetroit and @Venture4America.