Inside Detroit Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems. Each month, a small group of impactful thought leaders spend about an hour discussing their solutions to Detroit’s social challenges. During April’s meeting, I got to hear about Wayne State University’s economic development accelerator program, The Front Door. Stephanie Fries, Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s newly-appointed business development manager for Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, led the meeting with an insightful presentation on how Wayne State University is strategically connecting its students and assets with the surrounding community. The Front Door promotes community economic development by improving university connections and fostering strategic collaboration throughout the region. In addition, the university provides research and development, strengthening the university’s capacity across several industries by increasing innovation and investment. Their connections and impact extend beyond their corner in Midtown as they’re united with six regional universities, offering a unique and extensive blend of expertise and research throughout the state.

After Stephanie’s presentation, the remainder of the meeting flowed with mini presentations from Michigan Corps, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and several other social entrepreneurs. Jeff Sorenson, co-founder and CEO of student-driven social innovation movement optiMize, gave a brief yet insightful presentation. The meeting’s participants all had a common goal: tackling Detroit’s social issues.

I had an opportunity to catch up with Alexandra Zisser, a social entrepreneurship fellow with MEDC. Here’s her view on how the social entrepreneurship stakeholders meeting works:

The Detroit Social Entrepreneurship Partner Network is a stakeholder group brought together by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to align with active community-based entrepreneurship efforts, foster neighborhood-based job creation and further the revitalization of traditional commercial districts through business investment. The Network is made up of a variety of individuals, business owners, non-profits, community institutions and others, all working in unconventional ways to solve some of Detroit’s most pressing challenges. The Network has been instrumental in the guidance and development of a number of MEDC-led social enterprise programs, including the Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, and is an important part of Detroit’s social entrepreneurship and small business development ecosystem.

If you’re interested in learning more or attending the next social entrepreneurship meeting, please email Alexandra Zisser at

Are you a social entrepreneur? Are you interested in effectively challenging Detroit’s social problems? What are some ways we can solve some of Detroit’s social problems? We’d love to hear your responses below!

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