Welcome Note for the Detroit Meetings

Greetings – 

Today, there are few places in America more relevant to the study of philanthropy, entrepreneurship and social equity than Detroit. The relevance of this city is both tragic and empowering. Detroit’s collapse gives us a frightening preview of the economic and social issues faced by postindustrial cities across the country. The city’s decline is evident in the overwhelming unemployment figures of ordinary citizens as well as the empty warehouses and homes scattered throughout its grand expanse.

Yet, the dominant narrative of Detroit as a city of abandonment, urban decay and failed governance is only part of the story. The city of rows of abandoned homes and gardens is also a city of incredible invention and resilience. Today, a growing revitalization movement powered by community leaders, philanthropists and young entrepreneurs is redefining and reimagining Detroit.

We began the Philanthropy and Social Enterprise Fellowship in Detroit to explore these new trends. We studied the actions of philanthropies, community leaders and social enterprises as part of the revitalization movement with a focus on whether these new initiatives advance social equity and economic opportunities for ordinary citizens.

Meetings in Detroit informed the research of our eight Humanity in Action Senior Fellows, conducted across the nation over a six month period. We consider the challenging conversations in Detroit, our concluding conference in New York in October and the research projects conducted by the Senior Fellows as contributions to Humanity in Action’s ongoing work on democratic, pluralistic and inclusive societies. 

We are grateful to the many speakers in Detroit who have volunteered their time with us. We are also deeply thankful to the RNR Foundation and to Heather Lord for generously supporting such an experimental and exciting program.

Finally, we would like to recognize Sue B. Mercy, a philanthropist and cherished friend of Humanity in Action. With Heather Lord, we dedicate this program to Sue’s memory.

With thanks, 

Judith S. Goldstein, PhD
Founder and Executive Director

Anthony Chase
Director of Programs