With an impetus to empower residents, small businesses, and non-profits in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park to turn under-used areas, and blighted and vacant properties into vibrant community gathering spots with innovative programming the Detroit Regional Chamber and General Motors came together in a unique collaboration to develop NeighborHUB in 2018.
The program is now on its fifth cohort of awardees bringing its grant recipient total to 64 organizations that have in total received nearly $2 million in cash funding and consulting services.
About how this unique collaboration came to be, Genna Young, Senior Manager and Detroit Program Officer of Corporate Giving and Communications for General Motors says, “In 2018 I was fresh on my job at General Motors as program officer managing philanthropy in Detroit. We had the desire to help small organizations and non-profits break down the barriers to obtaining philanthropic funding. We wanted to open the door to community-based work in this way, so we reached out to the Detroit Regional Chamber.”
Said Devon O’Reilly, Senior Director of Community Engagement and Leadership Development for the Chamber, “We loved the idea of partnering with GM on this. This type of funding is very hard for small businesses and non-profits to come by and we’ve been able to create opportunities and activity where there was none before. This is so important and rewarding for everyone.”
By design, NeighorHUB is meant to bring cash into under-invested neighborhoods to develop spaces and create change. Another core belief behind the program is that the residents and stakeholders know best what their communities need, and it lets those closest to the neighborhood (nonprofits, block clubs, small business owners) dictate and design projects and spaces that directly address those needs.
Today, their efforts have affected countless communities that have come together to utilize the funds to develop a variety of place-based activities and initiatives.
One case in point is 360 Detroit in the Virginia Park neighborhood, where multiple vacant lots are now playscapes, a community gathering spot and a center for after-school learning programs.
Another is Jo’s Gallery on the Avenue of Fashion. Says O’Reilly
This is a multi-generational art gallery that’s been serving the community and a local landmark for years. Their goal was to help train the next generation in the skill of framing artwork. This required the purchase of expensive equipment that they would not have been able to buy without the grant. With the machinery now in place, the gallery has been able to hire local talent and train them. So there’s this amazing multiplier effect whereby just the purchase of a machine is providing employment for future generations.
In addition to the grant funding, NeighborHUB provides support in the way of workshops, classes, and one-on-one mentorships. Says O’Reilly, “We work with organizations who align with us in terms of providing capacity building, two of which are Michigan Community Resources and BUILD Institute.
On the GM side, Young championed a skills-based volunteer program in which GM employees are matched with grantees to assist with anything from information technology and digital marketing to engineering and law. She says, “We’ve been able to move some really interesting programs forward through this skills-based program
When asked what the funding and support mean to these underserved areas O’Reilly says, “In a lot of cases it validates their work and missions.”
Adds Young, “this also gives organizations the credibility to step up and ask for more funding.”
Now five years later Young talks about what the program represents for GM, saying,
GM historically has helped fund larger scale projects and organizations, but we’ve realized that we can’t drive change by doing that alone. These community-based and grassroots organizations have wonderful ideas and visions for their neighborhoods and simply need to be empowered to bring them to fruition.
She goes on to say, It’s not just about spreading wealth, but are we doing it intentionally and with the right hands and players. This speaks to the heart of what NeighborHub is.”
Regarding what the future looks like for NeighborHUB, O’Reilly says, “We plan to continue being as responsive and adaptive to the needs of the communities – that’s what NeighborHub does best. We have the ability to listen to the stakeholders and then provide direct resources to meet their needs.”
Young closes by saying, “We will constantly find new ways to innovate in this space.”
To find out more about how NeighborHUB works, the current cohort or past winners, visit https://www.detroitchamber.com/neighborhub/
As always, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on all things Detroit.