April 9 – 11, 2019


Immersion Journey to Detroit

Program details

Date: April 10–11, 2019; Please join us for our opening dinner on April 9

Detroit ranks among the most iconic American cities in the United States. To look into the city’s past and present is to peer into the American Dream. TPW is offering an Immersion Journey to Detroit as a case study to grapple with the question: Is the American Dream alive for all who call the United States home?

Located in the heartland of the country’s Midwest, “Motor City” is the birthplace of automobile innovation that catalyzed the first “Great Migration” of southern black citizens to the north from 1910 – 1930 for manufacturing jobs and a viable pathway to the middle class. Also home to Motown music, Detroit captured the soul of the city and country in the 1960’s, a period of growing social unrest culminating in the city’s riot during the “long, hot summer of ’67,” among the largest civil disturbances in U.S. history.

Shortly thereafter came the second migration—the flight of white urban dwellers and businesses to the suburbs. Once the fourth largest city by population and wealthiest by income per capita, Detroit’s economic decline over the past several decades has been one of the deepest of any U.S. city. The population of Detroit’s city proper today is approximately one-third what it was at its 1950 peak of 1.8 million people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, Detroit is the most segregated and poorest major metropolitan area in the country, with 1 in 3 black residents living in highly impoverished neighborhoods.

Today, Detroit is attracting a third migration of sorts—an influx of ingenuity, philanthropic capital, and new ways to lead, partner, do business and govern.  As described by James M. Ferris & Elwood M. Hopkins in “Urban Crisis as Opportunity”:

Cities in crisis can be crucibles for innovation, and few illustrate this fact as vividly as Detroit. The city was already an archetype of urban decline when the nationwide economic downturn began in 2007, followed by bankruptcy in 2013 and its emergence in 2014. Along the way, local leaders from every sector have been stepping up with bold leadership and a range of inventive strategies that continue to fuel its recovery today. In the process, these leaders are overturning entrenched assumptions about how urban problems can be solved and pushing the envelope on conventional practices.

Although some of the strategies remain fragile or are yet unproven, it is not too early to ask: Are the revitalization efforts in Detroit, where philanthropy and the private sector have been instrumental, applicable to other cities?” (SSIR, Winter 2017)

TPW’s Immersion Journey to Detroit will cover a sprawling 139 square miles—the size of San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston combined. We’ll explore how to tackle complex social, economic and political challenges facing many U.S. cities. We’ll hear from philanthropists who architected a “Grand Bargain” to help Detroit emerge out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country’s history, as well as from local leaders bridging the public and private sectors to work together on solutions. If you are interested in building a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive society, this Immersion Journey to Detroit is for you.


If you are interested in attending this program, please email Michelle Nelson at michelle@tpw.org.

Please note this program is open to TPW members or by special invitation from TPW.

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