Graham Sustainability Institute

Six U-M-Funded Sustainability Projects to Assist Detroit Community Development Initiative

Monday, April 30, 2012

U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute has selected six faculty-led research projects to join with Focus: HOPE, a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization, on a Detroit community development initiative.

The University of Michigan-funded projects will incorporate social, economic and environmental strategies to help develop a comprehensive plan for advancing Focus: HOPE’s HOPE Village Initiative.

The HOPE Village Initiative focuses on a 100-block area immediately surrounding the Focus: HOPE campus, straddling the cities of Detroit and Highland Park. The initiative seeks to integrate Focus: HOPE’s strengths in workforce development, early childhood education, and community development.

Each of the six selected U-M projects will receive $25,000 to $30,000 over the next 18 months. The projects and their faculty researchers are:

  • Applied Research and Service by Urban Planning Students in the HOPE Village Initiative Area (Eric Dueweke and Margi Dewar, Urban Planning).
  • Building a Healthy Community in Detroit: Tracking the Impact of the HOPE Village Initiative (Paul Draus and Juliette Roddy, Public Affairs, U-M-Dearborn).
  • The Development of a Community Based Coalition to Promote Career and College Preparation in the HOPE Village Neighborhoods of Detroit and Highland Park (John C. Burkhardt, Jessica Joslin, Jana Castellanos, and Victor Andrews, School of Education)
  • Legal Issues in HOPE Village Housing Cooperative and Green Space (Alicia Alvarez and Priya Baskaran,  Law School).
  • Mapping Community Economies and Building Capabilities in HOPE Village (Bruce Pietrykowski, Center for Labor and Community Studies, U-M Dearborn and Roland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy)
  • Play & Grounds (Maria Arquero, Urban Planning and Architecture; Jen Maigret and Craig Borum, Architecture;  Robert Grese, Natural Resources and Environment; Lorelle Meadows and Aline Cotel, College of Engineering).

“These six projects leverage diverse U-M faculty research to advance sustainability strategies within the HOPE Village area while also serving as models to advance similar efforts throughout Detroit,” said Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.

The projects will use an integrated assessment framework that brings together U-M researchers, Focus: HOPE staff, and community stakeholders to ask: What are common analytical approaches, data sets, tools and policies to advance decision-making for the HOPE Village Initiative?  

Debbie Fisher, director of the HOPE Village Initiative, said that collectively, these projects  “will help us to make significant strides toward our overall goal — that 100 percent of those in the HOPE Village Initiative neighborhood in the heart of Detroit will be educationally well-prepared, economically self-sufficient, and living in a safe and supportive environment by the year 2031.

“Sustainability factors including the physical environment, economic development, community health, and education are all critical to the success of this important Initiative,” Fisher said. “A community simply cannot thrive if these factors are not all working together.”  

Since 1968, Focus: HOPE has developed numerous programs in its efforts to overcome racism, poverty and injustice, including food, career training, and community development programs. Through these programs, thousands of individuals – especially women and minorities — have achieved financial independence.

The Graham Sustainability Institute is a boundary organization connecting academics, policy-makers and practitioners to address challenging sustainability problems. The institute’s research program focuses on integrated assessment, which considers environmental, social, and economic dimensions of particularly challenging problems and engages a range of stakeholders in evaluating policy options.  

For more information, contact John Callewaert, IA program director, at or Debbie Fisher, director of the HOPE Village Initiative at