University News

UDM’s DCDC helps give Detroit residents an active voice through Detroit Works Project

detroit works
DCDC Executive Director Dan Pitera discusses details of Detroit Works
Long Term Planning with a group of youth sampled from various youth-based
groups and organizations from across Detroit.
Improving the quality of life for all Detroiters is the goal of the Detroit Works Project, spearheaded by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. Consisting of two distinct tracks—Short Term Actions (administered within the Mayor’s Office) and Long Term Planning (outside of the Mayor’s Office)—University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) is facilitating the Long Term Planning Community Engagement process with the goal of creating a Strategic Framework Plan by August 2012—a 1.5 million dollar effort funded by the Ford Foundation. This plan will serve as a road map that can guide the actions of a wide variety of constituents on issues such as economic growth, land use, neighborhoods, public land, zoning, city systems and infrastructure.

“We’re planning to do things differently in order for tomorrow to be different,” said Dan Pitera, executive director of the DCDC. “If we do nothing, then Detroit’s quality of life will continue to decline,” he said.   

Completing the Strategic Framework Plan requires a four-phase process, each building on the results of the prior. The Community Engagement Team is currently finishing the second phase, matching different solutions with on-the-ground and new opportunities. 

“Much of the first and second phases have really been about rebuilding enthusiasm and trust among members of the Detroit community,” said Pitera. “To do that, we need to meet them where they are, we can’t wait for them to come to us.”

To this effect, the team has designed and built a “Roaming Table,” a portable display which highlights key points of the project.

“We bring the table to places where people gather,” said Pitera. “We were at Café con Leche, in Southwest Detroit the other day.” 

The Roaming Table is part of what Pitera describes as “random acts of engagement.” Other strategies include attending existing community meetings and hosting dinner parties—activities performed by the project’s street team and ambassadors.

Since most of these positions are new, Detroit Works is living up to its name. The project has hired 64 people in the past six months, 48 of them Detroiters, 23 for newly created jobs.

“People are our greatest asset,” said Pitera. And it’s the people who will define the vision of the project. “We didn’t come in with an idea of what the end result would look like,” said Pitera. “The vision is being created by the Detroit community, through the process of engagement.” 

Through this first phase, Detroiters have indicated the quality of life elements that are most important to them: safety, education, public services, a sense of community and identity, retail services, housing, physical environment, culture, career/job opportunities, recreation, health, environment, and mobility. Based on these priorities, the team has identified 12 Imperatives, or “things we
must do” to realize Detroit’s potential and improve the quality of life for all. 

As they move into the Strategies phase, their work will be positioned to complete the Strategic Framework Plan over the summer months, which will consist of specific action steps. The Plan must first be approved by the project Steering Committee, which was assembled by and reports to Mayor Bing.

More information about the Detroit Works Project can be found at, on facebook on twitter, and on youtube

by Cate Caldwell, UDM Director, Office of Sponsored Programs

For more information about UDM, or to apply online, go to

Print Friendly Print-friendly