New Social Networking Site in Detroit Aims to Cultivate Community Leadership

Wade Solomon is an Information Technology project manager for General Electric, an adjunct faculty member for the University of Phoenix in Information Systems and Technology, and an instructor at Kaplan University. In his spare time, he speaks at conferences teaching teens the fundamentals of video game development and animation using an application called Scratch. He also volunteers his time to teach Web development techniques to teens.

Solomon is also a member of a growing new social networking site for African American men and teens in Detroit called Black Male Engagement, or BME (pronounced “Be me”). There’s just one catch: In order to join the network, you share the story via video or text of what you’re doing as a leader in your community to make it a better place. A pilot program happening in Detroit and Philadelphia, BME’s long-term goal is to attract more than 1,000 members and to replicate in other cities.

“In Detroit, we noticed a vibrant, engaged community of black men and boys, in particular, that were doing big and small things to better their community every day,” says Rishi Jaitly, who directs grant making in Detroit for the John and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds BME. “We thought, what if we created an easy way for people to recognize this city’s assets and self-identify as leaders? Facebook has cultivated our friendship identity. With BME, we’re trying to cultivate leadership identity by making it appealing and socially credible.”

BME came into existence after the Knight Foundation did some research about what motivates community engagement in Detroit. It found that people are driven by recognition and the idea that they’re already part of a community well-stocked … Next Page »

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