U-M Impact Challenge Seeks to Help Detroit Kids Become Entrepreneurs

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“But we’re finding it truly is a critical educational component because more and more young people are having to create their own jobs. It’s also far easier to add an element of entrepreneurship and innovation to the mindset of young people than folks my age.”

Smith says she hopes the Impact Challenge teams solve not only the problems they intend to solve, but also problems they didn’t intend to solve (or even know about) before becoming immersed in the local community.

“This is part of the fulfillment of bringing entrepreneurial thinking to Detroit neighborhoods so it will lead to lasting solutions for inner city challenges,” Smith adds. “We’ve long envisioned the merging of economic development and technology innovation, so this is an important first step.”

DeRue says the Impact Challenge students bring a lot of energy and curiosity about Detroit to the project. About a third of the students aren’t from the U.S., and what they know about Detroit has often come from breathless news stories that emphasize the negative.

“What they don’t all realize is Detroit’s rich history of culture and entertainment, and how that’s a great source of pride to residents,” he says. “Detroit is also a hub of commerce, and it’s second in the U.S. in terms of job recovery after the recession. There’s lots of positive momentum in the private sector happening in Detroit. If we take the concept of positive business seriously, it can have an impact and be a prime source of revitalization. And if we have a small part in that, I’ll be proud.”

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the Custom Content Editor for Xconomy Insight. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @

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