Maureen “Moe” Anway, an associate on the neighborhoods team at Invest Detroit, talks about Invest Detroit’s commitment to community engagement and the role we play.
Part of my job on the neighborhoods team is to partner with community organizations, developers, and the City of Detroit to support the engagement of residents in our Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) commercial corridor investments. While Invest Detroit rarely does direct engagement, we have found that engaging residents through local organizations for SNF investments can build trust, improve the projects we support, build a sense of ownership over these projects, and grow an economy for all Detroiters.
Why We Believe in Community Engagement
As a financial institution working with Detroit neighborhoods, it is important to us that our organization and the developers we work with understand the neighborhoods where we’re investing and understand the diversity of experience and opinion from the residents in those neighborhoods. Conversations with residents can improve the way we and our partners work, and this idea informs how we finance SNF projects so that we are effectively partnering with residents to grow their community. Our belief in the community engagement process comes down to three things:
First, it’s the right thing to do and a sign of respect for those residents who have been committed to their neighborhoods through thick and thin.
Second, civic participation improves development programs and increases those programs’ sense of legitimacy among the constituents. It can create an opportunity for a developer to receive feedback that strengthens their project and ensures that it remains a part of the community for years to come.
Third, Invest Detroit’s core mission is to ignite economic growth for all Detroiters, and we believe that when you engage residents in development it reduces inequality, producing higher levels of economic growth and better resources for all residents.
Our Role in the Engagement Process
Before Invest Detroit begins to finance SNF developments, the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department starts the engagement process. They work with the community and local organizations to plan their neighborhoods. Once their process is complete, Invest Detroit works with developers to help realize some of the commercial corridor priorities identified by residents through that process. While we support engagement efforts and require our developers to participate in the process, we don’t typically lead them. We find that this work is more successful when it’s the local Community Development Organizations (CDOs) and developers working together to talk directly to the residents.
As an example, one development team, thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation, is talking to residents in advance of selecting retail businesses for their project. They plan to pay residents to survey their neighbors about what makes them feel welcome in a business. Making sure residents that live near a business feel welcome there can help reduce economic inequality and lead to higher levels of economic growth.
Improving investments, legitimizing the projects that we fund, and increasing economic growth by reducing economic inequality are the core reasons that Invest Detroit is committed to engaging residents in our SNF investments, and just one way that we are contributing to equitable growth in Detroit neighborhoods.