Communication Infrastructure for Change

This post is a response to a neighbor who posted the following question to her fellow neighbors on the app,

“Brainstorming ideas: Action instead of complaining. {Long post but looking for those engaged in their communities to chime in} For all my Detroit neighbors near and far in all districts let’s talk! I often see on this app many concerned residents (as it should be) post about issues in their community. The question I have for ALL of us is what are the resolutions? We can complain all day but what will actually bring about change for our neighborhoods?”

One of the things that is needed is to reinforce the communication infrastructure already in place and then leverage technology to make it easier and more effective to mobilize. We already have established neighborhood associations and block clubs. For the city of Detroit’s District 2 most of the larger neighborhood associations have Facebook pages. I would suggest all residents to encourage their neighbors to join Nextdoor and “like” their neighborhood association Facebook page. Then I would recommend all block clubs to identify themselves to their neighborhood association. This would allow us to establish a communication network that would get down to the individual resident. Now as for those residents would are not and will not adapt to and Facebook, I suggest that both the block clubs and neighborhood association have emails and/or phone numbers so those residents can be contacted.

Now why is strengthening this communication infrastructure so important?

1. We do not need to recreate the wheel. We often waste time and energy trying to create a new group. In some cases we have too many new groups that are small and don’t have longevity because of the energy needed to create/maintain a group. It also reduces the financial resources we need for our end goals. Think of it this way, it’s hard enough to gather block club dues and neighborhood association membership donations, so why create yet another group and water down the support for what is already in place?

2. Nothing gets a local politician’s attention like a well organized block club and/or neighborhood association. At first the politician is like a cat sniffing catnip when they encounter a strong, solidly organized, well supported neighborhood association because they see it as a campaign opportunity. However, this is when the neighborhood association should realize that they have the ability to reinforce how politics is suppose to work. Politicians must be re-educated that their role is to support and WORK for the neighborhood association, block club residents.

3. It all boils down to setting the agenda to how money and resource are managed. While collecting block club dues and neighborhood association fees is difficult, we all have contributed income and property taxes which represent a substantial amount of money. A neighborhood association and block clubs which has shown itself to be well established has the ability to influence and dictate to politicians the agenda of issues that require most monetary attention.

4. We need a network that allows residents to communicate together quickly to a) bring awareness of safety concerns quickly, b) discuss issues, c) to identify needs at the most local residential level.

Steps each person can do in order to rebuild this communication infrastructure NOW.

  • Invite neighbors to join Nextdoor. Within the app/website, there is an ability for each user to invite others via email, text, address book or selecting homes that Nextdoor will automatically send invite letters to.

  • “Like” your neighborhood association page on Facebook. Here are links to some of our nearby neighborhood association’s Facebook pages.

1. Schaefer 7/8 Lodge Neighborhood Association

2. Bagley Community Council

3. Winship Community Association

4. Sherwood Forest Association

5. University District Community Association

6. College Park Community Association

7. Greenwich Park Association

8. Greenacres Woodward Civic Association

9. Blackstone Park Neighborhood Association

This is not an exhaustive list. So if you have information on other neighborhoods association and/or block clubs please share that information.

Finally, leverage these resources to identify/communicate/ discuss neighborhood issues. I think we know what many of them are already. With a strengthen communication infrastructure we can then quickly and easily communicate when we need resident emails to be sent in mass to our local politicians regarding an issue. Just think of the statement it would make to city council and the mayor’s office if their offices received emails/texts/phone calls on a single day regarding one of these issues. They would take notice to the organizational strength we have established. We all understand that if residents work in numbers we can take action. This is just one suggestion that reinforcing our communication infrastructure can help us find the resolutions we all seek.

Real Change for 48235 after COVID-19

Meanwhile in Detroit…

1. The zip code I live in, 48235, has the highest number of COVID 19 cases in the city.

2. My main neighborhood hospital, Sinai-Grace is the focus of a CNN article because dead bodies are piled up everywhere.

3. NYT has an article today about how devastated the Detroit Police Department was by the virus.

4. Residents are using social media to post how one neighborhood grocery store is price gouging.

So imagine my surprise and horror to realize that I live in the ground zero zip code within the ground zero city in Michigan for the COVID19 pandemic. I mean it’s quite easy for a person with two degrees from The University of Michigan, a 30-year professional career, who lives in a quiet neighborhood with neighbors who are mostly middle classed, to just not connect the dots on the over looked signs that have gotten us to this state. So when we get on the other side of this pandemic some serious discussions need to be had.

My neighbors and myself are part of the problem. Our middle class existence, and the options this SES provides us, has left us in the quagmire of the COVID-19 ground zero we now find ourselves. We can afford cars and the excessive auto insurance that goes with them. This means we can take all the accessible routes out of the city limits into the suburbs to get the goods and services we want. Rather than saying anything, we easily turn up our noses to the rotting meat at the local grocery and hop in our cars to go buy the clean, fresh, variety of produce and meats from any market in the suburbs.

No need to complain to our city health department about the price gouging unsanitary local grocery store. Or demand that our city Councilperson do something tangible to bring reputable and quality businesses into our neighborhoods. It was just easier to let our foot traffic ride right out of the city. Every time we made a purchase in the suburbs, the cashier asked for our zip code. They didn’t ask so they could determine a good area in the city to open a new location. They asked so they could show corporate the range of the suburban store’s trade area.

Pre-pandemic, the 48235 and neighboring 48221 zip codes were showing the first signs of gentrification. New neighbors coming in. New small businesses trying to establish themselves. Housing prices steadily rising. The tale tail dumpsters showed up throughout the neighborhood as home renovations took place. But underneath we still had a local economy not being supported in a way residents could leverage it to combat the pandemic.

Some of the new businesses have been froward thinking. Farm-to-table menus. Use of organic ingredients. But the changes were too new to make a major dent in changing our overall traffic patterns out of the city to the suburbs for commerce. One major grocery chain, Meijers, has come into the area. Delivery services like Shipt, GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats have become options. However, residents have not addressed the crux of the problem. Our ability to demand more of these amenities and demand more NOW.

But should we? We never asked for better in our own 48235 before. As long as our middle class SES allowed for the ride to the suburbs to buy what we wanted we were just fine. But did we think about how our silence was impacting other residents in 48235? Those not in the higher SES group with their own transportation. Stuck with the price gouging unsanitary grocery as their only food source. If we started to make demands it would help the entire 48235 community. We all would have had stronger immune systems because we would have been eating a fresh clean diet of produce. 48235 residents would have had lower incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. We all would have been in a much better position to combat the COVID19 pandemic’s assault.

We now understand that we are all in this together. All of us in 48235 COVID19 ground zero. So the silent ones need to start to speak up. Not just for themselves. But speak up and ask for what WE need for everyone to be better off.

But when I say I want discussions on changes, I am not talking about the same old, “them folks are poor, let’s say we are sending money until they shut up blah blah” narrative which has been the Democratic politician mantra since the 1960’s. I want

1) Sinai-Grace to be sold to a reputable medical provider with proven management skill.

2) I want the Glory Foods grocery shut down and the property sold back to Kroger so they can establish a delivery/pickup only store. Or let Whole Foods put their long promised second store in Detroit there.

3) Before the city allows current and/or new restaurants to open, they should ALL go through health inspections to verify cleanliness and adherence to proper food safety. Some of these places should have been closed before COVID-19 came along. Farm-to-table menu restaurants should be given priority in the small business assistance they need to reopen.

4) Finally, the city knows

a) some small businesses just will not be able to open again.

b) the study has been done on retail traffic in our neighborhoods going to the suburbs for most purchases. The dollar amount is estimated at over $2 million annually.

So we need the city to leverage this information to get more reputable businesses established in our area. This includes new entrepreneurs, strong metro businesses, regional and national businesses. The emphasis should be on farm-to-table restaurants. More fresh food options. Local fresh food stands that cater to a variety of SES levels.

And yes, what I am suggesting will be brutal. But no need giving handouts to businesses who haven’t updated their business plans to cater to the residents in the neighborhoods. We need the businesses near our homes to be similar to ones that we go to the suburbs to patronize. We must break our silence and speak up and demand the best for our neighborhood. We are more than just a postal zip code.

Is anyone listening???

I have noticed a great divide between our politicians and our neighbors. The nice thing about social media sites like and Ring is that we are virtually coming out of our homes to talk with one another. But I think it is noticeable that the politicians are not listening to what citizens are discussing.

Yes we are definitely on our own. Detroit Police Department PR folks just made a post on tooting their own horn about some black market marijuana busts they made. One person commented that their car had been stolen 3 times in the past 8 months and his new auto insurance premiums are more than the cost of the marijuana Detroit Police recovered. The person’s post mysteriously disappeared from the thread. I guess the Detroit Police Department didn’t like their PR questioned.

I read community comments on crime. I notice the crime stats via in my area and I look at a post from Detroit Police Department PR saying they aim to “… improve the quality of life for residents in the city of Detroit”. I just SMDH. I don’t believe we are seeing the crime enforcement we should. I never see DPD patrolling our neighborhoods. They just want us to set up citizen patrols and be paid cents on a mile for gas. What’s worst is that none of our elected politicians are addressing the increased crime we are seeing in our area.

Being watchful of our fellow residents is a good thing. Neighborhood patrols can be a good thing. But let’s not take our mind off the fact that we pay our income and property tax dollars to the city expecting a certain level of police protection. As we all heard, our property values have gone up in this area and our property taxes will go up at least by the state’s 2% requirement. There is money for the quality of police protection we need. However, we must take time to focus our politicians on the tasks of 1) Better management of the budget they have to make crime a priority, 2) Focus the budget on residential patrols, 3) Better resource management so we have police actually on our residential streets. 4) Bring the rates of the traffic violations, car theft and property theft down in our area in order to keep our auto insurance and home insurance from going up via “redlining with crime data”.

These are macro issues that if addressed would provide a higher return on investment in our community. If we focus the city’s resources on crime in our area, residents would feel comfortable going to the businesses on Livernois and other areas. The commerce would increase and more small businesses would want to enter our area. The increased economic base would give more funding to the city. We just need our politicians and residents to be more targeted in what we ask for in order to improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit.


I recently sent out the following tweet:

“@swattsbulb: Love shopping @Nordstrom & would be happy to have a store in the actual city of #Detroit #DetroitsOpenForBusiness”

Now I want to explain the #DetroitsOpenForBusiness hashtag I used and what I created it for, so you can….Ponder and Participate. The idea is to start a grassroots hashtag people can use to invite their favorite companies to open an office or retail location in the city of Detroit. I think it will be more impactful if actual customers ask their favorite store to open in the city. So far I have used this hashtag to reach out to J.Jill, Whole Foods and Starbucks to encourage them to set up in Detroit or come specifically to my zip code of 48235. It actually get’s their attention. Nordstrom’s response:

” @Nordstrom: @swattsbulb We appreciate the suggestion and will let our teams know!”

The secondary advantage of this hashtag is that, if it gains wide use, it starts to create buzz amongst all companies so they start seeing Detroit as a city on the move and encourage them to join in also. But remember that no matter how much I love Nordstrom’s merchandise and super customer service, I have to provide information that makes a good business pitch. So also consider sharing beneficial facts about the city of Detroit’s progress.

  • Share information about other retailers establishing a location in Detroit. As I see it, if John Varvatos can sell in the city, Nordstrom can too.
  •  Share information about successful small businesses in Detroit.
  • Share information on the city’s infrastructure and service improvements. A full fleet of DDOT buses assures a retailer that their workers will have reliable transportation to work.
  • Share information regarding increased STEM training in the city. Talk about the city’s collaborative nature. Mention all the innovative programs in the city.
  • Finally, share the personal testimonies and success stories of Detroit’s numerous entrepreneurs.

Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened. So if you feel the need for your favorite store to be near your house, give them a shout out on Twitter and use this hastag, #DetroitsOpenForBusiness. Thanks Wattsbulb

Detroit’s Fanfare for the Common Man

I have always loved Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. A very majestic piece of music which tells the story of the westward migration which built out the United States. As I listened to this music, as I traveled home from a social media meeting, I started to hear similarities to the current state of Detroit.

If you recall how striking the trumpets are in Aaron Copland’s masterpiece. They musically highlight the purity of the strong americans who branched out all over the western half of our country to lay claim to their piece of land. Once claimed, they strongly banded together to build their parcel, their town, their city, their state and ultimately our country. Tonight, at the meeting, I met fellow Detroit residents, who all also displayed a purity of purpose to build their various entrepreneurial endeavors, their community, their neighborhoods and ultimately their city.

One particular resident was the owner of Motor City Java. The best way to describe her is to say she is the human representation of Hebrews 11:1 For those who don’t know the scripture, see it below:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things now seen.“

She told us the story of how over five long years she was able to realize the evidence of her faith by establishing her own neighborhood coffee shop, Motor City Java. She established her business without the naysayers who questioned why she wanted to be in a neighborhood many had written off as blighted. She established her business without a single loan. She established her business with a supportive community who passed the hat at times to build capital for the numerous rehab projects she needed to build the beautiful space she has today. The purity of her faith sounded just like the purity of the trumpets in Aaron Copland’s fanfare.

But Copland authored a fanfare, of multiple trumpets, with a pure sound, in unison, building together to a majesty of their own. So it is in Detroit. The owner of Motor City Java is not alone. Residents in and around Detroit are ready to join the chorus. To stake their parcel. To reach their community. To build a Detroit neighborhood. To play their part in Detroit’s fanfare for the common man.

And yes, as far as Detroit is concerned, you can be a common man. Just a person with a business idea you are passionate about and an entrepreneurial purity of heart. Detroit opens their arms to you. The city has initiated a program called, “Motor City Match”. You can start as simply as Copland started to author his fanfare….with a blank page. Motor City Match will help you fill in the notes. The program focuses on two groups of trumpeting entrepreneurs, property owners of potential retail spaces and small businesses looking for a storefront. On a quarterly basis both groups can apply for competitive financial assistance and support services to help them through build-out and startup. Technical assistance for building owners includes  design/build assistance, priority permitting and financial planning assistance. Business owners receive free business planning class, match-making with top real estate, financial planning assistance, design, build assistance, and priority permitting.

Entrepreneurs are always said to play by a different tune. Detroit is gathering various entrepreneurs, with a purity of purpose and passion, ready to sound far and wide in the city’s great fanfare. Come join the faithful Motor City Java. Come and play your part in Detroit’s Fanfare for a Common Man.

Ford: Innovation … Always

“Innovation is the development of new customers value through solutions that meet new needs…” — Wikipedia

Lately when we use the word “innovation”, we use it to label the new, young, startup company. We tag “innovation” to Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn, companies which are all well under 50 years old. Most companies who have been in existence upwards of 50 years are seldom described as innovative. But Ford Motor Company which was started in 1903, is just as innovative now as it was with the sale of its first Ford Model A. In 2013, Ford’s contribution to solutions that meet new needs includes the Fusion, Escape, Fiesta, Mustang and F-150 to name a few.

I have said in previous blog posts that visiting the Ford Auto Show display at the North American International Auto Show is like visiting an Apple store. It’s a way for families to see the new, the future, the innovations to come. Exhibit participants swarm each vehicle, like they were iPads, iPhones or MacBook Pros. Not because they are wow gadgets, but because they offer functions which can help me today and are easy enough for “even me to get the hang of”. Ford has shown that they are a company that understands it’s customer because they live in the same time the customer lives in.

While at the Ford display, you can play trivia games via your cell phone. Just be the first to text the correct answer to win a prize. Download the Ford Auto Show App for either Apple or Android to really have fun. ( With it you can collect badges, click on a QR code to access detailed information on the vehicle. (My only small aside, is that the vehicle display should have made it more clear that the QR code you want to scan is the “blue” one on the vehicle and not the b&w code on the pricing-feature label) A far cry from the loads of car brochures you would lug around the exhibit center in years past. Or you can grab a credit card sized loyalty card you can load with your email address via computer stations on site. As you take the card around the displays, just swipe it by the vehicle you are interested in and information can be emailed to you. How cool is that?

Yes, Ford Motor Company, new customer value through solutions that meet new needs.

#Detroit #Neighborhood Renewal brings sense of Community.

Can we talk? Recently I have noted just how few options Detroit residents in my neighborhood had to talk to one another. The usual routine was work and then back home. You might happen across your next door neighbor to wave to as you rushed to or from your car. Opportunities for real conversation were limited. They say, “Communication is power”. But our neighborhoods had suffered the effects of limited and/or dwindling power for quite sometime.

Luckily now, some neighborhoods are starting to see the rebirth of small business in our area. Word is slowly getting out and trial is starting to take place. The biggest impact is that we have places to gather and talk. The quick wave is leading to a conversation over coffee & pastries or a breakfast of chicken & waffles. The talk is positive. The positive is palatable as we all share our observations of the city. The positive spirit is growing through the acknowledgement that we can now talk.

Case in point, I stopped by Kuzzos Chicken & Waffles on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion. This is the historic retail area in my neighborhood. In its heyday, it was the place for every fashionista. In the past 40 years, it had become a place to drive by while shaking your head in disgust as you traveled to one of the shining malls in the northern suburbs. In the last few years, the Livernois area is starting to establish itself as an artistic retail area. Pottery and classes at “Art in Motion”. One of a kind merchandise fashioned by artisans can be had from “Love Travels Imports” and “Detroit Fiber Works”. Satisfy your sweet tooth with organic bake goods at “Good Cakes and Bakes”. Buy paintings and sculptures from the up and coming artists in the city when you shop “Jo’s Gallery”. Video games from “GamesVille”. Delightful children’s clothing from “DeCreated”. An eclectic retail experience is starting to take shape in this neighborhood. The third restaurant to open on the “Ave.” is Kuzzos. It joins “Nona” and “1917 American Bistro”.

Because I want my neighborhood to grow and thrive, I have taken the time to visit, get to know the owners and make purchases at these businesses. At this point I feel like a character from “Cheers” when I walk into an establishment on the Ave. These enterprising business owners call me by my first name, as I do them. An experience as unique as their merchandise, that a northern suburban mall can’t replicate. They tell me of their business successes. They tell me of new ideas they have to support their business growth. In our discussions, many of the owners noted how important restaurants are to build foot traffic which leads to increased business for all of them.

So during the first week of Kuzzos opening, I stopped by to give it a try. The place was packed. For this restaurant, it wasn’t so much “word of mouth”, but more accurately “word of anticipation” that had everyone waiting for the doors to open. I wasn’t the only resident in this Detroit neighborhood who wished for a breakfast place that wasn’t a McDonalds. I sat at the bar and immediately conversations erupted with my neighbors. An older gentleman, who sat on my right, said hello. He used to live in our neighborhood, but had moved to the suburbs some years back. As he talked and glanced at his newspaper, he gave a relaxed smile with the approval of the positive developments he is now seeing in this neighborhood. “I wish I could come back”, he said.

The neighbor to my left at the counter was a middle-aged woman. She told me how optimistic she was about the property values increasing near her home. She told me about a recent health scare she had, where she had to call Detroit EMS. She smiled broadly and said, “They were so supportive and good to me. I was so thankful for them that day.” She told me she called the mayors office to tell him of her good experience. She noted the mayor’s office was very effective at giving her the name and number of the head of the EMS department. She called the EMS office and told them “thank you”. She said they told her how grateful they were to get her call. “They always hear about complaints, but it’s nice to hear a thank you”, she beamed.

So now that we are starting to have businesses that we frequent. We can now talk to one another. We can share our positive stories. We can reinforce our individual sense that positive things are happening in the city of Detroit. Our communication can rebuild our power. And this power can rebuild our community.

Change is not gonna come. It hasn’t just arrived. It’s been here all the time.

Change is the constant state of the world. Just like the seasons, year after year, changes are always happening. But many people have problems with change. We are comfortable and feel a sense of control over the predictable. Even when the predictable becomes staid and boring, we cling to it like a security blanket.

Recently, the business buzz word is innovation. Change yields innovation. Have you been in a company-wide meeting in the last year, where some executive is talking about the importance of innovation in your industry? I am sure the executive starts the presentation by saying “we are in an age of accelerated technological changes”. The executive is right.
During the presentation you will see a lot of employees nod their heads.

There are a few distinct groups you can spot in the room.
1) The Tech Group – I don’t give them this name because they are associated with tech. I define this group as the employees who work on projects which are either new initiatives to the company or are the current major profit centers. People in this group nod their heads because they believe they are already part of the cutting edge work that will support the company’s future growth.
2) The Dinosaurs Group – this group of employees nod because that’s what they always do at these meetings. These employees are oblivious to and have no plans to consider the impact of the executive’s comments, regarding change, could have on them.
3) The Heavy Lift Group – this group of employees nod because they know the executive just notified them that change is coming their way. These employees may have already come to the same conclusion before the executive brought it up. They may have noticed the operational pressures impacting their current processes.
By this point you may or may not have identified the group you belong. However, breath a little easier, because no matter what group you are in now, the advice to you will be the same. Accept change as a constant. Tech group, don’t become complacent, thinking that you have arrived. Because change is constant, you may find yourself new to the Dinosaur group quicker than you think. For a member of the Heavy Lift group, I applaud you if you have the ability to notice when changes need to occur. However, remember that change is constant, so you need to make the critical leap to accept establishing an environment where you can exist with constant change.
Make the leap. Are you ready? Do you know how? Here are some steps that I am learning to practice that will help you out.
1. Identify the predictable and boring stuff. Do you still need to do them?. Should these things be changed? Can they be done more efficiently if you leverage technology to streamline the process?
2. Overcome your fear? Just close your eyes and jump in for the water is fine. Just do it? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have faith. This might sound cliche to you. But the point of these simple sayings is to tell you to do whatever you have to do to leave paralyzing fear behind.
3. Get your mind right. Yes, when all is said and done, constant change is all about you. You can choose to be part of the solution and not harp on the problem. Yes, one more cliche coming here, “Be the change you want to see”.
4. Think out of the box and embrace the possibilities. Constant change is a testimonial to the fact that anything is possible. This is your time to “Dream a little bigger darling”
5. Be open to collaborate. If you get your mind right, identify those other out of the box thinkers who have no fear and talk it out. You will be amazed what a group like this can accomplish.

So as you nod at the next company-wide meeting on change. Be ready to back it up with real change that leads to impressive innovations for your industry.