Detroit’s neighborhoods have long struggled in the face of declining population and growing epidemics of vacancy and blight, and few areas have been as hard-hit as the Brightmoor community, located on Detroit’s far west side. Between 2000 and 2010, this portion of the city lost more than a third of its population, and the housing vacancy rate doubled to nearly 30 percent. Nevertheless, Brightmoor remains home to an active core of passionate, committed residents and community development organizations who work tirelessly to improve the condition of the struggling area. Through effective advocacy and promotion, stakeholders in Brightmoor ensure that the neighborhood continues to be a fixture in Detroit’s long-term planning discussions. As a result of the community’s work, many funders and outside programs are looking to Brightmoor future initiatives. This is the story of one such program—TechTown’s SWOT City—and how they used data to inform their activities and improve the Brightmoor community.
In 2011, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation approached Data Driven Detroit to develop a baseline profile of the Brightmoor neighborhood that could be used to direct the foundation’s continuing efforts to support early childhood education. Out of this partnership, the Brightmoor Community Needs Assessment (BCNA) was born, providing an in-depth account of neighborhood conditions compared to the adjacent community of Cody Rouge and the City of Detroit as a whole. The report examines demographic, socioeconomic and housing indicators; includes an inventory of community assets in both Brightmoor and Cody Rouge; and assesses existing programs for children ages 0 to 5. Though the BCNA was initially written primarily to guide policy for the Fisher Foundation, the broad focus of the report ensures its relevance for any individual or group looking to learn more about the landscape in Brightmoor.
Several months after D3 delivered the report, SWOT City—a TechTown program dedicated to providing entrepreneurial assistance in Detroit’s outer neighborhoods—received a $150,000 grant from the Fisher Foundation to provide business incubation services in Brightmoor. Working with students at the University of Windsor, SWOT City set out to provide data analysis, strategic consulting services, and accounting assistance to existing business owners, while also encouraging new entrepreneurs in the community. Shortly after receiving the grant, the program’s staff adopted the BCNA as their primary data resource to support and guide their engagement with the Brightmoor business community.
The BCNA continues to impact SWOT City’s efforts in a number of ways. The program provides copies of the assessment to students and volunteers to increase their awareness and understanding of the community. Leadership also uses the maps D3 created to identify areas where resources can be targeted to have the greatest impact on Brightmoor’s business community as a whole. The report has also helped to guide policy on a broader level; SWOT City staff emphasized that the child data contained in the BCNA was essential to developing a youth entrepreneurship program in conjunction with the Brightmoor Community Center. Indeed, without the information contained in the report, this program may not have been implemented. Furthermore, SWOT City’s use of the report does not end at Brightmoor’s borders. Based on the comparisons included in the assessment, the program is now in the preliminary stages of extending its work to the adjacent Cody Rouge neighborhood.
Ultimately, SWOT City’s experience with the BCNA represents an exciting example of the potential for data to transform a community. Initially, the report was commissioned by a single client to guide future investments specifically oriented toward a targeted area of policy. However, through the BCNA’s broad context and in-depth analysis, SWOT City has been able to use the assessment to support and direct outreach initiatives in a field with limited relevance to early childhood education, reaffirming the adaptability and power of open-source data analysis. According to Derrin Leppek, Director of Place-Based Entrepreneurship at Techtown and the head of the SWOT City program, “the report has impacted the overall discourse in Brightmoor. It allows us to understand the community in a deep way.”
Interested in learning more about the BCNA, or any of D3’s other reports? Be sure to explore the Projects page on our website for more fascinating D3 products!