Data Driven Detroit (D3) is an organization that values data—and how it can be used to help people. Keeping in line with our people-centric values, in January of 2022 D3 made the transition into a worker-owned cooperative.
This change was in the works for several years, and includes a new governance structure designed by the new worker ownership team, with the support of a wide variety of organizations, including The Skillman Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, and PR and legal professionals.
But how did we get to this point? Here’s a look at how far D3 has come since its inception in 2008.
D3 (originally the Detroit-Area Community Information System) was founded in 2008 to serve as a one-stop-shop for data on Detroit and the region. We were incubated by City Connect Detroit with funding from The Skillman Foundation and The Kresge Foundation. Within our first year, D3 was selected by the Urban Institute to join the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), a learning network, coordinated by the Urban Institute, of independent organizations in 30 cities that share a mission to ensure all communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.
In 2012, D3 became an affiliated program of the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA). MNA strengthened our operations and guided D3 through a leadership transition after the departure of our founding director. Together, MNA and D3 executed one of the most ambitious data collection projects in Detroit’s history, Motor City Mapping.
Decision to Become a L3C
In October of 2015, D3 shifted to the structure of a standalone Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C). Being an L3C requires us to make decisions that align with the mission of D3, including how we operate internally, what kinds of projects we work on, and how we get data and information out to the community.
During the transition from nonprofit to L3C, our Executive Director, Erica Raleigh, sat on the board of Center for Community Based Enterprise (C2BE), where she was exposed to the idea of worker-ownership and began almost immediately exploring this option for D3. Worker ownership became an appealing alternative for owning D3 since it is a more democratic and accountable method.
Transition to Employee-Owned Cooperative
Following a successful first year under our new structure, we began to actively build our team’s capacity and governance structures with the goal of converting D3 into a worker-owned organization. This structure allows us to better live out D3’s values in our day-to-day work. We partnered with the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE) to help with the early stages of this process, and have worked with other legal and accounting professionals.
While we started the process of building the worker owner organizational structure a while ago, we quickly realized that updating a 10-year-old organization is more complicated than starting a worker-owned cooperative from scratch. In 2020, we formalized the future ownership group as D3’s board to continue building our capacity as future owners and begin transitioning some of the decision-making authority from our executive director to our collective experiences to ensure transparent governance and oversight of the community asset that we represent. It also helps us elevate the work of all our employees, building relationships across the organization rather than focusing on D3’s reputation being tied to a sole owner or executive director.
More voices within D3 contribute to our collective leadership as we expand from our original worker owner team as more workers at D3 go through our worker-owner training, and accept invitations to join.