Detroit Nation Connects Ex-Pats, Entrepreneurs In Need of Mentorship

11/9/12Follow @XconomyDET

Detroit Nation, a new organization of Motor City ex-pats who want to help with the city’s revitalization from afar, will kick off its Drive program next week with events in Ann Arbor, MI, and Chicago. The purpose of Detroit Nation, says program manager Meg Pouncy, is to connect national mentors from all walks of life who feel a kinship with Detroit to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits in the city who have hit an “innovation challenge” and need some help scaling.

“The idea isn’t that our teams [of ex-pats] know more than Detroit startups, but that we’re trying to expand the bandwidth to address issues and help them reach that next stage of growth,” Pouncy explains.

The Drive program, Pouncy says, assembles ex-pats in teams of six to eight and matches them, through a skills- and interest-based process, with social entrepreneurs in Detroit to assist them in overcoming self-identified business-development challenges—all at no cost to the entrepreneurs. So far, Detroit Nation has about 2,000 members and, by early 2013, there will be official Detroit Nation chapters in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Texas, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Pouncy says Detroit Nation ex-pats will hold in-person gatherings in chapter cities called Blitz sessions, where teams will hold a three-hour brainstorming meeting on the startup or nonprofit they’ve been partnered with. There, they’ll hash out a growth strategy for the Detroit enterprise and produce a PDF or PowerPoint document with recommendations. (Eventually, Pouncy says the teams will produce videos detailing their growth recommendations.) “Everywhere we hold Drive sessions will be equipped with wi-fi and white boards,” she adds. “And people who aren’t living in chapter cities can still participate through Google hangouts.”

Pouncy says there will also be an opportunity for teams to partner with the Detroit entities in a bigger way if the Blitz sessions don’t seem to cover what the organization needs. In that case, teams will meet four consecutive weeks for four hours at a time to develop an implementable plan of action. Detroit Nation is also working with local startup Patronicity to give its members the ability to donate money to the startups and nonprofits they’re partnering with.

Detroit Nation, which is funded by the national nonprofit Repair the World, has already started holding events in chapter cities, such as meet-ups around the screening of the recently released documentary “Detropia.” A Nov. 24 event is planned called “(Re)Discover Detroit,” which will take Detroiters home for Thanksgiving on tours of thriving neighborhoods and businesses and then make the pitch for them to give back. “We want to encourage people to volunteer and know it’s not heavy lifting volunteering,” Pouncy notes. “We want people from all backgrounds to add whatever they can.”

Pouncy, a Detroit native who graduated from Renaissance High School and the College of Creative Studies before moving on to a design career in San Francisco and Pennsylvania, is back in her hometown because she wanted to be closer to family. In addition to running Detroit Nation, she’s the founder of a design firm called Blue Sugar. “I was looking for a way to get involved with the nonprofit sector,” she says. “I’m very excited to participate in such a unique way to help the city’s redevelopment. As an entrepreneur, I find it extremely fulfilling.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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  • Shekinah

    I hope Detropia didn’t add to the ruin porn narratives that are constantly blasted about Detroit. We need more empowering narratives. People need to know about the good that is Detroit.

    In other news, I’m in DC and I can’t wait to meet other Detroiters who are dedicated to transforming Detroit.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/detroit Sarah Schmid

    Detropia wasn’t as heavily into the ruin porn narrative, but since it was filmed in 2010, it already felt really outdated to me. (Not much mention of all those good things happening in Detroit you referenced.) What I did like is that it spent a lot of time on the long-time resident perspective, which doesn’t often get included. It’s worth seeing.

    Great to hear that you’re getting involved from afar!