Minding the Gap

By: Delphia Simmons

“Please Mind the Gap.”  If you have ever ridden the London subway you’ve heard this automated phrase upon entry and exit.  What is meant as a safety warning to keep passengers from inadvertently having an extremity caught between the train and the platform has become an appropriate analogy for paying attention to all kinds of gaps; gaps in knowledge, gaps in understanding, gaps in plans, gaps in strategies, and more importantly–socioeconomic gaps.

While the gap between a train and a platform is easy to navigate, the gaps resulting from lack of inclusion and lack of opportunity become barriers.

The reinvention of Detroit must include even more innovators who are paying attention to and helping fill the gaps that exist between those closer to economic center and those set on the margins.  Creating paths to microenterprise and entrepreneurship for individuals who may lack experience, cash, credit, or collateral resources is a not a new thing, but it’s a newer paradigm for urban cities.

One of the major challenges of reinvention is inclusion. We have a chance to model urban gap-minding for the rest of the country by intentionally minding both the existing and naturally occurring socioeconomic gaps that become barriers to inclusion.

Previously, few options existed for lower income individuals wanting to participate in enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Some may not even have a business idea figured out yet but, no doubt, given an idea and an opportunity, would gladly jump on board.  For some a microenterprise on- ramp would also be an off-ramp from the welfare system and/or homelessness.

I’m encouraged by the many initiatives rising out of Detroit’s communities through gap-minding efforts.  These gap-minders, whether in neighborhood associations, small scale organizations, Foundations, or larger businesses with more than one bottom line, are banding together to create solutions—filling gaps in knowledge, gaps in services, gaps in entrepreneurial, and micro-enterprise opportunities.

The number of entrepreneurial and training opportunities addressing lower income individuals is increasing.  This newspaper (Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper) is the first of what will be a number of low to zero barrier-to-entry enterprises under the umbrella of Thrive Detroit, L3C.  We are currently working on our second enterprise opportunity and will launch a crowd-funding campaign through “Detroit Big F Deal” http://www.detroitbigfdeal.com/ a local web-based community financing platform.

To hear more about some of those working to mind the gaps in Detroit’s reinvention go here:  http://bit.ly/IvaK4f and listen to the April 23, 2012 broadcast of “Radio in Black and White”.  The segment—“What’s right about Detroit?”—consisted of two hours of lively conversation with some of Detroit’s minders.

To see and read more about some of the entrepreneurial initiatives in Detroit go here: http://www.uixdetroit.com/  to read and watch video clips about Urban Innovation.

In order for Detroit to experience true thrivation we must be intentional in providing opportunities and removing barriers for thousands of lower income citizens who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Let’s make it happen in the D.

 

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