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Don't Forget the Motor City: Philanthropy in Detroit

American philanthropy claims to have responded generously to the plea not to “forget the Motor City” famously put by Martha and the Vandellas in their Motown hit from 1964, “Dancing in the Street.” As Suzanne Perry reported in a recent cover story for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “grant makers from across the country have provided more than $628 million dollars in the Motor City in the past few years.”

But in the face of the city’s massive population loss, soaring numbers of abandoned buildings, deteriorating public services, gross political corruption, and, finally, its municipal bankruptcy, has philanthropy really made a difference? Have otherwise well-intentioned foundations made the right kinds of investment, in the right amounts? Are foundations building a solid base for the city’s renaissance? Or do they tend to focus on a few large, splashy projects downtown, forgetting the Motor City’s hard-pressed inner city neighborhoods?

These and other questions were addressed by a panel of distinguished guest experts at a Hudson event on November 6, 2013. Senior Fellow William Schambra, director of Hudson’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy & Civil Renewal, served as moderator.

Required Readings
Suzanne Perry, Detroit Tests What Foundations Can Do to Rescue Troubled Cities, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2013.

Suzanne Perry, Urban Renewal Leaves Out Some of City’s Needy, Say Nonprofit Activists, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2013.

Suzanne Perry, Detroit’s Nonprofits Hope School Overhaul Is National Model, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2013.

Suzanne Perry, Innovation in the Arts Helps Spark Detroit’s Revival, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2013.

Suzanne Perry, Pulling Together to Fight Blight, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2013.

Tonya Allen Panelist

CEO, The Skillman Foundation

Michael LaFaive Panelist

Director, Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Paul C. Light Panelist

Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service, NYU Wagner

Suzanne Perry Panelist

Senior Editor at the Chronicle of Philanthropy

William Schambra Moderator

Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute

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