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The Next Idea

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio's new project devoted to the new innovations and ideas that will change our state. Each week on this page, Michigan's most creative and visionary leaders will share their best ideas for making innovation happen and how to move the state forward. Starting with essays posted here, the conversations will continue on Stateside with Cynthia Canty and with you on social media and in the comments section below each piece. Share your ideas, tell us about the cool things happening around you and the people we should talk to next.

Support for The Next Idea comes from The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Click here to learn more about the MEDC

Courtesy of Erika Brown-Binion

The Next Idea

Learning a new language and making new friends in a foreign land are just a few of the hardships faced by refugee children. They also encounter cultural differences that affect their ability to adapt; they worry about friends and families back in their home country; and they struggle with the uncertainty of acceptance in a foreign land.

The ProNav Angler mobile app allows you to set a route and let your trolling motor do the driving so you can focus on fishing.
ProNav Marine

The Next Idea

At this time of the year, we're hearing a lot about the economic power of hunting in Michigan. But it turns out that fishing packs an even larger economic punch. Fishing brings in about $2.4 billion to the state.

Our latest guest on The Next Idea has helped to create something to help anglers come away happy when they set out on the water. And it comes from an unexpected source: your smartphone.

A peek into the LEGO castle
Courtesy of Play-Place for Autistic Children's Facebook page

The Next Idea

“Inclusion. Acceptance. Support.”

That’s the mission of Play-Place for Autistic Children.

It’s a 25,000 square foot facility in Sterling Heights in Macomb County, and there’s no place like it elsewhere in the country.

Play-Place is a nonprofit that gives kids who are on the autism spectrum a safe, fun, comfortable place to hang out and play with others.

For parents and caregivers, it’s a place to find “me-too” conversations with someone who is also going through the challenges presented by autism.

When it is complete, Afterhouse will support the cultivation of crops such as figs and pomegranates.
Steven Mankouche

The Next Idea

It wasn’t too long ago that the house located at 3347 Burnside St. in northeast Detroit was a true eyesore.

Long since abandoned, it had been damaged beyond repair by fire and vandalism. There were boards over the windows and spray-paint on the walls—all the telltale signs of the kind of blight that has afflicted neighborhoods throughout Detroit.

Feliciano Paredes grew up in a family of migrant farm workers.
Courtesy of Feliciano Paredes

The Next Idea

I grew up in a family of migrant farm workers. Every spring, Dad would take the truck to the mechanic to make sure it was in good condition to make that 2,000-mile trip across the country to pick crops. I’d let my friends know when we were leaving, and when they could expect to see me again in the fall. I remember waking up to Mom yelling at us from downstairs to get up and get ready to go. We’d scramble out of bed, make sure we all went to the bathroom, and sit down for breakfast before heading out just before dawn.

No matter how prepared we were, we faced many challenges as we went from state to state. We’d break down on the road, and because we weren’t familiar with what resources were available, we would end up spending a few nights in the truck until Dad could find help. It was common to arrive at farms only to find out that we didn’t have work, or that the labor camp was full. Basic health care and educational resources were also scarce. The transient nature of our work, our language and income, and the insecurity of not knowing the local area worked against us.

Wealthy Street used to be a predominantly African American business district, but Robinson told us there are only two black-owned businesses there today.
flickr user Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

One proven way to give local businesses a boost is by grouping them together and building a brand. Think Detroit’s Greektown or Corktown, or Little Italy and Chinatown in other cities.

Jamiel Robinson is working to make that happen for black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids.

Robinson is founder and curator of the group Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

The STEMinista Project is active in Southeast Michigan right now, but Matthews told us it's getting a lot of national attention and she could easily see its reach expanding.
Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

It’s clear that Michigan’s economic future depends on turning out graduates who are strong in STEM skills - science, technology, engineering and math.

Attracting and keeping girls in STEM fields is the mission of The STEMinista Project, founded by Michigan Science Center chief executive officer and president, Dr. Tonya Matthews.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

One of my favorite movies from last year was The Big Short. It brilliantly explained many of the complex factors that set in motion the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. It also captured the arrogance of the age. But the movie got one thing wrong. It suggested that only a few insiders understood what was really happening, when in fact many professionals and academics knew as early as 2003 that a crash was coming.

US Embassy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

So here we are at the end of one of the most odious and vitriolic campaigns in memory. Rather than adding yet more commentary, I’d like to dig deeper into a claim both parties make – that they will bring jobs back to the U.S. The question no one is asking is “where exactly will the jobs come from?”

Valenstein hopes the project will help those in need of social services connect with agencies that are better suited to help them.
flickr user Rosser321 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Take funding from the Affordable Care Act, add a $70 million state innovation model grant to the state Department of Health and Human Services, and you’re about to see an ambitious new project that can change health care delivery in Michigan.

It’s called Michigan’s Blueprint for Health Innovation.

Holman told us some of the top jobs in Michigan are for CNC operators and welders, but employers are having a hard time filling those positions.
flickr user David Urbonas / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

The message we’ve been hearing in Michigan is pretty consistent: employers are having a hard time filling jobs that pay well – jobs that rely on skills in science, math, technology, arts and engineering.

Chris Holman is leading a push to make mid-Michigan’s capital region a national leader in STEAM education and fields.

Holman is CEO of the Michigan Business Network and the Chair of T3: Teach. Talent. Thrive.

T3 released a report last week regarding the “State of STEAM” in mid-Michigan right now.

Freewrite, from Astrohaus
Courtesy of Astrohaus

The Next Idea
 

If someone asked you to give up your smartphone, your tablet, your laptop, It’s likely you’d have a hard time agreeing to let go.

But as much as we revel in technology and all its bells and whistles, there is a growing awareness that the technology is controlling us.

The tail is wagging the dog.

That thinking has led a couple of Michiganders to come up with something that strips all this technology down to its purest form. No bells, no whistles, no distractions.

"While we can choose to turn off our technology, there is no turning back from the new expectation that we are available anytime, anywhere," DeGraff writes.
Public Domain / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

If you listen to the World Economic Forum, we are now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The WEF calls this “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” Just as mass production launched an era of large-scale centralized organizations at the turn of the 20th century, the Internet and smartphones in the 21st century are ushering in new forms of collaboration — and conflict.

Technologies are replacing the fundamental missions of organizations. They are moving from scale — creating something once and distributing it everywhere — to scope, creating an infinite variety of offerings. Everything from your made-to-order sneakers to the medications you take for your unique ailments are being mass customized. That is, companies are using integrated technologies and supply chains, along with complex information from diverse sources, a.k.a. Big Data, to create a product or service just for you, just in time.

Ford autonomous test vehicle
Ford Motor Company

The Next Idea

Start talking about Willow Run and chances are pretty good that images of Rosie The Riveters building B-24 bombers in World War II come to mind.

But there are big plans being cooked up to transform the old factory grounds near Ypsilanti into a highly advanced proving ground for autonomous and connected vehicles.

Pete Bigelow spells it all out in his story for Car and Driver.

Flickr user TIm Ereneta/ Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

I spend a lot of time looking for the future. I never really find it. Humans are too unpredictable. Innovations are like teenagers. They’re never really sure what they want be when they grow up, if they grow up at all. You can only hope they find their rightful place in the world somewhere along the way.

flickr user Ken Lund / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Driverless cars are on the horizon. That much is clear.

We’ve heard from businesses, engineers and politicians about how autonomous vehicles could change day-to-day life for all of us.

How might driverless cars affect the lives of people with disabilities?

"The traditional classroom style was not the best way to teach this type of information ... Once the guys were able to see hands on what it meant to run a business using the food truck as a classroom, it completely changed what they thought," Harris said.
Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

The Skillman Foundation has awarded $50,000 each to six different programs in connection with the My Brother’s Keeper Detroit Innovation Challenge.

One of the six is Giving Them the Business. The goal is to teach young men of color to be owners and operators of restaurants, not just hired help, according to a release from the foundation.

Jerrell Harris coordinates Giving Them the Business. He joined us today.

To fight the system, ignore it and innovate now

Sep 29, 2016
history.nasa.gov

The Next Idea

Recently, a bright young colleague of mine alerted me to a meeting of the minds at a top technology institution. The event was to be a discussion of breakthrough research and innovative ideas that are flying under the radar. So I joined the online conference just in time to hear a web feed of CIA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden giving a rather unremarkable account of the authoritarian state of things here in the land of the free.

Courtesy of Brian Connors

The Next Idea

China is Michigan’s third largest export market. A new nonprofit is up and running, planning to encourage more Chinese investment here.

Brian Connors is the executive director of the Michigan-China Innovation Center.

Connors sat down with us today to talk about how he plans to attract the attention of Chinese investors and why China is such a valuable business partner for Michigan.

Courtesy of Lynne Golodner

The Next Idea

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and went to school where most of the kids looked like me. During the Jewish holidays, teachers didn't assign work because so many of us were absent. There might have been five or six African-American kids in my high school, and no one wore a hijab in public.

I’ve always been curious about the way other people live. My journey as a journalist and author and writing professor has taken me to find common ground in people different from me. I visited a mosque, attended a candlelight service in a Catholic church in Ireland, and spent a plane ride to Israel having a deep, powerful conversation with a Palestinian man going to see his family. As I developed my writing craft, I continued to seek out stories that showed the similarities in people, the beliefs we share, and the customs we have in common.

According to Chopra, diagnosis is a complicated process made only more difficult by time constraints.
Public Domain

The Next Idea

If ever there is a time you want your physicians to be on top of their game, it's when he or she is determining your diagnosis. 

Yet, doctors who are overworked and stressed do make mistakes. And the results can be fatal.

One famous case: actor John Ritter was diagnosed and treated for a heart attack. Turns out he actually had a tear in his aorta, which killed him.

Dr. Vineet Chopra is with the Patient Safety Enhancement Program, and he's researching ways to change the way physicians work to give them more time to think about their patients' diagnoses. 

Public Domain

The Next Idea

Among small business owners in Michigan, access to capital remains one of the most significant challenges, especially for people in underserved communities. This seems to be true even in places with improving economies, like West Michigan. The area has seen a strong post-recession recovery in recent years, and ranks highly in the prevalence of investors. WalletHub named Grand Rapids #2 in its 2016 rankings of “Best Large Cities to Start a Business,” yet it was ranked 43rd out of 150 cities analyzed in terms of access to resources.

Mark Katakowski explained that as we age, the number, function and "therapeutic potential" of our bodies' stem cells diminshes.
flickr user Tareq Salahuddin / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Could the ancient search for the Fountain of Youth lead to Ann Arbor?

That's where a company called Forever Labs is working to solve the universal problem of getting old. 

Its solution: store your stem cells when you're a young adult so you can use them as you age.

Flickr user USDAgov/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

There are frequent and spirited discussions about students who aren’t getting what they need to succeed in Michigan’s public schools.

Nanette Janecke of Western Michigan University is adding another group of students to that conversation: gifted students.

They’re students who could achieve a lot, but who – in most Michigan school districts – aren’t given many tools for success, Janecke said.

Bill Schroer told us that we waste about 30% of our food in America.
United States Department of Agriculture

The Next Idea

There's a halfway decent chance you scraped food into the trash can today. Or maybe you pitched an apple core out the car window on your way to work.

If so, then you are contributing to America's food waste problem, and it's a big one.

Some $218 billion big.

Battle Creek wants to be America's test laboratory and lead the way to zero food waste.

A 2014 Impala driving off the line at Oshawa Assembly.
General Motors

The Next Idea

Around the world, Michigan is known as a state that makes things. And the way we make things is about to undergo a massive shift – so massive, in fact, that experts are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.

Tourists helping villagers set up a community hall in Cambodia
flickr user Thomas Wanhoff / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Would you be willing to take a vacation that's centered around helping others?

Perhaps through a church or school group. Maybe it's teaching English. Maybe it's building a school in a struggling country like, say, Haiti. 

It's called "voluntourism."

The intentions are good, but the results might not be as helpful as the voluntourists are hoping for.

Rebecca Gray

The Next Idea

In an era when it seems much of the country is in a face-off over race, from Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter, how do we talk about race or even change attitudes about race?

The latest contributor to The Next Idea is Rebecca Gray from Michigan United who is trying a new idea in Downriver Wayne County. It's a new race canvass effort. White people talking to white people about race. The strategy is intended to get white voters thinking about race and racism in a good old-fashioned door-to-door approach.

Flickr user christiaan_008/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

July automotive sales were up only 0.7%, bringing back memories of when Detroit’s Big Three struggled to stay afloat not too long ago. Both serve as a reminder of what keeps the state’s economy alive: diversification of industry.

Detroit Horse Power

The Next Idea

I feel exceedingly fortunate to have grown up with horses as a big part of my childhood. I was brought up in suburban Westchester County, New York, about 20 minutes from prime horse country. I started regular riding lessons and showing when I was about 10. At age 14, I began competing in the Olympic sport of Three Day Eventing -- a horse triathlon that combines dressage, cross country, and stadium jumping. My thoroughbred, Rush, and I worked as a team -- training daily, building a partnership, testing our skills, persevering through disappointments and injuries. Horse people can describe at length the many valuable life lessons we learn from these amazing animals. Those skills and experiences hold the most weight for me as I look back on my international competitions and time spent working for top professionals.

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