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

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.

 Howard Hertz told us Detroit should lean into its musical legacy the way cities like Nashville and Austin do.
flickr user tomovox / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Take a moment to think of all the music that's been born and bred in Detroit.

From Motown to techno, rock to hip hop and jazz, and all parts in-between, Detroit artists have made an impression around the world.

Yet, the city's done next to nothing to capitalize on its city's musical heritage. 

Our latest contributor to The Next Idea is leading an effort to change that, by getting Detroit to brand itself as a "music city" and build a downtown museum celebrating Southeast Michigan's rich musical heritage.

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

The Next Idea

 

Many Michiganders enjoy walking in our outdoor spaces, whether private or public, being rejuvenated by the sights and sounds they encounter. But how many know what they are experiencing? Are they just seeing “walls of green?” Are they merely hearing a sound coming from somewhere high in a tree? And do they know whether the animals and plants they see are healthy?

Jeffery Allen Ford writes: "Psychological experts have determined that Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michelangelo were all extremely high-functioning individuals with autism."
Courtesy of Jeffery Allen Ford

The Next Idea

We in Michigan usually take great pride in our state's natural beauty and precious resources. So, I find it incredibly disheartening that one of our state's most beautiful and precious resources – its autistic community – is largely misunderstood, marginalized and woefully under-valued.

Mason County competition stimulates local business

Jul 18, 2016
The Momentum Business Plan Competition galvanized entreprenuer Andy Thomas's brewery, Starving Artist Brewing.
Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

For the last two years, Mason County has the Momentum Business Plan Competition, which awards $50,000 to entrepreneurs during the startup phase of their businesses. The project aims to boost entrepreneurship and small businesses within the county. Prize money is provided by local sponsors and organizations.

Commonwealth Detroit works at offering affordable property for creative minds in their 128,000-square-foot building.
Robert Elmes / Commonwealth Detroit

The Next Idea

Young artists can struggle to make a living if they lack the proper knowledge to start and care for a storefront – and that’s where a new Detroit project comes in.

Urban farming is one way public space is being used in Detroit.
Flickr user Liz Patek / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

 

Private development has changed the face of Detroit. New restaurants, shops and houses have popped up in Midtown, Corktown and downtown Detroit. But what about public spaces?

 

Our latest contributor to The Next Idea is Anya Sirota, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan. She’s also the principal of Akoaki, a practice in Detroit involving architecture, art and cultural infrastructure.

 

Sirota believes there aren’t enough public spaces in Detroit that offer openness and the opportunity to build a sense of belonging. She thinks public space is crucial to the health of a city.

Is this the end of marriage, capitalism, and God?

Jun 27, 2016
FLICKR USER JIM BAUER/FLICKR / HTTPS://FLIC.KR/P/91DHSU

The Next Idea

 

The next big thing isn’t a clever gadget or miracle drug, it’s a way of life -- not a breakthrough invention but a social innovation.

 

Wish you were more creative? Try taking a walk

Jun 20, 2016
With exercises and effort, anyone can train their brain to be more creative, says Dr. David Fessell.
Flickr/vaXzine

The Next Idea

What is the mental fuel for innovation? What internal power plant do we tap into?

Creativity. It drives innovation, collaboration, and in many cases, success. It involves everything from the everyday creativity of the hard­working woman who figures out how to make a pound of hamburger feed her family for a week, to the genius-­level creativity of Steve Jobs.

The International Symbol of Access
wikimedia user Ltljltlj / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0 / Public Domain

The Next Idea

Each month, the State of Michigan releases unemployment numbers, which are seen as a major indicator of the state’s economic health. One subset of these numbers is often overlooked — the employment levels for people with disabilities.

Michigan and other states struggle with the challenge of employing people in this group. The discrepancy is significant. As of March 2016, the national unemployment rate for people without disabilities was 4.9%. For people with disabilities, it was more than double that figure. Perhaps even more indicative of the challenge is the gap in the labor force participation rate of nearly 69% for people without disabilities, and almost 20% for people with disabilities.

Jeff DeGraff of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business
Twitter @JeffDeGraff

The Next Idea

Six presidential campaigns later I’ve still got Bill Clinton’s iconic 1992 slogan running through my head: It’s the economy, stupid.

But it’s not the economy that I’m thinking about -- it’s the corporate relocation that’s on my mind.

What was so effective about Clinton’s irresistible one-liner is the way it redirected American attention.

Flickr user Newman University/Flickr

The Next Idea

Hundreds of leaders have descended upon Mackinac Island for the Mackinac Policy Conference this week. Their aim is to explore solutions to Michigan’s problems, and education across the state has been a big talking point.

One of those leaders is Doug Rothwell, CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

Cass Adair

The Next Idea

In 2007, 10 foundations came together and put together a $100 million fund. The New Economic Initiative recapitalized in 2014 with an additional $33.5 million. They have investments in non-profits and companies that can employ others.

The NEI has served grants to 4,400 client companies. It has helped develop 1,600 new companies; 40 of those companies were created by people of color and about one-third of them by women. Pamela Lewis is director of the New Economic Initiative.

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Climate change presents one of the biggest problems we have ever faced. It is literally as large as our planet. We must take action to address it or its consequences will intensify, growing more costly and increasingly affecting us all.

Fortunately, we know what to do -- transition to cleaner sources of energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Quickly.

In the electricity sector, this means rapidly tapping into renewable energy resources like wind and solar on a grand scale.

Flickr user Alex Proimos/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0
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?

Jodi Westrick

The Next Idea

If everyone knows of 20th century Detroit as the Motor City, what's Detroit's identity today and what should it be for the future? Every Thursday on our Next Idea segment, we look at the innovations and we look at the new ideas that could reshape Michigan. 

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

The Next Idea

 

Modern, high-tech innovation has benefited the world enormously. It has improved health and safety, and helped us communicate and travel across borders. But lots of people cannot afford these technologies – many of which are of limited usefulness for economically disadvantaged citizens who live outside of metropolitan areas. Indeed, these citizens were never the main market for these technologies in the first place.

The black widow is one of two venomous species of spiders in Michigan
flickr user matt maves / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Pesticides are a critical part of a business that is very important to Michigan: agriculture.

You need to control the insects that are threatening your crop, but you don’t want to kill off the “good” bugs along with the “bad.” Nor do you want to pose a threat to people, pets, water sources or livestock.

A new Michigan-made insecticide could be the answer to this problem, and it all starts with spider venom.

Mentorships and teaching STEM in K-12 would go a long way to get female and minority students' interested.
Flickr/Wellington College / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is a tremendously popular buzzword these days.  

 

 

The Girls Rock Detroit band The Tiger Bots performs
Peter Smith / Girls Rock Detroit

The Next Idea

There are plenty of ways to empower young girls, but Melissa Coppola has a new approach: rock ‘n' roll.

Coppola, a graduating masters-level piano student at the University of Michigan, launched Girls Rock Detroit. The summer camp is a crash course in creating rock music for girls ages eight to 16.

Grocoff: "If we wish to sustain the climate to which we and all living things have adapted, then we need to design systems more like old growth forests and less like tree farms."
Jim Sorbie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

If the first Industrial Revolution was characterized by centralization of our water, energy, food and organizational infrastructures, then the next Industrial Revolution will be characterized by the decentralization of these human-designed systems. Biomimicry, innovation inspired by nature, will be our framework for sustainable solutions to human challenges.

Morgan Willis

The Next Idea

When Amber Williams and Morgan Willis talk about #ICantBreathe or #BlackLivesMatter, they aren't just talking about Twitter hashtags. For these black activists and many others in Michigan, digital technologies create important spaces of solace, solidarity, struggle, and connection. At a recent conference at University of Michigan called #UMBLACKOUT, Williams, Willis, and an array of local and national black activists discussed the myriad ways that black organizers use technology for both politics and pleasure, online and offline. 

Jeff DeGraff of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business
Twitter @JeffDeGraff

The Next Idea

“I would love to see a renaissance in innovation here in the state of Michigan”
 

Those are the words of Jeff DeGraff, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. DeGraff knows very well that one of the biggest challenges in business is taking a great idea and bringing it to the marketplace and making it grow.

Wikimedia user Brian Ammon / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

When looking at the modern world of innovation or business, you really can’t ignore China.

The country’s influence is huge, but interacting with Chinese companies, educators or officials can present a tough challenge for native English speakers: Mandarin Chinese is so fundamentally different from English, especially in tonal inflections.

Catherine Ryu is a Michigan State University researcher who is working with a team of students to develop a new game that could help English speakers learn Mandarin.

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