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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

The Spoke Folks, a Grand Rapids non-profit, wants to put "More Butts On Bikes" and help people maintain them.
user kconnors / morgueFile

The Next Idea

Imagine cyclists, and there’s an image that might come to mind of people wearing Spandex pants and helmets out for a ride on country roads; or maybe of someone riding through the city on their way to work or the grocery store.

There is an economic and sometimes racial gap between those two cycling worlds.

Esther Vargas / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

During the recent Academy Awards broadcast, Samsung aired a commercial for its new phone. Casey Neistat, a YouTube and HBO reality personality, narrates over a montage of young people engaged in feats of derring-do and uninhibited expressions of creativity. He declares that we are the true makers and maestros, and finishes with this zinger: “When we are told that we can’t, we all have the same answer - watch me!” And, there it is. The glorification of our selfie culture.

Venture capitalists can help a business idea grow from the whiteboard to the board room.
Marc-Anthony Macon / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

You can't have a successful entrepreneurial community without money. And that's exactly why venture capitalists play such a critical role in helping Michigan start-ups get up and running.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
flickr user frankileon / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Opioid addiction and meth use are making news almost every day, but tackling today’s drug epidemic isn’t easy. Treatments like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous might work for some who struggle with addiction, but not for others.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Anthony Quintano / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Facebook’s 32-year-old billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been touring the country. He made stops in Michigan recently. He toured Ford’s Rouge plant and even tried his hand at putting parts on an F-150 pickup truck. Turns out time on the assembly line is hard work. He also privately met with Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

According to Eric Lupher, cities, towns and villages pooling resources could help make services more affordable.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

A survey of local government leaders across Michigan finds they are not happy with state government.

The latest Michigan Public Policy Survey conducted by the University of Michigan heard from officials in more than 1,300 cities, counties, townships and villages.

front of twelve oaks mall
theblacklightstudio / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

More and more Americans are choosing to shop in the comfort of their homes. With a few clicks of a mouse from online retailers like Amazon and Jet.com, almost any product imaginable can be delivered to a shopper’s door within one or two days.

American malls are struggling to compete on the pricing, selection, and convenience offered by online shopping.

And because the retail industry built so much space during the 70s and 80s and 90s, dead or dying malls now dot the landscape of American suburbs.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission decided to eliminate most of the net neutrality regulations that required broadband providers to inform customers about how they manage their networks.
Dion Hinchcliffe / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

In the early 1990s, I visited billionaire George Soros’ office in New York City to provide some direction on an investment his firm had made in a technology startup run by senior Israeli Air Force officers. Their technology was something akin to an iPod, and this was almost a decade before you could store your entire music collection on a device the size of a bar of soap.

Courtesy of Brett Kopf

The Next Idea

Why is it that you can summon an Uber with one click on your smart phone, but if your child is struggling in school, you might not find out for weeks?

Ann Arbor or Paris?
FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Not too long ago, Upper Peninsula native Dawn Verbrigghe had a career humming along in super-cool Brooklyn.

Then, out of the blue, came two job offers. One, in Paris, which promised a rooftop apartment in the City of Light. The other offer: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

A close-up shot of a cannabis plant
Charlón / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Northern Michigan University has unveiled a new program: a first-of-its-kind undergraduate degree in medicinal plant chemistry where students will study the science of cannabis.

Mark Paulsen joined Stateside to discuss the new program. He’s a professor and head of the Department of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University.

Food hubs can help small, local farmers connect with bigger distributors.
Friends of Family Farmers / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

What would it mean for smaller farmers and growers to sell their crops to big distributors or for consumers to know that the head of lettuce in their salad came from a nearby farm?

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Take the combined brainpower of Michigan State, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University-- and apply that to solving the water infrastructure problems we face not only in Flint, but across Michigan.

young woman at Science Gallery Lab
Courtesy of Jeff Grabill

The Next Idea

Science Gallery has been described as a place where science and art collide. The result? Creative ways to tackle some of the world's biggest problems.

The first Science Gallery Lab is in Dublin. Now, Michigan State University is launching Science Gallery Lab Detroit.

Dan Nelson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

A few years before the Great Recession, I was an advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank. I provided some limited advice on how to stimulate growth through innovation. It was too little, too late. Many financial experts far more capable than myself tried to help prevent the imminent collapse. But the politicians were sure they knew more about our economic system than the experts. Hindsight proves they knew very little and it was the everyday American who suffered from their ignorance and arrogance.

Cattle grazing in a field.
F Delventhal / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Everyone from author Michael Pollan to climate change experts have suggested raising cattle for beef is hard on the environment.

The amount of resources that go into producing a pound of beef are a lot greater than what it takes to produce a pound of chicken, for instance. Plus, in some cases, transporting beef further adds to its carbon footprint.

Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons

The Next Idea

A recent headline in the Financial Times read, “Vancouver seizes chance to lure Silicon Valley tech talent.” The mayor of Vancouver confirms that inquiries from U.S. tech companies have risen sharply in recent months.

It’s no secret that Cisco Systems, Samsung and SAP have recently established a presence north of the border, but now it appears that Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are all also considering their options. If this tire-kicking becomes a trend, it will compromise America’s ability to remain a global leader in technology.

Courtesy of Chris Lambert

The Next Idea

 

As goes a school, so goes the neighborhood.

 

That’s the idea behind a new project by the group Life Remodeled, said founder and CEO Chris Lambert. Life Remodeled is a non-profit organization that invests about $5 million in a Detroit neighborhood project every year. This year’s project: turn the former Durfee Elementary and Middle School into a “community innovation center.”

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 it's the first of its kind in this 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.

Courtesy of Carlos Sanchez

The Next Idea

West Michigan's got a bigger Latino population than the state average, but the number of Latino-owned businesses in the region has not been keeping pace.

Ferris State University wants to change that with something called the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI).

Carlos Sanchez is director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State. 

Courtesy of Tim Mroz

The Next Idea

West Michigan is one of the most economically healthy regions in our state. It’s been cited as the fifth fastest-growing city in the country.

By digging into what’s made West Michigan such a good place for businesses to take root and grow, other communities might find something to learn.

Gage Skidmore / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

You may have missed it, but last summer Walmart got into some hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for its"Made in the U.S.A.” campaign. According the FTC, for a company to make that claim, all of a product’s components must be manufactured and assembled in the United States.

In a globally integrated supply chain, how do you determine if something is “made” in a country?

Courtesy of Susannah Goodman

  The Next Idea

Get kids started at an early age with the arts and the payoff could be better math, science and literacy skills, in addition to better overall learning skills.

That’s the idea behind the Livings Arts' Detroit Wolf Trap Program. Its goal is to narrow the achievement gap between affluent and less-affluent areas through arts education.

Liesl Clark said Michigan is taking more older, coal-fired power plants offline because they are uneconomical to run.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Michiganders might be using electricity the wrong way. A new report indicates Michigan might be able to meet projected energy shortfalls if residents change how they use power. That would save having to build new, expensive power plants.

STEVE CARMODY / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

With all the talk of reforming health care, what if we are missing the bigger picture?

What if all this emotional debate about whether to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was a waste of time?

Courtesy of Lydia Rae Levinson/Michigan Community Resources

The Next Idea

You can’t rebuild your home or your neighborhood without tools. But tools cost money.

Here’s a solution: a community tool-sharing program. “Shovel Share” is just that, and it’s a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge.

Should the idea win, Shovel Share would create a network of tool-sharing centers around Detroit.

fhwrdh / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Thirty years ago, University of Chicago Professor Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind. The book deconstructed higher education’s failure to prepare students with the knowledge necessary to lead enlightened lives. Bloom’s emphasis on reading the Great Books was met with adulation by conservatives, who viewed it as a declaration of traditional values, and with condemnation by progressives who thought the work was a perpetuation of social class inequities.

LESTER GRAHAM

The Next Idea 

 

We usually think of the economy as something centered around the flow of money for goods, services, and other enterprises. But what happens in places where that traditional model breaks down - where, for a variety of reasons, there simply isn’t much cash for anything? People learn to survive without it. They create “informal economies.” And in many parts of Detroit, these informal economies are at work, filling needs however they can.

Courtesy of the MI Alliance of TimeBanks

The Next Idea

Match people who need a service with people willing to provide a service. Use time as the currency.

That’s the concept behind a time bank.

“A time bank is a community skill exchange," said Kim Hodge, executive director of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks. "It’s a way of saying we all have something to offer – we all have skills and assets and we all have needs, and we could be sharing them with each other. So it’s kind of a pay-it-forward, or circle-of-giving program.”

Courtesy of Michele Oberholtzer

The Next Idea

“Detroit's greatest paradox is its abundance of space and its scarcity of quality housing.”

That’s the opening salvo in writer Michele Oberholtzer’s opinion piece for Model D.

At one time, Detroit’s population was almost double what it is now. As people left, so did quality housing. That puts people still in the city at risk, Oberholtzer said.

“The housing is often under code, or not up to par,” she said. “And the moment that a person leaves the home that they live in, that property is subject to scrapping and blight.”

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