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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 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.”

Courtesy of Sandra Stahl

The Next Idea

 

When Sandra Stahl works on civic engagement in Detroit, there’s one question she hears again and again.

“Where are all the young people?”

 

 

Courtesy of Michael Bernitsas

The Next Idea

Earth’s water is a natural medium for collecting energy, taking in about 97% of what we receive from the sun. After reflection and radiation, water stores over 2 million TWh (terawatt hours) per year. The world’s annual energy consumption is about 150,000 TWh. Clearly, we could benefit from using water for power.

Courtesy of Grand Valley State University

The Next Idea

Michigan's philanthropic organizations are facing a changing climate of giving.

Movement of money within the nation's wealthiest families, low wages for many of today's young people, political polarization and the erosion of government safety nets are just some of the many drivers impacting how people give and how charities organize themselves.

Today's contributor to The Next Idea has been watching many of those trends and others that affect charitable giving.

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

The Next Idea

 

What if governments just gave money to people?

 

That’s the big question that Thomas Weisskopf​, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Michigan, is asking.

Since automation is replacing human-powered labor in fields like manufacturing, robust employment may be a thing of the past. A permanent surplus of labor has massive consequences, driving down wages and even contributing to social unrest. According to Weisskopf, such a dramatic problem demands a dramatic solution.

Clinton Steeds / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

It’s said necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Innovation is often born out of crisis or conflict – a war, a pandemic or a financial crash.  Sometimes the conflict can be constructive, like the invention of a new miracle drug. And sometimes the conflict can be destructive, like, for instance, a contentious election.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

The Next Idea

Last month, Traverse City officials pledged that by the year 2020, all city operations will be powered by renewable energy. That means traffic signals, street lights, and city-owned buildings will get their power from wind, solar, and other clean sources.

Kate Madigan, the Energy and Climate Specialist for the Michigan Environmental Council and director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, joined Stateside to talk about the ambitious effort and if this could be a trend for other cities in the state.

Jeff DeGraff of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business
University of Michigan Ross School of Business
The realities of a world economy aren't just being felt at big companies like General Motors or Ford. Small businesses are feeling the strain of foreign competition.
earl53 / Morguefile

The Next Idea

The realities of a world economy aren't just being felt at big companies like General Motors or Ford. Small businesses are feeling the strain of foreign competition.

Our latest contributor to The Next Idea is directing a federal program aimed at helping small local businesses adjust to that foreign competition.

Dave Doe / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

The North American International Auto Show begins its media previews on Sunday in Detroit. The show opens to the public on Jan. 14.

Along with the gleaming displays of new vehicles, the show will be a gathering place for innovators from many backgrounds, focusing on the future of mobility.

Michigan Makers / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Over the past few years, makerspaces have become more understood – and popular.

Think shiny industrial warehouses with 3-D printers, laser engravers and metal-working tools. And – of course – think groups of people. As our most recent contributors to The Next Idea explained, makerspaces can become crucial focus points for entire communities.

Ann Millspaugh / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Say you’ve lived in your neighborhood for ten years and suddenly it’s become the place to live.

Rents are rising, and you’re looking at having to move. What then?

Stay Midtown might have the answer. The program aims to help working people in Detroit’s up-and-coming Midtown area stay there.

Courtesy of Zollipops

The Next Idea

There’s now a new way to enjoy candy – without the cavities and the tooth decay.

Zollipops” are 11-year-old Michigander Alina Morse’s creation. They’re sugar-free and gluten-free suckers, made with natural flavors and colors, that are good for your teeth.

A bioretention garden on Evergreen Avenue in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.
Dave Brenner

The Next Idea

My work in ecological design leads me to think about how the billions of dollars that governments must invest to replace and repair infrastructure can achieve more for American cities. Over the past several years I’ve focused my work on Detroit. Many cities, including Detroit, have some pipes more than a century old moving wastewater, stormwater, or drinking water underground. A handful of cities with industrial legacies, like Detroit, also have thousands of abandoned structures awaiting demolition. When a road is rebuilt, new pipes are laid, or when a building is demolished, I see the possibility of achieving many different, complementary benefits for residents and the environment at the same time.

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

Dec 8, 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.

 

Rising numbers of young people are now deciding to do everything their parents didn’t. They’re eschewing cultural and economic conventions to challenge what we take to be civil society.

 

They aren’t marrying.

 

They’ve become the refuseniks of our competitive corporate culture.

 

And many of them have opted out of organized religion altogether.

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.

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?”

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