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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

Ann Arbor or Paris?
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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?

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.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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