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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

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
University of Michigan Ross School of Business

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.

Khalilshah / Flickr

The Next Idea

The list of people who have lost out in our state is too long for this space. The people of Flint, students in Detroit, even the Detroit Lions, all have been beaten by forces beyond their control.

screenshot

The Next Idea

Iceland is one of those countries that you don’t tend to see in the international spotlight.

That changed this week, when the so-called “Panama Papers” were leaked, revealing that a law firm in Panama allegedly set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts to help world power players avoid taxes.

Iceland’s prime minister was the first major casualty of the Panama Papers. He stepped aside after the leaks showed he owned an offshore company with his wife.

But this isn’t the only political upheaval in recent Icelandic history. Following a financial crisis that all but crippled the country, Icelanders decided it was time to rewrite their constitution. And to do so, they turned to crowdsourcing.

Legos
Bill Ward / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea  

Instead of being the vehicle to join the middle class that it once was, higher education is now an obstacle that actually prevents access to knowledge and reinforces existing privilege. This was the powerful message of a compelling Economist cover story last year titled America’s New Aristocracy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobthemagicdragon/7003917056

The Next Idea

Growing up in Chicago during the 1950s was a remarkably innocent experience for me. We lived in a bubble of post-WWII gratitude, and religious diversity meant only Christianity and Judaism. Tales like “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “Aladdin and the Magic Carpet” were the closest I came to even hearing about Islam, which was called Mohammedanism then.

Uniting Three Fires Against Violence advocacy organization logo.
Uniting Three Fires Against Violence

The Next Idea

How does a community address domestic violence and sexual assault when calling the police is not often an option?

This is the question facing Native communities in Michigan, according to Lori Jump and Rachel Carr of the advocacy group Uniting Three Fires Against Violence.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cliffhorn/8000874224/

The Next Idea

Over the past several years, economists and skilled trade industries have been incredibly optimistic about the future of U. S. manufacturing. In today’s society, consumers value American-made goods and the return of domestic manufacturing that comes with them.

https://www.iconlife.org/welcome/
The Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, University of Michigan

The Next Idea

Rob Stephenson, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, admits that he is "obsessed with HIV."

https://www.flickr.com/photos/creativecomputer/

The Next Idea

Most of us know someone — a friend, colleague, or relative — who has experienced a fight with cancer. We share their names and stories, do what we can to help, and take part in fundraisers for cancer treatment and research. And thanks to all that research, doctors today are able to construct individualized treatment programs for cancer patients with great accuracy. It’s a far cry from the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the past.

Courtesy of Diana Nucera

The Next Idea

Take a moment to think about how much you rely on the Internet.

It’s pretty safe to say many of us find it hard to imagine not being able to get online to communicate, access information, or explore.

Lit Kurtz

The Next Idea

 

Homelessness is a complex problem with no one easy solution. In Michigan, the needs are enormous. People experiencing homelessness see our state as more like a Third World country than like one of the richest areas in the world.

 

One of many abandoned structures in Detroit
flickr user Stephen Harlan / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Michigan is all too familiar with the sight of abandoned buildings. Detroit is one of the most significant examples, where hundreds of millions of dollars are being spend on demolition.

Rex LaMore wonders whether we can’t save taxpayers the cost of abandonment by planning for the end of a building’s life from the very beginning. LaMore is director of Michigan State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development, and he’s looking at ways to address Michigan’s glut of abandoned buildings.

Joe Gruber

Katrina Watkins stood on her front porch in Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt neighborhood staring at the vacant, overgrown stretch of land across the street.

“I have been trying to get the city out here to cut this for years,” she said.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/michigan-engineering/24292873512/in/album-72157662996114550/
Joseph Xu, University of Michigan Office of Communications and Marketing

The Next Idea

In a past life, Sile O'Modhrain edited audio for BBC radio.

"At the time I was working," she says, "I could edit using a razor blade and tape" to physically piece different sections of a recording together. But when audio editing processes switched from tactile to digital, she found herself out of a job.

Photo by Marcin Szczepanski

The Next Idea

There are lingering fears that nothing will be the same in Flint. But maybe things shouldn’t be the same. What if there is a better way for Flint and other cities to harvest and deliver life-enhancing water?

People across the nation are judging Flint as an epic failure of leadership and poor choices. There is no doubt that Flint’s water crisis is an unqualified failure of democracy, but it is also a century-old failure of design and systems thinking.     

flickr user woodleywonderworks / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

All over Michigan, there are cities and towns that suffer from a lack of affordable housing. The demand keeps growing, but the supply just isn't there. 

Wayne State professor George Galster has a few ideas that could help Michigan tackle the issue:

Flickr/Astrid

The Next Idea

In the 122 years that Michigan has been making cars, the automobile industry has taught us that it’s not about having the parts but how you put them together that makes all the difference. A disassembled car is just a pile of 20,000 or more pieces of dull metal, washers, connectors, nuts and ugly wiring piled in your driveway. But put them all together and you get the most transformative technology of the 20th century.

flickr user Lee Carson / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

A new theater group in Michigan is bringing a fresh approach to funding and producing plays.

It’s called Kickshaw Theatre and its first production, “The Electric Baby,” is at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriskantos/2351716097

The Next Idea

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels through alternative energy may seem like an expensive goal, especially in an era when even traditional utilities need major investments to keep running. Add to this Michigan’s cloudy, snowy environment, and using solar energy might seem impractical, if not impossible.

Looking south on Woodward Ave
flickr user Sean Marshall / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

We may be living in the 21st century, but the transportation infrastructure in Southeast Michigan is lagging way behind.

The number of citizens relying on public transport to get in and out of Detroit for business or pleasure is on the rise, thanks in part to the millennial generation's growing tendency to forgo car ownership in favor of alternative means of transit.

In his story for HOUR Detroit, Patrick Dunn digs into a number of projects that aim to transform the way we get around Metro Detroit.

Flickr/roel1943 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Business, political and media elites are increasingly advising kids not to pursue four-year degrees. The conventional wisdom is that unless you get a four-year degree in a STEM field, you are likely to end up underemployed and unable to pay off crushing student loans. Far better, according to this logic, to get a two-year degree or occupational certificate in a skilled trade.

The Next Idea

When most people think of university researchers, they think of scientists. They imagine people wearing white coats and plastic goggles, conducting experiments in a lab or making observations in the field, often working with a team of colleagues and students. Eventually, the results of that research might go into producing new computer technologies, performing life-saving medical treatments, or passing informed environmental policy.

The riverfront in Traverse City
Public Domain

The Next Idea

Most anyone would agree that Traverse City is one of Michigan’s crown jewels. It’s a beautiful location and a great place to live, visit and retire.

But one thing Traverse City has lacked is a strong central point for the area’s tech industry.

Russell Schindler is a Traverse City geologist and entrepreneur. He basically got sick and tired of driving nearly four hours to Ann Arbor for tech meet-ups, so he started a new group, called TC New Tech.

First-ever Michigan Design Prize now taking entries

Jan 11, 2016
Jennifer Guerra/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

At more than 4,000 strong, Michigan has the highest concentration of industrial designers in the nation.

Yet few people know about it unless you live here, says Jeff DeBoer, chair of the Michigan Design Council and a principal at Sundberg-Ferar, a Michigan design firm.

Founded early last year, the Michigan Design Council has been tasked with a mission to change all that.

Where do the truly great innovations lie?

Jan 7, 2016
https://www.flickr.com/photos/phm_sinan/1364979311

The Next Idea

Cool, shiny, sleek:  These are the qualities we associate with top-shelf innovations.

That’s because we’re constantly confronted with magazine and Internet lists of the most innovative companies that are essentially just beauty contests. At the top of all these shimmering lists are blustery bands and glitzy gadgets and chic designers.

Steady decline in wetlands endangers Great Lakes

Jan 4, 2016
Flickr/barbaragaillewis / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

In Michigan and across the country, wetlands are known as marshes, swamps, bogs, fens and pocosins.

They are also known as threatened.

A recent study by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which used data collected by our (Ducks Unlimited) mapping experts, points to staggering losses.

Dan Varner
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Many of Detroit’s potential workers are leaving school without the math or reading skills required to enter training programs.

There doesn’t seems to be a clear plan for educating Detroit’s children. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan for training a future workforce.

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