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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

Michigan House Republicans

A counterpoint to this essay can be found here

The Next Idea  

If the Michigan AFL-CIO or the Michigan Chamber of Commerce were each drafting a proposed constitutional amendment to “reform” redistricting, it would be met with media derision, with each eventual proposal seen as favoring one political party over the other.

But, when the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network announce that they are part of a Collaborative working to draft an amendment, no similar skepticism has yet arisen. 

flickr/michigancommunities / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

When I was ten years old, Kalamazoo was voted the All-American city by the National Civic League. We deserved it. We made the greatest guitars, the finest fishing rods and reels, and the best medicines, truck transmissions and automobile chassis in the world. Our downtown mall was featured in Look Magazine like it was a fabulous resort in Europe.

By the time I was 20 things had changed considerably. The venerable companies that had prospered for 100 years and given Kalamazoo its celebrated reputation began to wane, leave or fail altogether. There were cheaper, warmer and newer places to relocate. Many businesses did just that, and many people followed them.

Vet to media: We're not all broken

Jul 9, 2015
Courtesy of Jason Hale

The Next Idea

I am a veteran of two wars – one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.  Joining the military has been the best decision of my life.  But if you spend any time watching the news or scrolling through social media, you might wonder why I would say that. 

We must do more than say "thank you" for veterans in Michigan

Jul 6, 2015
Flickr/wiguardpics / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea             

I can’t recall a time when I was thanked for my military service and didn’t wonder just what exactly that person meant. Were they thankful that I took the defense of the nation in hand? Did they think that I stood watch on some specified border between insurgents and our coalition forces? Perhaps it was simply good American manners that they show appreciation for those who serve.

flickr/jmarty / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Silicon Valley churns out apps to “change the world,” but whose world are they really changing? How do we know if these new technologies are going to work in a city like Detroit, for example?

All across America, digital innovations have proliferated in the last four decades, but poverty rates haven’t budged, and inequality has skyrocketed.     

Screenshot/Chrysler

The Next Idea

In 2009, the headline of a Time magazine cover story read “The Tragedy of Detroit” with a shadowy photo of a blighted factory in the background. The national press was brutal.

With each new idea, momentum builds in Detroit

Jun 18, 2015
Courtesy of Focus: HOPE

The Next Idea 

Innovation is at the center of Detroit’s inclusive recovery. Yet this word “innovation” is used so often that its meaning tends to get a little obscured.

Rather than the narrow definition of technological advancement, the meaning of innovation we should use in Detroit is about doing things differently, redefining our future, and challenging ourselves to move beyond business as usual. 

People who are elderly, poor, or not white have new ideas too

Jun 15, 2015
Flickr/George A. Spiva Center for the Arts

The Next Idea

“We never know where the next big innovation is going to come from.”

That’s a common phrase we hear over and over, and it is true. 

Courtesy of One Well Brewing

The Next Idea 

I own a brewery in Michigan. Sometimes I still can’t believe I actually get to say that and have it be true. Thousands of home brewers and craft beer lovers from around the country aspire to do what I do -- and I know, because just eight months ago I was one of them.

Michigan can't afford to reject rainbow dollars

Jun 4, 2015
flickr/purplesherbet

The Next Idea

As a queer man who grew up in Michigan, I sometimes wonder why I decided to come back home. I fled Detroit for New York City after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2006, and truly thought I’d never look back.

Maybe I returned because New York City was already in good hands.

Maybe I returned because I realized that Michigan still needs more love, and that I still have a lot of love to give.

Courtesy of mitalent.org

The Next Idea

When the housing crisis hit in the mid-2000s, millions lost their jobs. Licensed home builder and Saginaw resident Jeff Little was one of them. 

Courtesy of NASA

The Next Idea

You can see Michigan from space. It’s the mitten surrounded by all that blue with the bunny jumping over it.

In fact, almost half of the Great Lakes State is comprised of water. Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the union, with the exception of Alaska, which is seven times larger.

Khalil Ligon

The Next Idea

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." —Mahatma Gandhi

This quote resonates deeply with me these days, because in my Detroit neighborhood, the change I wish to see seems so far away.

Imagining places that are clean, safe and vibrant threads my work as an urban planner and sustainability advocate. Yet, despite years of planning and designing these grand visions, my daily landscape doesn’t match the efforts. I know there’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting anxious.

Flickr/Tobias Abel

The Next Idea

A “yes” vote on Proposal 1 will improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in Michigan. It is just that simple, and rarely is anything in life that simple – including the language in the actual proposal before us.

At Disability Advocates of Kent County, we have a saying: “If you want better transportation for people with disabilities, stop working for better transportation for people with disabilities.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea 

As we near the vote to raise the sales tax to fund our abysmal roads, we’ve heard this question come up quite a bit these last few months:

“Why couldn’t the Legislature just do the job they were elected to do instead of passing responsibility off to the voters?”

The short answer -- and you’re not going to like this -- is that it is not their fault.

It’s ours.

Designers, engineers connect poetry to safer batteries

Apr 23, 2015
Max Shtein

The Next Idea

This summer, as the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise hits movie theaters, we’ll be confronted with a larger-than-life, in-your-face reminder of the dark side of innovation, as a bunch of scientists yet again get so caught up in their inventiveness that they fail to imagine the consequences.

How to welcome more immigrants to Flint, Saginaw

Apr 20, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

I am a daughter of immigrants who grew up in Michigan's Indian and Pakistani community. Most often the response people have when they hear this is to ask: “Why, with all the glamorous cities in America, would so many people from South Asia choose to come to the Midwest?”

Detroit can be model for how to do things right

Apr 13, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

When we hear the term “perfect storm,” the image that generally comes to mind is one of a high-level disaster.

The phrase is relatively new, though its use as the title of the 1993 Sebastian Junger novel which inspired the 2000 film of the same name has accelerated its use in the cultural lexicon.  However, no common dictionary definition for it exists. 

Courtesy of Laurentide Winery

The Next Idea

When was the last time you drank a bottle of Michigan wine? If it’s difficult to remember, you are sadly not alone.

We will pay for our lack of respect for teachers

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of TeachingWorks

The Next Idea

Teaching matters. We know that it can make the difference between a child learning to read by third grade, being confident in math, and developing the mindset necessary for success. Yet skillful teaching is not commonplace, and it’s hurting our society. Three reasons stand out:

We already know what it takes to train great teachers

Mar 30, 2015
teacher with student
BES Photos / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Just a couple of years ago, a colleague of mine – a woman who has taught for over 25 years – broke down in front of me after school one day and cried her eyes out.

She felt like she was failing her students, not because of her inability as a teacher, but because “the system” has increasingly made it impossible for her to meet their needs. 

Elaine Fogel

The Next Idea

For new ideas to flourish, for innovations to truly take hold and change our communities, we hear all the time that we in Michigan need to connect and collaborate more and be more civil to each other. But how, exactly?

Collaboration and civility are feel-good abstractions that well-meaning folks use, but often without offering a clear pathway to actually achieving improvement. Instead, we are left with flimsy takeaways that basically say, “Just try harder to be more open” or "Just go meet people." 

Flickr

The Next Idea

Michigan will never be the next Silicon Valley.

Michigan can't compete with the allure of the Coasts, or even Chicago, for the nation's best talent.

Michigan investors and politicians are too conservative to support true innovation.

Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

You’ve heard the impassioned arguments about public transportation in Michigan. Let’s start with the rational. Our roads are among the worst in the nation. Our lawmakers have clearly demonstrated that they are not up to the task of maintaining our aging infrastructure. Michigan, a state known for producing automobiles, has become a place where it is increasingly difficult to drive one.

Flickr

The Next Idea

For more than a century and a half, our education system has been designed around a model that prioritizes the standard delivery of instructional content and persistently focuses on what should be “covered."  This model may have served the needs of public education through the first half of the 20th century, but not today.

Michigan must divide in order to conquer

Mar 9, 2015
Flickr

The Next Idea

When people think of Michigan, a number of iconic images come to mind – a long assembly line, acres of cherry orchards, miles of gorgeous coastline. This wide variety of industry, agriculture and tourism contributes to the resilience of our $400 billion economy and is what makes Michigan special. But these industries and regions also have very different requirements to help them grow. The challenge lies in how to foster growth in each one without competing against each other so that some Michigan residents win only when others lose.

Flickr/Martha Soukup

The Next Idea

Living in Michigan, we experience incivility on a daily basis, from simply driving down pot-hole filled roads to attending public meetings to logging into our social media accounts. This has to change, and not just so our Facebook feeds can feel more like a cocktail party -- though that’s not a bad place to start.

Courtesy of Michigan Modern

The Next Idea

Did you know that barbecue grills, refrigerators and hospital beds were all designed in Michigan? What about the electric toothbrush and the golf cart?

These products, and thousands more, are just some of the many everyday items that Michigan’s industrial designers gave the world.

New immigrants are crucial to Michigan's future

Feb 26, 2015
Flickr/Icars

The Next Idea

Every American family has a genesis story about how they came to be in this country: escaping a cruel despot, searching for elusive riches, or enslaved by brutal overlords. Only the few that were made foreigners in their own lands can claim to be the original Americans. Somewhere along the way, you or your ancestors had to overcome the perils of the journey, the acquisition of the language, the challenges of employment, and the stigma of prejudice and intolerance. Regrettably, some are still struggling to this day.

Robin Deits

The Next Idea

The success of Michigan’s future economy will rely on more of our children engaging with science and technology. Their personal futures will depend on it too.

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