Philanthropic Funding for Community and Economic Development: Exploring Potential for Influencing Policy and Governance

By Dale Thomson (University of Michigan-Dearborn) | Retired business executives donated $70 million to the City of Kalamazoo to help it respond to increasing fiscal stress. Four foundations purchased a 178-acre industrial site along Pittsburgh’s riverfront to redevelop as a mixed-use site with high sustainability standards. In Detroit, a riverfront park is being redeveloped with a $50 million donation from a local foundation. These stories suggest that, in the age of fiscal austerity, philanthropy is playing an increasingly prominent role in helping cities provide core services and promote community and economic development (CED). Read More

February 17, 2021 // 0 Comments

Governing Without Government

By Davia Downey (Grand Valley State University), Sarah Reckhow (Michigan State University), and Joshua Sapotichne (Michigan State University) | In 2018, the City of Detroit kicked off fundraising for the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, an effort to attract private funds to support infrastructure improvements in city neighborhoods. This initiative came five years after Detroit went through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Based on major media accounts, this bankruptcy was a rousing success, ushering in the rebirth of a great American city. As a feature article in National Geographic put it: “Tough, real, and cheap, Detroit, with the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy behind it, is suddenly attractive to investors, innovators, and would-be fixers, especially young adventurers.” The credit ratings agencies seemed to agree; by February 2019 the city’s bond rating had made considerable progress towards regaining investment grade status. Yet the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund points to another element of Detroit’s story. Underlying the signs of progress, the city’s recovery is incomplete, narrowly distributed, and heavily dependent on the support of private philanthropy and nonprofits in the city. Read More

April 24, 2020 // 0 Comments