Put Yourself Out There

Closeup of businessman typing on laptop computer
Closeup of businessman typing on laptop computer

This is a short story about what good can come from putting yourself out there.

I posted an article at Model D the other day. It was personal to me. The response to the 631 words was reaffirming and indicative of a passion that exists for Detroit. I received more than 100 emails as of sitting down to write this article. All from thoughtful people who felt strongly enough to write me and they had a range of opinions. I appreciate them all. The activity on Facebook and Twitter bordered on viral -- however one measures that.

The following day someone created a meme online -- An Entrepreneurial White Guy meme. "It spread through the interwebs like wildfire" as one reporter put it. Now, while I am certainly not thrilled about the concept of someone using my picture as a medium, I realize it is not about me. In poking fun at me, many people were expressing dissent at the disproportionate amount of access and press coverage caucasian entrepreneurs receive in a city that is predominantly African-American. This is an important conversation at the surface level of a much deeper issue and one that is integral to progress. The fact is that I have the kind of access that allows me to pursue my goals. Many do not. Particularly those in the neighborhoods of Detroit where entrepreneurship matters most. We agree on this and we are talking about it and now we all need to do something about it. Participating in conversation is good -- being proactive, welcoming and productive is even better. We're getting closer to synergy between us all. This is the goal. In the coming days I am meeting with many of the folks most vocal in response to the article. I hope to seize the moment and together make widely known existing access points for entrepreneurs across the city. If we can crack participation we can tackle everything else.

Today, we are having the conversation and are, for the moment, in a proximity that is quickly turning productive. None of this would have happened if I didn't put myself out there to be criticized, same with those who blogged, reported and talked to one another about it -- all participating at various scales. I vehemently believe that Detroit is a place and time where we can come together to design our collective outcomes. It is indeed the opportunity of a generation and it will take everyone, incoming and resident, black and white, young and old to harness it. If saying so makes me meme-worthy, I am comfortable with that.

Dandelion connects civic, social and corporate organizations with the communities they wish to impact, optimizing and documenting the process before sharing our findings with the world in an effort to inspire and inform replication.

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