January 26, 2016 – by Jacob Derry
Twenty years ago, Tim Richey walked into a gym with a bag of soccer balls and asked the kids, “who wants to play soccer?” That’s the origin story Tim tells of how he started on the path to become CEO of Detroit PAL, a non-profit organization that aims to make a positive difference in the lives of Detroit children through sports.
Last Wednesday night, Tim walked into a classroom in the Ford School of Public Policy. No bag of soccer balls, just a challenge… a challenge for University of Michigan students to make lasting social impact in Detroit. This is the origin story of the 2016 Social Impact Challenge.
Hosted by the Center for Social Impact and partners Detroit PAL and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the Challenge is a live case competition in which teams of students from all over campus address a current, real-life strategic challenge in Detroit.
Wednesday, Jan. 20, was the Challenge Kickoff event, where the competition’s details were announced and students heard from staff at Detroit PAL and PAL alumnus (and current U-M football player) Khalid Hill. This year’s Challenge focuses on the redevelopment of Old Tiger Stadium to be used as the headquarters and sports facility for Detroit PAL.
Both Detroit PAL and Old Tiger Stadium have rich histories and unique stories of serving the area. PAL dates back to 1969 when it was started by a young Detroit police officer. Today, the 24 staff members coordinate 1700 volunteers to offer dozens of sports programs that serve 12,000 youth each year. Old Tiger Stadium is best known for hosting the Detroit Tigers baseball team from 1912-1999, but was also used as a field for the Detroit Lions, scenery for various films and the site of a Nelson Mandela speech. Since the last game was played there in 1999, it seemed as though demolition of the stadium was certain. However, a number of people and organizations stepped up to create an alternative plan before the historic field was lost. Now, with a $3 million federal grant, the redevelopment and historic preservation is soon to be underway (learn more about history and plans here).
For the Social Impact Challenge, student teams will be working closely with Detroit PAL and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy to maximize opportunities for Detroit youth while they meet four goals:
- Connect youth and adults to the history of Old Tiger Stadium
- Design a fundraising plan for either Detroit PAL alumni or Old Tiger Stadium supporters
- Develop earned revenue streams for the new facility
- Suggest an action plan to engage the Corktown community
On Saturday, Jan. 23, was the first chance for participants to get to know the Corktown neighborhood in Detroit on a personal level. They were able to see the old stadium site and meet with local residents and business owners. From there, students began the tough work. Navigating ambiguity, grappling with data but still having fun, and of course making an impact. That’s what they can expect over this next week, according to Rishi Moudgil, managing director of the Center for Social Impact.
The first round of the Challenge ends on February 1st, and the Finals – where top teams will present their recommendations – will be February 9th from 5-6:30pm at the Ross School of Business 6th floor Colloquium. This will be followed by a reception and forum by participants and Detroit leaders. The Finals are open to the public, so please join the participants, Detroit PAL, Old Tiger Stadium supporters, and others, in celebrating the past, present and future of Detroit and social impact.