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Small scale, big deal: UIX invites urban innovators to exchange ideas in Detroit








Is your city next?
 
This was the headline TIME Magazine ran for their cover story on Detroit's bankruptcy last August -- a sort of cautionary tale for other cities.
 
That's one way to ask the question. Another might be:
What's next for your city?
 
This is what Urban Innovation Exchange will explore at its first national convening this September 24-26, 2014 in Detroit.
 
To be clear: This is not a conference about macro-level municipal reform; there are many important convenings for that. UIX is about change happening at the neighborhood level, led by people leading creative small-scale projects.
 
What kind of small-scale projects are we talking about? Makerspaces and incubators, public art parks and pop-up markets, green alleys and urban farms. Places made by and for the people who live there.
 
Why are small projects a big deal for cities? Increasingly, more research and reporting suggests that the implementation of small-scale projects just might have a larger potential collective impact than any single top-down approach to revitalization.
 
In other words: The power of small is big.
 
This is the story UIX has been telling over the last three years as it chronicles the growing network of innovators driving transformative change in Detroit. And this is the conversation UIX is inviting more cities -- including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Minneapolis -- to share ideas and lessons across communities.
 
What can you expect from UIX?
 
UIX is an opportunity for all people who believe in the potential of cities and the power of small-scale change to come together and trade ideas for the future.
 
Over the course of three days, participants will convene for meaningful exchanges on three subject areas: The Art of Place, The Future of Food, and The Maker Movement. Morning forums will showcase innovative projects and dialogue between them; afternoon site visits will take guests inside local spaces and places in Detroit. For a preview of the schedule, click here.
 
If you've been curious about Detroit's transformation, September is the time to dive in. The entire month is jam-packed with events, culminating with Detroit Design Festival (Sept. 23-28), North America's festival of independent design; Dlectricity (Sept. 26-27), Detroit's nighttime exhibition of art and light presented by DTE Energy; and Meeting of the Minds (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), a global convening on the future of urban sustainability and technology.
 
UIX, DDF and Dlectricity are all supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Dlectricity is a 2013 Knight Arts Challenge winner.
 
UIX participants will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in DDF happenings throughout the week -- including Hip Hop Architecture at University of Detroit Mercy (Sept. 24), Eastern Market After Dark (Sept. 25), and a conversation with Knight's Alberto Ibarguen and Carol Coletta titled "Designing Cities to Accelerate Talent, Opportunity and Engagement" (Sept. 26).
 
The curious (and if you're reading this, you can count yourself among the curious) know that there is more to Detroit's reinvention than its financial restructuring. The UIX story is about human creativity and ingenuity.
 
As Knight Foundation's Carol Coletta said recently: "The future of a city is not made with a few broad strokes by a few key people. The future is a product of thousands of people making small decisions every day about what they believe about the future, and their role in it."
 
Detroit, of course, is in good company. Many cities across the U.S. have seen a groundswell of creative projects from local artists, entrepreneurs and community leaders who are bringing their passions to the places they live.
 
Just to give you an idea, here are some of the people you will hear from at UIX:
 "Through our reporting over the last decade, we've seen a remarkable rise in catalytic small-scale projects," says Brian Boyle, co-founder of UIX and co-CEO of Issue Media Group (parent company of this publication). "They are changing the way we think about economic development and urban transformation. We're excited to bring these innovators together to meet their 'twins' from other cities and get smarter about what's working and what they need to grow."

So, is your city next?
 
Maybe TIME asked the right question after all. The answer, of course, is YES. Your city is the site of innovation -- the home of people driving transformative projects that can serve as inspiration for other cities.
 
As Matthew Naimi of Detroit's Recycle Here likes to say: "Share your candy." Bring your ideas, experiences, and passions to Detroit, and let's exchange.

See you in September.
 
Matthew Lewis is the editor of Model D in Detroit and Claire Nelson is the director of Urban Innovation Exchange. Follow UIX for news & updates @UIXDetroit #UIXDET and register here. UIX is made possible thanks to generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
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