Allied Media Projects, Inc.

Detroit: The Just Resilient City

Urban development

The Just Resilient City will model climate change adaptation with new, community-controlled systems for waste and water management, renewable energy, information technology, and food security.

View Project Website

Take Action

Connect with us

To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Entrenched systems of inequality compounded by global climate change require radically new approaches to meeting our most basic needs. Detroit has long expanded notions of possibility—it produced automation and the American dream, but also unprecedented ruin. For decades, Detroiters have been resisting the “hurricane in slow motion” of racial and economic violence, and reimagining what the city could become in its wake. Without corporate or government solutions, Detroit’s most marginalized neighborhoods have been innovating community-controlled, resilient infrastructure across multiple sectors and geographies. We have the opportunity to leverage their success for demonstration projects at larger scales, interconnected by the framework of a Just, Resilient City. Over four years, the Just Resilient City will pilot radical, Detroit-based experiments in waste and water management, renewable energy, information technology, and food security, addressing the need for evidence that another world is possible when the future seems overwhelmingly bleak.

Problem Statement

38% of Detroit residents live in poverty, and almost half are food-insecure. City infrastructure is outdated, fragile and inequitable, as evidenced by widespread utility shut offs for non-payment and outages caused by flooding and wind storms in recent years. In 2018, 51% percent of households reported switching off between water and energy bills when they couldn’t afford to pay both at the same time. Approximately half of the city’s residents have no access to the Internet. Population decline has left a city of 673,000, predominantly low-income people of color, struggling to pay for 19th century systems built to serve 2 million. While recent years have seen some indications of population growth, new residents are overwhelmingly white, affluent, and concentrated in the Downtown core. As infrastructure improvements are made, they are prioritized for these areas of the city. Despite valiant efforts by social justice movements and some elected officials to hold utility companies, the city, and the state of Michigan accountable for creating more equitable infrastructure, the problem remains. Corporations jockey for the chance to solve the problem through privatization, but there is scant evidence globally that this approach addresses entrenched inequity.

Solution Overview

Five interconnected projects will model Community Resource Stewardship on a neighborhood level: a Community Water and Energy Resource Center (CWERC) will repair local ecologies and turn waste into clean water, energy, and fertilizer; the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) will establish disaster-resilient and fully-solarized high-speed wireless networks in six neighborhoods, bringing 4,500 low-income Detroiters of color online; Solar Neighbors will transition 1,000 homes to renewable energy; Let There Be Light (LTBL) will convert 1,000 street lights to fully solarized ‘smart’ street lights including public wifi and message boards; and the Food Commons will make produce from hundreds local farms accessible to 1,200 member-owners currently living in food deserts. The five projects are tied together by the Resilient Futures Lab, a collaborative think-tank led by MEJC that will develop shared research on climate vulnerability, resilience, utility affordability and infrastructure policy; it will generate Community Resource Stewardship* training programs; and cooperative business models with the goal of building community ownership into the design of communications, water, waste, energy and food systems. Our solution will directly and deeply impact the cities of Detroit and Highland Park, with a strong focus on benefiting Black people and people of color, disabled people, and households with children or elders below the poverty line that have low or no internet connection or have experienced utility shut-offs. Through trainings and resources of the Resilient Futures Lab, our solution has the potential to impact millions of people worldwide.

+ Read More

Project Funders

  • Metabolic Studios 2019
  • Kresge Foundation 2020
  • Novo Foundation 2018 - 2022

More Solutions Like This

Urban development

Global Development Incubator

The Capital Advisory Platform for Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Projects (CAP)

Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa

Urban development

Grounded Solutions Network

EquityFirst – Catalytic Urban Investment for Social Inclusion

United States

Urban development

Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS)

Mapping urban systems to make cities vibrant for all

India