Power of the people

HP Jenenne

Jenenne Whitfield, executive director of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit spoke at OCAD University and the University of Toronto today. Both events were sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General. The U of T event was co-sponsored by Spacing magazine, with Q&A facilitated by Spacing editor Shawn Micallef.

Jenenne explained why this project has been working for 26 years on so many levels (despite ups and downs) to improve life in the complex city of Detroit.

Watch this fascinating summary of the project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6w6WGokjTU

These four “natural ingredients” of the Heidelberg Project’s ongoing success stand out in my mind:

1.  Work with what you have (asset-based development)

2.  Use the attraction principle to change behavior (not more rules or enforcement)

3.  Rely on organic, bit-by-bit change (v. massive programs)

4. Don’t wait for top-down initiatives to improve things (DIY culture must replace rescue delusions)

Founder Tyree Guyton’s philosophy, known as Heidelbergology, views art as having active powers to transform people, to act as a medicine and to serve as a catalyst for widespread change.

The big news in Detroit recently, Jenenne says, is that change is now coming from the ordinary, everyday person.

Matt Galloway’s interview with Jenenne on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning: http://www.cbc.ca/metromorning/episodes/2013/04/12/rtdetroit-a/

-Sharon VanderKaay

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