There are the native Detroiters who know the city in and out and are proud to call Detroit home. On the other hand are the newcomers, who are also proud to call Detroit home. Both natives and newcomers share the same end goal – they want to support Detroit and help move the city forward. The problem is that each group has a different idea of what that looks like, and there’s not really a way to get both groups together to discuss it. Until now.

Enter Native <> Newcomer, a collaboration platform that aims to close the gap between native Detroiters and newcomers. The platform is the brainchild of Ben Seidman, who moved to Michigan from Manhattan in 2009 to become a Wolverine. In early 2014, Seidman moved to Detroit, and it’s a move he’s glad he made.

“I’ve found myself saying over and over that I’d much rather be in Detroit because of its spirit of collaboration vs. New York’s competitive nature. Also, there is way more impact to make in Detroit. I’ve also found the people here have an incredible appreciate for small things because the region has been through such tough times,” Seidman said.

Ben picked up on the division between natives and newcomers “almost instantly.”

“I met suburbanites with completely prejudice views of what Detroit is. Coming from the liberal atmosphere of NYC, I could not stand these remarks or notions. Coming from an objective point of view, I found these truly disturbing. I also met Detroiters who would tell me of how folks from the neighborhood haven’t been downtown in years. There was the history of separation, white flight, riots, but I found myself yearning to bring people together, to shift perspectives.”

Ben Seidman has great goals and dreams for the city and for Native <> Newcomer, and much of it has to do with using collaboration to knock down the walls that each side has imagined – and in some cases – built. “Through these collaborations, we hope to create a movement of more community-minded people making more community-minded decisions. Working together is the best way to get to know each other. That is what drives me,” he says.

About Native <> Newcomer

Native Newcomer 2

The goal of the Native <> Newcomer platform is to promote in-person collaboration between natives and newcomers by creating a space where they can work together. “The ‘platform’ is in-person. Lots of folks have interpreted that as online or app-based. We believe the in-person dynamic is a key element to the collaboration.” Teams participating in the program will receive mentors with whom they will work. Together, the teams and their mentors will work on ideas crowdsourced from the community with the opportunity to receive funding.

The teams in Native <>Newcomer will form at the launch event this Spring or Summer. “Through registration, participants will be asked which areas they are interested in collaborating on (Educations, Arts, Civic Engagement, etc.) to help participants identify likeminded team members. Facilitators will work to bridge these initial introductions and brainstorms and an in depth program orientation will be delivered prior to prepare participants,” explained Seidman.

The launch event is free, and you don’t need any business or collaborative experience to participate. There is no cost and registration will open for individuals to apply prior to the launch event. They hope to have the registration up at partner locations on pen and paper as well as online to increase access to registration.

Native <> Newcomer will source its mentors from several places. According to Seidman, “There are individuals who Native <> Newcomer have identified as Mentors based on their experience, including Lauren Hood of Deep Dive Detroit, Aaron Foley of Blac Magazine, Amanda Lewan of Bamboo Detroit, Niles Heron of Michigan Funders, David Cross of It Starts at home, and several others.”

Another place Native <> Newcomer will find mentors is through its Community Partner perk on its Indiegogo page. For $100, supporters of the platform can offer their expertise and experience to teams.

As of this writing, the project has already raised $2,654 of their $3,313 goal.

Another place Native <> Newcomer hopes to find mentors is from local organizations.

“Community Partners are the key to our ecosystem of support to throttle forward these collaborations. Native <> Newcomer is the start, but we want to play a role within the landscape of Detroit organizations supporting creatives, allowing teams to grow into other areas, whether they are accelerators, funding resources, co-working spaces, or design agencies,” says Seidman. “We want to surround our teams with every resource available and the knowledge, through mentorship, to make our process and experience accessible and curated.”

To hammer out the final platform details, and to ensure the platform has community input, Native <> Newcomer will host a community brainstorm event in late March. During this event, Detroiters are encouraged to join Native <> Newcomer and voice their thoughts on the project to help shape its direction and future.

Seidman values community feedback and views it as a vital part of the platform. “My door is always open if anyone is interested in talking. We want this to be by the community and for the community. I also don’t feel I should have the sole ability to dictate the course of Native <> Newcomer. We are looking forward to the community providing additional feedback in person so that this is truly authentic. We have already collected 4-5 pages feedback. The event will focus on Community Engagement and Native <> Newcomer will be presented, following which, a open brainstorm will occur.”

After the initial community brainstorm, there will be a second brainstorming session. “The $150 donation will go towards a brainstorm that will occur among key advisers, some of which are Mentors in the program. In no way are people buying their way into the program or having influence on the mission based on monetary contribution. We made sure to keep money away from the program as much as possible so it would not act as a barrier.”

This second brainstorming session will review the feedback collected during the fundraising process and the community brainstorm session.

Supporting Native <> Newcomer

If interested, you can support Native <> Newcomer in its mission to bridge the gap in Detroit and foster collaboration. Ben has an Indiegogo page set up for it and lots of awesome perks for supporters. Right now, Native <> Newcomer has already raised $2,475 of the $3,313 it needs.

You can choose from several levels of support, ranging from $1 to $150, and the perks are great. For a $100 donation, you’ll have the opportunity to become a Mentor to the teams. For a $150, you’ll support the second brainstorming session for Native <> Newcomer’s key advisors.

If you want to support Native <> Newcomer at lower price points, the perks are just as awesome. For $45, you’ll get a Grow Detroit Crewneck t-shirt from Native <> Newcomer’s Urban Revival Series. For $25, you’ll get a Revitalize Detroit t-shirt.

Native <> Newcomer is a unique, thoroughly Detroit way to bridge gaps that have so long divided the city. If we’re going to move forward together, it needs to be in a spirit of collaboration, where we can learn from each other and use that knowledge to enrich the community. Native <> Newcomer may just be the platform Detroit has been looking for.

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