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Community Foundation is a ‘force multiplier’ when it comes to public-private partnerships

July 14th, 2023 Back to Browse Stories

Hudson-Webber Foundation President and CEO Melanca Clark, left, and Community Foundation President Richard (Ric) DeVore co-moderated a Mackinac Policy Conference panel about public-private partnerships. Panelists included Michigan Justice Fund Director Ashley Carter, second from left, New Economy Initiative Executive Director Wafa Dinaro, center, and Joe Louis Greenway Partnership Executive Director Leona Medley.

A panel at the Mackinac Policy Conference in May explored how public-private partnerships can intersect to solve some of the state’s most pressing problems. 

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan President Richard (Ric) DeVore and Hudson-Webber Foundation President and CEO Melanca Clark co-moderated the conversation, which included New Economy Initiative Executive Director Wafa Dinaro, Michigan Justice Fund Director Ashley Carter and Joe Louis Greenway Partnership Executive Director Leona Medley. 

Each leader began by outlining their project’s mission: 

  • The New Economy Initiative, an initiative of the Community Foundation, seeks to grow an inclusive culture of entrepreneurship in southeast Michigan that benefits all residents and strengthens the regional economy.    
  • The Michigan Justice Fund, another Community Foundation initiative, works to stem the flow of individuals into the criminal justice system, support the investment of public dollars to community-driven alternatives to incarceration, and ensure those who are returning home after incarceration receive the support they need to flourish.  
  • The Joe Louis Greenway Partnership is a nonprofit that will develop and manage the 27.5-mile greenway connecting Detroit, Dearborn, Highland Park and Hamtramck.  

 Among these seemingly disparate public-private partnerships, inclusive, equitable economic development was a common theme on the Mackinac stage.  

“For example, Dinaro said because entrepreneurship has a low barrier to entry, NEI can step in to provide opportunities for returning citizens and insert them into the entrepreneurial pipeline,” the Detroit Regional Chamber observed. “Building on this, Carter suggested investment in career training for formerly incarcerated people as an obvious solution to Michigan’s workforce shortage. Additionally, Dinaro said that residents of the neighborhoods along the Joe Louis Greenway should be included in the development of their communities and have a voice when it comes to what the business landscape looks like.” 

 Collaboration between the three initiatives exemplifies how the Community Foundation is a place where funders and partners can come together to make positive change. 

 “In the ecosystem of philanthropy, the Community Foundation plays a really special role,” moderator Melanca Clark said. “It’s a table for funders to come together where we can align around shared objectives. Certainly, the Michigan Justice Fund and NEI are examples of funders coming together to invest our resources together and have a cohesive voice as we enter into different initiatives and public-private partnerships. That’s been a real force multiplier.” 

This story first appeared in the Summer 2023 REPORT Newsletter