Reconnecting Neighbors

Students: Ashley Flintoff, Kendra Harrison, and Mike Smith
Instructor: Gloria Albrecht


The final step of the Master of Community Development program is the two semester Capstone project, a comprehensive community development proposal for a real situation in a specific community that integrates economic, human, organizational, and physical concerns and deals with some form of sustainable redevelopment. The project is developed by a team of students and pursued in collaboration with a local municipality, community development corporation, or other sponsoring entity.

Project Description:

This Capstone project considers a new model for community development. In collaboration with College Core, the community immediately west of UDM, the team developed “the four pillars model” with the following tenets: Changing Perceptions, Creating Connections, Developing Leadership, and Organizing Action. The model focuses on working at a community level to achieve community goals through incremental actionable steps. The implementation of the four pillars model is scalable and can be transferred to other communities or projects. Practitioners and community leaders can utilize this asset based, bottom-up approach for community development without the need for a thorough knowledge of the field, thereby working towards greater community empowerment and sustainability. One of the success stories of the project included an immersion experience for the community through a van tour. Community members visited other neighborhoods in Detroit that also struggle with perceived challenges and learned how they were successfully coping with these through block-by-block programs and strong leadership. Additionally, the community came together for a design workshop to brainstorm signage and wayfinding opportunities for community communication. Demonstration signs were then built from found materials to mark community paths, deter littering and dumping, and increase community pride.