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‘U’ Partners with Focus: HOPE to fund six sustainability projects

By Liana Rosenbloom, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 4, 2012

The University’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute — which fosters environmental awareness on campus — has recently chosen six sustainability projects to partner with Focus: HOPE, a nationally recognized human rights non-profit organization that focuses on overcoming racial and economic injustice.

Focus: HOPE’s newest initiative, the HOPE Village Initiative, aims to better the education, economic self-sufficiency and living environment within the 100 blocks surrounding the Focus: HOPE campus in Detroit by 2031.

The six chosen projects are Applied Research and Service by Urban Planning Students in the HOPE Village Initiative Area, Building a Healthy Community in Detroit: Tracking the Impact of the HOPE Village Initiative, The Development of a Community Based Coalition to Promote Career and College Preparation in the HOPE Village Neighborhoods of Detroit and Highland Park, Legal Issues in HOPE Village Housing Cooperative and Green Space, Mapping Community Economics and Building Capabilities in HOPE Village, and Play & Grounds.

The institute’s stated goal is to make connections between the schools within the University with regard to sustainability with a focus on education and research, according to John Callewaert, director of the integrated assessment program at the Graham Sustainability Institute.

He said the collaboration began about a year ago with a meeting between the Graham Sustainability Institute and Focus: HOPE. After multiple meetings, site visits and project proposals, six faculty-lead projects have been selected to participate in the initiative.

According to Callewaert, Each of the six teams will receive between $25,000 and $30,000 from the Graham Sustainability Institute to spend on materials, meetings and training. He said the Institute hopes to have recommendations and results to present to the HOPE Village Initiative within the next 15 months.

Callewaert said he is hopeful this will be a productive collaboration.

“One of the things that (the Institute) is really excited about is that it is wonderful to work with such a well respected organization like Focus: HOPE, who’s got a clear vision and plan for what they want to do, and we can bring the expertise of faculty and enthusiasm of students to help move that forward,” he said.

He added that he hopes the collaboration of schools will serve as a model for other sustainability projects in the future.

“What we’re hoping is that if we do this well, this would present a really exciting model for other parts of Detroit and other communities across the country that are looking for ways to redevelop,” he said.

Debbie Fisher, director of the HOPE Village Initiative, said the initiative was born out of a discussion of how to better implement the organization’s goals.

“When we look outside our doors here at Focus: HOPE we ask ourselves, ‘Do we see our mission in action?’” she said. “The truth of the matter is that we don’t see the totality of our mission in action there.”

She said by implementing the new initiative, the organization is hoping to see this mission more clearly.

Fisher said the Graham Sustainability Institute has been a “phenomenal help” thus far. She also said she hopes this collaboration will become stronger as time goes on.

“I do think that this opportunity has given us a vision for doing something even more permanent for trying to figure out a way to take what we’re learning and doing with the Graham Institute to build something that’s a longer lasting partnership,” she said.