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Introducing the Five MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge Finalists

Hundreds of Detroiters were in attendance as five new ideas to support youth of color in Detroit were awarded $50,000 each through the second My Brother’s Keeper Detroit Innovation Challenge Tuesday night at the Michigan Science Center. Twenty semifinalist teams showcased their ideas through an interactive expo, followed by a pitch competition.

The MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge is supported by The Skillman Foundation, Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), JP Morgan Chase, and Ford Motor Company Fund. It was developed in 2016 by The Skillman Foundation and CBMA as a way to solicit ideas from community members and distribute funding to programs that would normally not meet philanthropic funding qualifications, such as having established revenue streams and a 501(c)(3) charitable status. The 2018-19 Challenge included a My Sister’s Keeper component, encouraging ideas to support girls and young women of color.  

“The Campaign for Black Male Achievement is proud to partner with The Skillman Foundation and others who are working to define and build the future we want for ourselves today, a future in which our brothers and sons are seen for the limitless assets they are,” said Shawn Dove, CEO of The Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

“Detroit is filled with genius and talent that can move the world. But what is too often lacking are the resources and opportunities required to realize that potential,” said Tonya Allen, President & CEO of The Skillman Foundation. “That is what the MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge is all about – providing impassioned people with the supports needed to bring their goals to life. What’s more, it is in service to our city’s greatest asset, our children.”

The 20 semifinalists competing were selected from nearly 650 applications. Teams went through a  prototyping phase in which they each received $5,000 and were engaged in a series of workshops and training sessions to help develop, test, and strengthen their programs to ensure feasibility and impact.

Ranging from STEM to youth homelessness, the selected ideas shared the characteristics of innovation, strong implementation of programming, and action-focused work serving Detroit youth of color.

The Second MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge Awardees are:

Detroit Phoenix Center

Offering employment training, mentorship, housing, and a supportive community to youth experiencing homelessness.

Developing Strong Black Male Educators

Offering black male educators a space for healthy thought exchange, peer support, and professional development and collaboration.

Reading Behind Bars

Connecting children with their incarcerated parent through monthly delivery of a book featuring children of color along with a letter from their parent.

Leaders Amongst Leaders


Exposing youth to experiences that grow their understanding of what it means to be a creative entrepreneur.

The Lab Drawer

Fun, interactive and educational STEAM education tools delivered by subscription.


Additionally, two Audience Choice Awards of $5,000 were given to Ladies in Training, providing mentorship and coaching to young girls of color, and Detroit Goes Global, offering leadership development and exposure other countries to Detroit youth. The Skillman Foundation will work closely with the selected ideas to provide professional support and continued brand building.

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

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  • Donald Phillips -

    Great work. So proud of The Leadership and team at The Skillman Foundation and all the awardees and others doing great work in our community!! Much Love & Respect FOREVER!!!!

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