Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Rising to the Challenge: How MBK Detroit is Launching New Ideas for the City’s Youth

How will you create opportunity for young people of color in Detroit?

That is the question at the heart of the My Brother’s Keeper Detroit Innovation Challenge. Launched in 2016, the Challenge is a call for community members to submit their ideas to create and support opportunity for boys and young men of color in the city. Applicants do not need to have an established 501(c)(3), as is typically needed to apply for grant funding, only a great idea and the willingness to bring it to life.

The first edition of the Challenge attracted more than 500 submissions from Detroiters across the city, with a select group of finalists ultimately receiving $50,000 each to develop their visions. Awardees represented a wide-range of ideas and all sought to create opportunity for youth in very unique ways.

We Are Culture Creators

Merges arts, activism, and entrepreneurship to help connect young men with the resources they need to become leaders, community builders, and independent artists.

Developing Despite Distance

Helps to connect young men of color with their incarcerated parents and express the complex emotions that accompany shared sentences.


Equips youth with the technical skills they need to be competitive in Detroit’s evolving economy through computer coding courses and employment opportunities.

Our Town

Provides a platform for young Detroiters to share their city with the world through youth-guided tours and international travel experiences aimed at building leadership and cultural awareness skills.

As the organizations tested their ideas, the experience also offered the opportunity to learn from each other, work collaboratively, and grow together. The young men who participated in the programs also played important roles throughout the process, lending their voices and helping to shape the direction and growth of their organizations.

“There’s definitely a lack of opportunities for young people in Detroit,” said Duan, a participant in the Developing Despite Distance program. “It feels good to be a part of an organization where I can help out and give back.”

The process culminated in a public expo where the finalists demonstrated the mission and impact of their organizations through interactive exhibits prominently displayed in downtown Detroit. The installations were also accompanied by a photo exhibit that told the stories of the young men impacted by the participating programs.
“The Challenge has been a game changer for us. Not only did it provide funding for our organization, but we also received a ton of guidance and advice on how to build, scale, and evaluate our programming,” said Richard Grundy, a co-founder of JOURNi.

“To this day, we continue to collaborate with contacts we’ve made during the Challenge, including some members of our cohort.”

In the spring of 2018, the second Challenge launched with the returned support of The Skillman Foundation, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and JP Morgan Chase as well as additional support from the Ford Motor Company Fund. A My Sister’s Keeper component was also added for ideas focused on girls and young women of color in Detroit.

More than 600 submissions were received and entered a comprehensive review process that engaged Foundation staff, community members, and local youth to review and determine which ideas would make the most impact. As a result, 21 teams were selected to receive $5,000 to prototype their ideas.

On February 12, 2019, teams will share their progress at a public pitch event, where six teams will be awarded $50,000 to launch their program.

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