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Assisting in the rebuilding of community through innovation and entrepreneurship – 2021

Detroit, MI
Dates May 24 - July 19
Program Focus

Assisting in the rebuilding of community through innovation and entrepreneurship

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Community Development
  • Social Enterprise

Please note students in this program will not have the option to live on campus.


The DukeEngage-Detroit program will immerse emerging young Duke change-makers with seasoned social entrepreneurs tackling some of the city’s greatest challenges in a variety of domains, including economic development, social enterprise, food security, environmental sustainability, and health.

For decades an engine of the country’s economic development, Detroit was a beacon of hope for men and women who streamed into Michigan from around the world seeking an opportunity to pursue the American Dream. A thriving industrial hub through most of the 20th Century, the Motor City abounded with jobs in automobile and defense manufacturing and associated supply chains. The second half of the 20th Century saw Detroit slide into the economic decline that has left the region reeling to this day. Despite this painful decline, punctuated by the city’s recent decision to declare bankruptcy, a new hope for economic development and revitalization has emerged. Viewing necessity as the mother of invention, local entrepreneurs and change-makers are rolling up their sleeves to tackle the city’s challenges with creativity and determination. Across the city, incubators, accelerators, and other enabling organizations are sprouting up to support these entrepreneurs and to harness social and venture capital. Social enterprises, community development corporations, and other nonprofits are harnessing principles of enterprise to address poverty and its effects in new and promising ways.

Detroit has become a seedbed of entrepreneurial leadership and social innovation aiming to rebuild the city. It is in this thriving laboratory of economic development and social change that we established a DukeEngage program site focused on social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

The DukeEngage-Detroit program fulfills the 300-hour experiential requirement of Duke’s Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship.


Partnership Opportunities (Virtual)

The DukeEngage-Detroit program will offer projects to support community-based strategies to develop and scale innovative, high-impact social enterprises in the areas of economic development, environmental sustainability, and health innovation. Typically, a team of two students will work with a community partner to define, design and implement a project outlined by the community partner.

Student placements will be determined after interviews that ask about areas of interest, skillsets, desired work environment, etc.

Examples of team projects might include:

  • Develop a compelling program case statement to enhance communications and funding for a social mission initiative.
  • Participate in a key component of launching a new program within a social enterprise.
  • Develop and implement a performance measures and/or a program evaluation model for a social enterprise.
  • Engage in market research to better understand the stakeholders of a social enterprise and develop a marketing strategy to better connect the organization with primary constituents, strategic allies, funders, or other stakeholders.
  • Develop a compelling plan to scale the impact of a local social mission organization.
  • Evaluate a social enterprise’s organizational capacity and governance model and recommend improvements and changes.
  • Assess the feasibility of launching an earned income opportunity to generate revenues for a social enterprise.
  • Identity and explore opportunities to deepen Duke’s engagement in Detroit through social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Please review the DukeEngage-Detroit website to view past projects students have worked on.

Placements will be supplemented by a professional development and enrichment program that will introduce students to the basic concepts and tools of social entrepreneurship and to the culture, history, and economics of Detroit; and will foster reflection on their learnings throughout the summer and beyond, through weekly gatherings facilitated by the site coordinator. You can catch a glimpse of some of these gatherings on under “Program Highlights.”

Keep in mind when applying that this program will observe Eastern Time.


Program Requirements

Language: While there is no language requirement, we have one placement where conversational Spanish would be useful.

Coursework: Although there are no curricular prerequisites, we encourage students to consider enrolling in I&E261/PPS256, “Social Innovation,” a course offered by the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Personal Qualities: Students who want to be a part of DukeEngage-Detroit should be highly motivated to be an active and enterprising participant in a robust individual, team, and cohort learning experience. Given the nature of the projects, valued competencies include: leadership, business plans, marketing, event management, website development, database management, and documentary experience. Attractive student candidates are excited about the opportunities and will contribute to their community partner, their team, and their group. Students from a wide variety of disciplines are encouraged to apply. Placements will be determined based on the alignment of community partners’ needs with students’ interests and qualifications.