Helping the Skillman Foundation Rebuild Detroit’s Neighborhoods


Skillman Foundation


The Skillman Foundation, a private philanthropy committed to helping children in metropolitan Detroit, launched a major new initiative at the beginning of 2006 to target six individual neighborhoods in Detroit to work with residents to develop programs addressing problems specific to that neighborhood. 

Skillman chose Berg Muirhead to assist them in implementing the program, including organizing a series of community meetings, recruiting participants from each neighborhood and preparing all materials to be used in the effort. Skillman specified that the planning sessions in each of the six communities reflect that community’s ethnic and cultural make-up, taking into consideration any language barriers and/or other specific communication needs existing in each of the six communities. Skillman chose southwest Detroit, arguably Detroit’s most diverse area with Latino, Arab-American, African American and Caucasian residents, as the first area to begin developing the program. That meant developing materials and conducting outreach activities in three languages – English, Spanish and Arabic.   


Berg Muirhead helped organize four meetings for Skillman in Southwest Detroit the evenings of January 28, February 18, March 11, and April 1 and a final meeting for Saturday, April 22. Attendance at each meeting more than doubled the goal of 150 per meeting, with in excess of 300 showing up at each session. 

Following the Southwest meetings, meetings were conducted in Brightmoor and the area surrounding Osborn High School. The results were that more that 1,200 people have spent approximately 21,000 hours in constructive dialogue and brainstorming to develop goals that will have a positive impact on their communities and neighborhoods.

Participants enthusiastically participated in each meeting, with many showing up at multiple planning session. Berg Muirhead designed and distributed camera-ready articles for publication in neighborhood association or community newsletters and in church bulletins providing updates and general program information and advising of upcoming meetings. Following the April 22 meeting articles announcing the community goals and summarizing next steps and expectations were produced and distributed. 

Skillman is extremely happy with the results of its series of community meetings. Berg Muirhead is continuing to work with Skillman in organizing and carrying out planning meetings in the remaining two neighborhoods through the remainder of 2006 and 2007. 


Berg Muirhead helped organize four community planning meetings in Southwest Detroit to which residents were invited to come to describe problems found in their neighborhood and strategize possible solutions to those problems. The preliminary meetings were followed by a final community-wide meeting at which the recommendations were summarized and action plans developed. This template has been used in Southwest Detroit, Brightmoor and the area surrounding Osborn High School. 

Berg Muirhead carried out a series of mailings and community outreach activities to generate the desired audiences for each planning session as well as the final session at which recommendations were outlined. These efforts included producing 70,000 flyers in English, Spanish and Arabic; working with community leaders to distribute materials to their constituencies; distributing flyers to areas schools; reaching out to local English, Spanish and Arabic language media and placing ads in local African-American, Arabic and Latino publications. The goal was to have at least 150 residents at each planning session.