New Economy Initiative

An economic development initiative working to build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Campaign Strategy
Print Design

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) is a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It is one of the largest economic development initiatives of its kind working to build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The NEI’s goal is to establish an inclusive, innovative, and regional culture where opportunity, wealth, and prosperity are available to all.

In 2014 we consulted on NEIdeas, a competition that celebrated 30 existing businesses in Detroit with awards totaling $500,000. Through a participatory process, our team helped NEIdeas enlist the support of dozens of non-profit and community leaders to impact the campaign’s reach. This ignited a more successful approach to communicating from within Detroit’s Arabic, Bengali, and Spanish speaking communities. We also oversaw the design of all bilingual campaign collateral.

Step 1.

We composed a large-scale graphic using inexpensive white boards and dry erase markers. This lo-fi approach served as an introduction to the NEIdeas campaign and supported the competition’s desire to be reactive to its guests through a fun and accessible medium.

We devised questions that helped participants identify potential jurors, ambassadors, and trustees within their support networks. These roles would prove to be a critical part of the competition’s mission to raise its profile within Detroit’s small business community.

   Above:  Participants share their insights about potential jurors and ambassadors.

Above: Participants share their insights about potential jurors and ambassadors.

Step 2.

We began an aggressive advertising campaign to support the visibility of the competition. Posters and application drop boxes were first installed across Detroit to encourage participants to submit their business growth ideas.

Vital to the success of the campaign was its goal to engage Detroit’s Arabic, Bengali, and Spanish speaking residents. A system of bilingual collateral was designed to be as inclusive of each audience as possible. A video produced in collaboration with Detroit Lives! helped to bolster an audience of curious visitors to

With the help of its volunteers and ambassadors, hangers were delivered door-to-door.

Video: View the 1 minute campaign spot.

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Image credits: Michelle & Chris Gerard & Ali Lapetina
With: Genna Cowsert, Karen Timmermann, Alicia Stocker, & Monica Mitevski