Green garage formational work

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Project Description

More description in an e-mail from Tom

Hi everyone,

Hope you have all had a great summer.

A new spin-off project of GLGI has emerged this summer and we are tentatively calling it the Green Garage. Think "silicon valley garage" focused on building world class skills for the "green collar" jobs and sustainability-based service and product businesses of the future. It's focused on college juniors/seniors and recent graduates, providing a "resource bridge" to successful careers in Michigan.

It will link the next generation of this region to what will likely be the most important work of their generation...that is, to making our way of life sustainable. This work is already becoming the fastest growing sector of every business segment today from green power, to organic foods, to clean water, to, yes, hybrid cars. Detroit, and Michigan, need to be a part of this. We think this is how we attract and retain the best and brightest to our region. We want to do our part to help. We have found a great old building in the Wayne State area of Detroit and have put in a bid to purchase it. This building is currently being used as a warehouse, but in the 1920's it was a showroom for Model T automobiles, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the next year, we are planning on doing a green renovation of it, while keeping true to its historic origins. The Green Garage Project will launch in September 2008.

While we have some initial thoughts about the project we could truly use your input in identifying most powerful possibilities for this project. This coming Thursday - August 30 at 7pm we'll be gathering as friends at our home in Troy for a little popcorn, drinks, and lots of discussion. If this is an area of interest to you, we'd be so grateful to have you join us.

We look forward to a great discussion.

Tom and Peggy 4601 Colling Dr. Troy, MI

p.s. If you are unable to attend but want to pass along ideas, comments or questions ... we'd welcome getting an email from you.


Conversations have been held in August and September to begin forming the core elements of the green garage.

Here is a summary of the conversations.

Notes from The Green Garage - Meeting 0 - at Motor City Brewing Works - Sept 25

Who: 16 young people and Tom and Peggy

What: Idea generation meeting

When: September 25, 2007 (7 - 9pm)

Atmosphere: Great! Balmy September evening on the roof of Motor City Brewing Works, pizza and beer. Pizza was donated to the group by Park Bar in Detroit.

Here are the comments that the evening generated (categories are the editor's.) (GG = Green Garage)

Developing an Overall Business Model

  • How do you brand yourself?
  • There's two fundamental cores: entrepreneurial and research (are we right on this?)
  • Could promote GG as a research institution.
  • What if the GG was a sustainable policy think-tank?
  • Look carefully at project scope - what is the end goal of this organization? Might help to keep this narrow. Is it volunteer based? Financially based? Intended to develop sustainability jobs?
  • What about the geographic dimension to the project and it's work. Will we pursue a Detroit-centric (urban) opportunities...or state, national or international?
  • A goal: to get green venture capital back in Michigan. Michigan is number 4? in new patents and number 47? in acquiring venture capital to these ideas. This project could help change this.
  • Set up non-profit businesses that provide space for people to fiddle with their ideas and provide access to resources that helps them to launch private ventures. This would be great for Detroit and exciting for attracting young people.
  • How are you going to measure success?
  • 4731 Art Gallery...may be a good model to study for the formation of the Green Garage. (see Matt) - Visit [1] for details.

Identifying the Great Work

  • This region wastes a tremendous amount of raw materials. Focus on green restoration, rehabilitation, reuse.
  • Do something like Study Abroad. Wouldn't it be exciting if the people could go see what is happening in some of the more environmentally advanced nations like Norway and Sweden? Why couldn't the GG sponsor a student to study conservation abroad?
  • Focus on the parks. This organization could promote cleaning out parks - conservation and maintenance of spaces - building green space. Maybe there's a way to connect to the new State Park along the river front.
  • Perhaps GGers could go out into the community for 1/2 day each week to get connected to the neighborhood and local organizations. Learning more about the community they are a part of. Foster a culture that expects the GG to reach out. Find ways to have the activities benefit all involved.
  • Environmental injustice would be an important area to consider including in the GG scope of work.
  • Create a library (i.e. a reliable information hub) that could connect people to all that is happening is the environmental sustainability area. It could house things like environmental violations or sustainability projects.
  • Develop an advocacy approach for getting "green growth" into the region's economic plans. The plans are targeting 1990's growing areas (i.e. IT..) and are almost silent on the opportunities within the "green" or sustainability growth areas.
  • The work will be constantly changing and this creates it's own set of requirements for many aspects of the project.
  • What if the GG helped facilitate personal journeys to sustainable careers and entrepreneurial connections? Teach sustainable entrepreneurship.
  • Try encouraging sustainable lifestyles within college dorms. If you could do it there, you could do it anywhere.
  • Maybe focus on water. It's all around us here in Detroit. This may sound a little strange, but we could promote sustainable watercraft, given the water-rich location.
  • When we ask what causes will be pursued...we need to ask: What do people need?
  • Stop the sprawl! Promote green reuse of existing buildings....isn't that sustainability?
  • Think of how this project might improve people's sense of safety and security. A sense of safety comes when you have more people in an area.
  • Will we have full-time workers with health insurance? Could you defer student loans for students that graduate and join the GG. ?
  • What are the common tools and information that might underlie sustainability work? If you could identify those, they would be important to make available through the GG.
  • You might focus on those that are not so aware of what "green" of "sustainability" are. Try and focus on them and bring an educational approach that enables them to understand and start taking steps in their lives. Even just the awareness would help bring about the change.
  • Teach people how to get funding for their ideas...that in itself would be so empowering! They need access to the people that know.
  • Finding people that are self motivated will be a key characteristic to those that you'll need to attract to the GG.
  • We need to understand what kind of projects venture capitalists want to fund.
  • Did you know they created a $100 million fund in Michigan to promote entrepreneurial ventures in Michigan?

Creating a Learning Organization (Capacities and Capabilities)

  • Will there be a professional, full-time team in place to run things?
  • Marketing person will be needed to help people sell their ideas.
  • Please be aware that if current college students are your target population that they are turning over every semester. This churn can create sustainability challenges for the organization
  • Expand the age range of people working there. Shouldn't just focus on young people. Encourage second-career people to join the project. Many people (our parents) have great skills, experiences that could be very valuable to the mission. Also, many of them have a real passion for the environment and now have the time to contribute to a project like this. There could be some amazing collaborations between generations.
  • A key skill that will need to be developed is how to get funding.
  • Many comments focused on establishing mentor relationships. Perhaps could establish a mentor program, using alumni to work with new members. Cranbrook model has a program where you can work with a master - you educate those who approach you.
  • Who will regulate the GG workspace? Perhaps a GG Learning Community.
  • Setting goals and objectives can be very helpful in motivating people towards the GG mission. One organization uses Objectives and Key results to create an organizational-wide focus on the mission. They also communicate these openly and broadly.
  • It is critical that "sharing" be a core value of the organization....a "Each one, Teach One" culture. That is how the organization will collectively learn and grow. If everyone is protective of their knowledge and ideas it greatly limits what is possible.
  • Use intensive training processes, like Peace Corps or Teach for America. These are very successful with large numbers of volunteers that need to build skills quickly.
  • If you have many learning communities within the GG, then will need an army of people with strong facilitation skills.
  • Recognize that many of those that join will come with a specific interest. There needs to be support and encouragement for new ideas.
  • It's going to be helpful just to connect people that have the same interest/skill/passion.

Attracting Participants and Partners

  • It's important to find a way to bring for-profit institutions into the fold. It will be important to involve the businesses in our region through partnerships and exchanges of knowledge.
  • Schools and neighborhoods could be potentially powerful partners.
  • There's a lot already going on and it would be important to try to connect to existing resources and environmental organizations.
  • How can we communicate this to younger people? There are so many that are interested but don't know how.
  • Form groups of venture capitalists by the type of enterprises that need to be helped.
  • There is a possible link with Americorps.
  • How about "Green" Scholarships...develop a Green Promise (like Kalamazoo Promise) that could cover college tuition.

Renovating the Building

  • Building could be useful for design competitions.
  • The work space is going to need to be modular and very flexible. Within the building, use organic moving stations.
  • How would you limit the number of learning communities (i.e. teams) working at once?
  • Every few months, you customize your space (like at Lawrence Tech - School of Architecture).
  • Utilize communal work areas where ideas can be easily shared/exchanged.
  • Start with a blank box, make work spaces flexible and mobile.
  • If the first 6 months involves renovation of the building, why not involve the community?
  • How can we make the building feel safe? This will be important in attracting people to the project.
  • Consider historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Other Potentially Helpful Resources

  • Wayne State has recently completed their plan for sustainability, called 'Sustainability Vision.'
  • Other colleges in the area like Detroit-Mercy and Marygrove would certainly be interested.

Here's a couple ideas that come up in the conversations after our group session.

  • Focus on solving ever day problems. Innovate around every day problems. This would be a great way to involve the neighbors.
  • Needs to be a strong community driven by their passion.
  • The opportunity for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration are a very important aspect of the GG.

Please put any additional comments here...

Notes from Conversation #0 (August 30)

Overall responses of the group, gathered into rough categories

Young People

  • This project will be very important to young people who are trying to find careers that are purposeful to them and the world around them.
  • It's important that we hear the reaction of the young adults that will be a part of this and how the concept touches them and their hopes, concerns and priorities. We need to ask this what they are seeking?
  • Recent graduates would be another great group to target. They are trying to find meaningful work.
  • Consider the college dropouts as a target group.
  • #1 difficulty of young graduates in getting a job is "not enough experience,"... so the intern work will be important.


  • Establishing effective mentoring relationships, especially from those in the business community, will be important.
  • It'll be important to build credibility early.
  • Wouldn't the state of Michigan be a great resource for helping with an idea such as this?
  • It may be helpful to look at the Focus Hope model (might be similar idea)
  • It'll be important to connect to the entrepreneurial environmental sustainability business activity that is happening in the area, like Uni-solar.
  • Relationships with departments in neighborhood universities will be important, and consider non-traditional areas of study, like music.
  • Look at area companies that are going green, and look for the kids in the company that are making that happen.
  • Work with area university architecture depts to create a senior design project for the Green Garage.
  • Don't forget Canada may be a resource.

Business aspects

  • Are you pursuing foundations and grants?
  • Are you a for-profit or non-profit business?
  • You'll need to determine how you'll deal with patents or ownership of ideas.
  • The intellectual property aspects of this will need to be worked out - will be critical to work out ahead of time.
  • Formalizing communications function to let people know what you're doing. (i.e. Connecting to Model D)

What is this anyway?

  • The cross-fertilization element of the concept is important (exchange of ideas over disciplines).
  • There are several basic models in here:
    • University model with professor and students
    • Research model (research lab, pursue grants, attract students to that)
    • Think tank model (groups gather to advance ideas)
  • This is really an academy in the classic sense of the term (where the intellectually curious find an embracing environment).
  • Would the word 'institute' be a better word for this project?
  • Where's the philosophy department? (We need to allow some time just to think).
  • Some of this is really going back to the way things used to be done long ago...a bit of old and new.

Building design

  • It'll be very important that the design of the building and business practices be very flexible and modular.
  • Have the building be self-sustaining from an energy standpoint.
  • Safety and security is an issue in the area.
  • The building should be inspirational, inventive, eclectic...Apple store format may be useful.


  • The question is not who is at the head of the organization, but who is at the heart of the organization? When people go into the Green Garage, they should see shared leadership. Leadership is everywhere.
  • There's a real potential to grow a world-wide community. Imagine what could happen if we worked together on environmental sustainability.
  • The scope of this could be world-wide.
  • When people come to the Green Garage, they should be asked: what do you think? What are you passionate about?
  • Forming communities around environmental sustainability work is a social movement.
  • We need to think about relaxing the age focus of this project. (Consider retirees, people who have been laid off, etc)
    • Maybe I could be a greeter.
  • There may be national interest in coming to the Green Garage in Detroit.
  • How do we engage parents, uncles, aunts, whole family?
    • What can I give? (food)
    • How can I encourage and support you? (bring food, clean building, etc)
  • Maybe there could be a program where people outside of the garage could adopt a person or a team.

The work

  • Connecting to DECO (Edison) could be an interesting first project.
  • Motown Hitsville was open 24/7. They had cots in the building.
  • Give people 2 years to develop their idea.
  • Online library.
  • GOAL: Robert Redford (talk to any women who was at the meeting for details.)

Resources and assets that could be helpful to the project

  • Denny's brother is a LEED-certified architect and experienced in restoring old buildings.
  • Gary D. from Utah could be very helpful in the energy area.
  • Cameron Sinclair model for collaborative architecture could be very helpful.
  • Surrounding neighborhood.
  • Young retirees.
  • IHM community
  • Engineering Society of Detroit and other societies.
  • Small green businesses in the area. Start a dialogue with them. Could be a support to them especially if the green garage were a non-profit

More input

Aug 31, 2007 Dear Tom & Peggy:

Thanks for including me in the discussion yesterday. It's an exciting project that bends the brain cells somewhat to image what might happen. Some additional points:

At some time you may want to develop a vision or mission statement to put some parameters around what may occur.

I think you would also do well to consider setting up an independent corporation which would exempt you and your estate from any negative implications or claims. You might want to consider buying the garage in the name of the new corporation.

Also, I would suggest you try the SWOT method (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) in your focus group efforts. I realize the first meeting was to develop a concept. Once the concept has some "wheels" the SWOT method helps open up new ideas around it. I've conducted the SWOT method for the Rochester Symphony board and worked with it for the Library. Some things you're glad you've learned about. It also identifies potentials you may not have imagined.

All in all, it's an exciting project and I wish you much luck. (You may want to get some Feng Shui advice about the building and its environment from some friendly Feng Shui consultant ( like me) so you begin with the best possible good fortune.)

Best always,