The Growing Stronger plan

Arnstein’s ladder of participation represents the reality of citizen engagement, outlining the difference between the empty ritual of public participation and the real power to affect the outcome of a process [1]. This model continues to remain very dominant in many planning procedures, where citizens are approached but the outcome of the participation falls short in meaningful input into decision-making [2]. However, Detroit has realized they need public support, achieved through community input, to improve the current state of Detroit. Arnstein presents many cases of powerless citizens where even if ‘they’ the community participate, ‘they’ the planners or government will still profit. In the case of Detroit, all participation and effort in growth are designed help the whole community.

An example of a community development group in Detroit is the Community Development Organization (CDO). They work directly with the public to solely benefit the communities. The overall goal in the Growing Stronger Plan is to expand the CDO’s capacity. The CDO is an organization in Detroit with the greatest closeness and knowledge of the neighborhoods. Building their capacity will serve neighborhoods with missions and activities that respond to their specific needs [3]. In responding to the communities’ needs, they will undergo many public engagement activities, initially discovering what the citizens want then interacting with the residents to co-implement changes. In order to achieve this, CDO will clarify roles and relationships first at the local level. Once this is done, interactions with the larger communities, resource providers and support organizations levels can be incorporated into the plan [3]. The Growing Stronger Plan is created in cooperation with the University of Michigan, using the city and their surroundings as a laboratory. The city of Detroit has engaged students and through this project of the Growing Stronger Plan they can help to spur on urban revitalization. This will occur though the implementations of their plan and a structured step forward on the city’s next move.

The Growing Stronger Plan is in line with the Detroit Future City Plan as its main focus is on the residents. The core idea and goal for the two plans is to plant the seed of public engagement then use that as part of the efforts for urban revitalization.

Work Cited:

  1. Arnstein, S. (1969). The ladder of participation. American Planner, 57, p176-182.
  2. Stewart, J., & Lithgow, S. (2015). Problems and prospects in community engagement in urban planning and decision-making: three case studies from the Australian Capital Territory.Policy Studies, 36(1), 18-34.
  3. Ash, C., Dieter, P., Fang, A., Groves, D., Li, X., Luther, E., & Pinto M. (2008). Growing Stronger.  A Plan for the Future of Detroit’s Community Development Corporation System. Available from