Detroit SOUP: Share Your Ideas to Help Benefit the City

By: Toni Cunningham | September 5, 2013

If you’ve got an idea to improve Detroit, along with a competitive edge, Detroit SOUP is calling your name.

The collaborative fundraising group meets once a month to share ideas and creative projects that will benefit the city of Detroit. At the door, pay $5 for a dinner of soup, salad and bread, watch four different groups present their ideas, and then vote. At the end of the night, the winning individual or group walks away with 100 percent of the funds collected at the door.

Mark your calendar for the next Detroit SOUP dinner on Sunday, September 22 at the Jam Handy. The proposals will be presented at 7 p.m., followed by dinner, and the winner will be announced by 8:45 p.m.

Amy Kaherl, Detroit SOUP facilitator and founder, says the goal is to connect individuals, resources and knowledge with people who are in need.

“It also is a way to practice democracy, sharing a vote and seeing immediate impact by your choice,” Kaherl said. “I think people (who) are starting new projects can get feedback, support, resources, build their network and exchange ideas in a safe space where people are supporting their ideas.”

Those ideas include a range of topics, like art, social justice, urban agriculture, social entrepreneurship, education and technology—really, any idea that aims to improve the city of Detroit.

“SOUP helps (participants) by providing space for feedback, a place to exchange ideas, share resources, connect and engage. We have had a couple meet and get married, people receive jobs, collaborate on projects… It’s a pretty incredible experience,” Kaherl said.

Since its inception over three years ago, Detroit SOUP has grown both in terms of attendance and impact. At first, each meeting brought in about 40 participants. Now, meetings have jumped to about 225 attendees—and helped raised over $40,000 along the way!

SOUP dinners occur once a month, and the organization has expanded to smaller neighborhood meetings that are held quarterly. While there are neighborhood dinners in Brightmoor, Highland Park and other areas, the monthly SOUP dinners are held at Detroit’s former Jam Handy Building, 2900 E. Grand Blvd.

“It’s a beautiful space with a lot of Detroit history,” Kaherl said. “We love the rawness and beauty of the space, (and are) hoping to encourage people to explore the raw beauty of their ideas as well.”

At this point, you may be wondering how the logistics work. Four projects are presented at each SOUP dinner, and those interested in presenting an idea must submit their idea for consideration a week before the meeting. Kaherl and a board of longtime SOUP members then vote and decide which individuals get to share their ideas at the meeting.

Local restaurants and community members share soup and salad at the dinner, and the bread is donated from Midtown’s Avalon Bakery.

Detroit SOUP not only gives startups the boost they need to get their ideas off the ground, but also promotes a positive image of Detroit.

“I think the more we are moving into neighborhoods throughout the city, people are connecting to the city with new ideas,” Kaherl said. “I think it challenges the idea that Detroit is more than it’s external facades, but a city of people who are looking to revitalize and believe in (themselves) again.”

One of the most successful ventures that got its start through Detroit SOUP is the Empowerment Plan, a project that creates coats that turn into sleeping bags for the homeless and disaster relief victims.

Detroit SOUP is currently funded through the Knight Foundation, United Way and the Peck Family Foundation. For more information, visit http://detroitsoup.com or visit the organization’s Facebook page.