By: Maddy Booth, CEO

In early October, I had the incredible honor and privilege of attending the three-day GPLEX Conference in Detroit with over 150 Philadelphia leaders in attendance. Hosted by the Economy League of Philadelphia, GPLEX is designed to encourage cross-sector collaboration amongst civic-minded leaders to propel our community forward. By learning from and with another city, the goal is to bring lessons back to Philadelphia to inform our processes and perspective. It is a daunting task attempting to summarize this experience, so here are some highlights from GPLEX 2022 in Detroit.

The Who

We had the pleasure of hearing from incredible Detroit leaders from civic, governmental, activist, and community organizations in the keynote, panel discussions, and visits throughout the conference. As the largest majority Black city in the U.S., many Detroit leaders discussed important historical context including the Great Migration, the city’s bankruptcy, and a pervasive mistrust in government. We heard repeatedly that partnerships “move at the speed of trust” – something that resonates as Vetri Community Partnership continues to strive to be a valued and trusted partner in our community.

In between panel discussions, I was fortunate to meet so many inspiring, welcoming, and thoughtful Philadelphia leaders. Though the time was fleeting, the connections and networking came quickly, and I am looking forward to building stronger relationships with the incredible people I met in Detroit. One of our goals at Vetri Community Partnership is to continue to increase awareness about who we are and what we do while deepening strategic partnerships in our community. The immersive GPLEX Detroit experience was the perfect platform for building strong, cross-sector relationships.

The Where

For two days of the conference, we were able to select regional explorations to learn more about Detroit. For greater insight into community building and education system, I visited Marygrove Conservancy – a former college repurposed into a campus serving community members from cradle to career. Here, we learned about the education system in Detroit and were lucky to meet the founder and artistic director and hear the incredible Detroit Youth Choir rehearsing. In a majority-Black city, Marygrove and its COO, Rachael Allen, have thoughtfully created a community with an “educational anchor” in northwest Detroit.

For my second exploration, I had the opportunity to visit the Eastern Market – a commercial region that is a central hub in Detroit for food growers and food sellers. We started our visit at the Keep Growing Detroit farm where we learned from co-director Ashley Atkinson about their mission to support urban agriculture and food sovereignty in Detroit. By providing education and resources, Keep Growing Detroit has supported over 2,000 urban gardens and farms including those on land acquired from the city for residents.

Then, we had a lovely walking tour of the many “sheds” of the actual Eastern Market – an expansive footprint for food sellers and market stalls. I only wish it was open daily so we could have seen the traders in action!

The Extras

For the dine-around option where we learn about Detroit through food, I was wildly lucky to have gotten a seat at Baobab Fare. It was a true “celebration of East African food and culture,”  and I will forever be thinking about the peanut-stewed spinach, pili hot sauce, and hibiscus tea. Everything was made with love and brought me so much joy. I’m also thankful that my dining partners who were so willing to share so I could taste just about everything – major VCP vibes at that table!

I want to extend a big thank you to the organizers for being so thoughtful in planning, to the city of Detroit for being an incredible host with wonderful people, and to my fellow GPLEX attendees for being so welcoming to this first-timer. See you soon!