THE ISHINOMAKI / DETROIT COLLABORATIVE is a transnational and community-engaged learning initiative for University of Michigan undergraduates and our community partners in Detroit, MI and Ishinomaki City, Japan.

Over the course of a three semester curriculum spanning southeast Michigan and Japan, participating students facilitate joint projects between pairs of analogous community organizations working in Detroit and Ishinomaki.

The program’s mission is to forge mutually-beneficial collaborations between parallel community efforts in both cities, while fostering collaborative competency, intercultural fluency, civic responsibility, creative confidence, and self-agency in our students.


THE PROJECT | In collaboration with local youth at the BRIGHTMOOR MAKER SPACE and the designers/artisans of ISHINOMAKI LABORATORY, we designed, prototyped, and produced a portable flatpack kit to address community-identified infrastructure needs in Brightmoor, a neighborhood in northwest Detroit. This BRIGHTMOOR BENTO KIT, inspired by Ishinomaki Laboratory’s Bento DIY Kit, will consist of prefabricated wood components that makers of all ages can assemble into various types of micro-infrastructure.

A BRIGHTMOOR BENTO KIT (Credit: Detroit Free Press)

BRIGHTMOOR MAKER SPACE | What if we could teach 200 kids in a Detroit neighborhood how to design and build furniture? Or build solar-powered lamps to make neighborhood streets safer at night? Or start a t-shirt-making business, using handmade screen prints? Working with Brightmoor community partners, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, and Detroit Community Schools, we envision the Brightmoor Maker Space as a place for residents, particularly young people, to improve their making skills, develop intergenerational connections, and nurture community revitalization. The space will also help youth explore paths to college and/or a profession.

ISHINOMAKI LABORATORY | Energizing people and society with the spirit of DIY (Do It Yourself) + Design. The world’s first DIY label, direct from Ishinomaki. Ishinomaki Laboratory started out in 2011 as a workshop for the local community. Today, Ishinomaki Laboratory is striving to push the DIY concept forward to broaden the horizons of DIY design, helping to energize people and the community as a locally-run independent company.


THE PROJECT | HUMANS OF ISHINOTROIT is a collaborative production of high school students at DHDC in southwest Detroit, young people active at ITNAV in Ishinomaki, and undergraduates from the University of Michigan. A compendium of stories from both cities, this website serves as an interactive space for youth in SW Detroit and Ishinomaki.


DHDC | DHDC’s mission is to make a difference by creating life-changing opportunities for youth and their families. We are committed to meeting the needs of our community by providing quality, innovative and culturally appropriate services, primarily in Southwest Detroit. Our vision is to create a stable and safe community where youth and families have quality opportunities for self-empowerment, education, and personal wealth.

ITNAV | Founded in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami, ITNAV is a hybrid for-profit/NPO operation that promotes K-12 programming and graphic design education in Ishinomaki. Based in a repurposed vacant building, ITNAV provides in-house coding and graphic design workshops; dispatches staff to support coding courses in local high schools; and provides study space, computers, and mentorship for local youth interested in IT.




THE PROJECT | In collaboration with REVIVAL DETROIT LLC (a real estate renovation outfit in northwest Detroit) and MAKIGUMI LLC (a real estate renovation outfit in Ishinomaki) we will assemble a comparative study of both organizations’ property renovation and social engagement practices. Composed of written, audiovisual, and physical model elements, this study will provide a “tool-kit” of property acquisition, renovation, and management strategies, as well as practices for building trust with the local community and municipal/city government. Students will work with partner organizations to properly contextualize these strategies against the different economies of renovation and new builds in northwest Detroit and Ishinomaki.

REVIVAL DETROIT | A community revitalization company, formed by WMUZ Radio, Inc. Since its founding in 1959, the WMUZ radio station and plant has physically been part and parcel of the Weatherby neighborhood in the Cody-Rouge section of Detroit. The purpose of Revival Detroit, LLC, is to foster, promote and accomplish the revitalization of the ¼ square mile neighborhood in which WMUZ resides (specifically between the geographical boundaries of Plymouth Rd, Burt Rd, Evergreen Rd and Capitol Rd), and renew properties along with the spiritual, social, and cultural vitality of the neighborhood.

MAKIGUMI | Founded in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami, Makigumi LLC is a start-up that aims to ameliorate Ishinomaki’s long-standing vacancy and demographic challenges through a real estate matching/renovation service; strategic construction of new mixed-use builds; and a community-building initiative that works to build social cohesion between new arrivals and long-time residents.