GIC SOUP: Social Innovation at its Finest

Authored By:

AIC Internships

Six social entrepreneurs. Ten minutes each. 5,750 dollars in grants. One SOUP.

The Global Internship Conference found inspiration from its host city to organize a micro-granting event that brought together socially innovative startups with conference attendees in the beautiful Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

The inspiration came from Detroit SOUP, an organization founded in 2010 with the mission to promote community-based development through crowdfunding, creativity, and collaboration. While celebrating and supporting creative projects in Detroit, the SOUP really does involve soup. For a five-dollar donation, attendees receive soup, salad, bread, and a vote. Four local projects are presented for initiatives ranging from art to education to urban agriculture to technology. After presentations, attendees break bread and enjoy soup before casting a ballot for the project they think benefits the city most. At the end of the evening, ballots are counted and the winner goes home with all the money raised to carry out their project.

The GIC SOUP put the call out for presentations through local start up hubs and regional universities. Six projects were selected as finalists to present and each received some level of financial support, with the winner of the most votes receiving 2,500 USD. After presentations of ten minutes each in the DIA Theatre, the finalists networked with conference attendees in the DIA Rivera Court and Great Hall. Ballot boxes were placed under murals by Diego Rivera depicting the industrial history of Detroit.

The GIC SOUP projects ranged from providing basic personal supplies to refugees to developing an algorithm that matches home health care workers with clients to creating modular clothing as an alternative to fast fashion. The proposal that received the most votes from the audience is a social enterprise based in Detroit that connects local high school women to professional opportunities through skills-based workshops, leadership training, and internships. The six presenters represented Michigan and Ontario, bridging the borders between the United States and Canada.

Tony Johnson, chair of the Global Internship Conference, highlighted the event as one bringing the world to Detroit. “With conference delegates from over thirty countries, the GIC was excited to share the remarkable story of this city and its comeback. These young entrepreneurs demonstrate the vibrant start up environment and inspiring individuals leading Detroit into the future.”

One local leader talked about taking Detroit to the world. Featured speaker Amy Kaherl founded Detroit Soup and shared the story of how it grew from a simple idea aimed at getting neighbors to talk and share solutions. She now serves as CEO of Global Soup as well as Director of Curation and Programming at Ponyride (a business incubator for Southeast Michigan’s maker community) and encouraged participants to use the model on their campuses and in their communities.

While mingling with the crowd Kaherl emphasized the global reach of a local idea. “I heard from individuals around the world…Australia to Italy to Africa…that they are interested in putting on a similar event. Please do! It is a brave, scary thing for people to share their ideas. I appreciate seeing the kindness and connection. SOUP has always been money and support for Detroiters by Detroiters. It is terrific to see this concept spread to other communities.”

The Detroit Soup model has been replicated in more than 170 cities around the world.