Creating community through a bowl of soup

My curiosity for Detroit’s alternative and unique revival brought me to a peculiar neighborhood dinner: the Detroit SOUP dinner.

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Detroit SOUP dinner

Since 2010, the organization Detroit SOUP has hosted 144 dinners dedicated to promoting and supporting local initiatives through crowdfunding.

Those dinners go beyond a standard crowdfunding platform with a simple concept: a participation fee of $5 minimum gives you access to a soup (+ bread + salad) and a vote.
Before soup is served, 4 project leaders pitch their concept. It may be a social, cultural, artistic, educational or environmental project,.. the only established criteria is that it must benefit the community.

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Amy Kaherl, Executive Director of Detroit SOUP

« When you silo something around urban farming, or entrepreneurship, you tell some people that they can not enter. »
« We want to be as inclusive as possible and give everybody the opportunity to submit their idea. » explains Amy Kaherl, Executive Director of Detroit SOUP.

Detroit SOUP dinner

After the presentations, you eat and chat with other audience members prior to giving your vote to one of the project leader.

Are you going to vote for Michael, Seven Mile Music’s member whose aim is to provide free weekly music and arts lessons, for Desirae who wishes to open personal libraries to children and families in need, or Emily who wants to build an urban garden?
Which project do you think benefits your city the most?

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Detroit SOUP dinner

The project that collects the most votes goes home with the money raised at the entrance.
Amy points out that it’s important to keep it simple so everybody feels they can come and attend.

By the numbers:
800+ ideas have been submitted to Detroit SOUP
450+ ideas have pitched at SOUP
Over 15,000 people have attended a Detroit SOUP dinner

Facing an increasing number of proposal submissions, Detroit SOUP recently launched dinners dedicated to a particular neighborhood in addition to the city-wide Detroit SOUP.

There are now 12 neighborhood SOUPs. « It has really been from the ground up, from a lot of people who come to the dinner, offer their energy, their time. » Like those consultants that volunteer their time every month to help project leaders restructure their ideas so they can pitch properly, or this great band whose music definitely contributes to the creation of a convivial atmosphere.

Funds collected go from $300 to $900 for a neighborhood SOUP and up to $1,900 for the city-wide Detroit SOUP, which is not insignificant for the project leaders.

But Amy outlines « Detroit SOUP, is not just about money. It’s mostly about people, actively engaged with a solution, sharing and refining their ideas. »
« It’s about building a deeper network. »

Indeed, seeing all those people chatting, Detroit SOUP seems much like a platform for connections.

The concept is already present in 120 cities worldwide: in the UK, in some African cities and even in Kathmandu, where some Idea Fest Nepal dinners are currently occurring.

« Within 8 months, about 75 cities launched their dinner. Most of them needed some advice. We were a bit overwhelmed. » confides Amy.
Since then, Detroit SOUP has developed a guide dedicated to communities that which to revitalize their neighborhood in a way that will reflect their own personality.

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