This year’s Funders Forum for Sustainable Cities (FFSC) annual gathering was hosted by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint and Detroit, Michigan from 18-20 September. Centred on the theme of ‘Industrial Cities Adjusting to the New Economy’, funders gathered to learn about some of the initiatives philanthropy is supporting in Detroit and Flint to make them safer, more inclusive and more sustainable cities.

Flint and Detroit had both enjoyed an economic boom with extraordinary prosperity followed by well-documented downturns leading to a destabilising impact on health services, education, land use and more. With a thriving philanthropic community driving much of the renewal efforts of both cities, this was a prime opportunity for funders to learn about the programs and projects being utilised to revitalise the cities, as well as some of the remaining challenges the two cities still face.

The group heard from Congressman Dan Kildee, a Flint native, on the importance of municipal finance reform to give cities the resources needed, the impact that federal decisions can have on the local level, as well as the importance of densifying cities to combat urban sprawl. Site visits in Flint showed the delegates how the renewal of the riverfront will be used as a resource for the community, the vital role anchor institutions such as universities can play in their communities, as well as the role of local entrepreneurship for sustainable economic development.

The groups’ visit to Detroit began with a brief history and small glimpse into the future from Maurice Cox, the Director of Planning and Development, of the city. The importance of building the right team was evident, with major city restoration projects ahead including building 20-minute neighbourhoods. The group also had the opportunity to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts to hear the role philanthropy played in the ”Grand Bargain”, the means by which Detroit escaped from the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

The visit ended with a renewed energy among funders to enlarge the FFSC and understanding of the importance of continued collaboration on projects and proposals and the peer-learning opportunities this provides.

If anyone is interested in learning more about FFSC, please contact Jennifer Fitzsimons.


The Funders Forum for Sustainable Cities (FFSC) is part of EFC’s commitment to improving peer-learning and collaboration among its members. For more information on the EFC’s seven key priorities, please download the EFC Strategic Framework 2016-2022