Convening to Spark Change

Michigan Community Resources and Co.act Detroit partner to steward the vision and implementation behind the Detroit Capacity Building Forums. As we do so, we build upon work and convenings that laid the groundwork and paved the way for the series.

2018: Origins

The first Detroit Capacity Building Forum took place on February 27, 2018. Hosted by the University of Michigan School of Social Work and shaped by a planning group of diverse nonprofit stakeholders, the event brought together over 70 stakeholders from nonprofits, foundations, and other stakeholders within the nonprofit ecosystem. The focus of the inaugural forum was “to develop an intentional capacity building ecosystem in Detroit that works for all and is equipped to solve social problems in our community.”

2019—2020: Evolution

After the success of the initial forum, Sonia passed the baton to Michigan Community Resources to plan the next forum alongside Michigan Nonprofit Association, Nonprofit Enterprise at Work, and Co.act Detroit. Informed by the process of deep listening and engagement with the nonprofit community in Southeast Michigan and beyond from which the Building a Network Recommendations emerged, the partners identified three levers that we, the social change ecosystem, need to pull in order to advance equity in a transformative way. As an ecosystem, we need to Collaborate, Invest, and Think Differently.

With this new framing, we re-engaged a cross-sector planning group to plan the next forum for Spring 2020, shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020—Beyond: Execution

From late 2020 onward, Michigan Community Resources and Co.act Detroit assumed leadership of organizing the forum. In March 2021, informed by ecosystem stakeholders, we kickstarted the new series with “How We Collaborate”—the 2021 Detroit Capacity Building Forum. In 2022 we hosted “How We Invest,” and in 2024 we’ll host “How We Think,” — concluding the Detroit Capacity Building Forum series.

A Framework for Transformation:

Collaborate, Invest, and Think Differently

These forums create vital space for meaningful conversation around barriers and opportunities to drive equitable outcomes in our communities. They are the venue to thoughtfully map out how we can drive deep, systemic change in our ecosystem and in the communities we serve.

It takes more than a conversation to create change. That’s why we launched Dovetail: to harness the collective intelligence shared at the capacity building forums in the form of tools and resources designed to lower barriers and foster transformation.

That’s why we developed the Collaborate, Invest, and Think differently framework to guide the ongoing conversation as we set about the long-term work of transformation.


Dismantling systemic barriers begins with redefining the values we want our new culture to embody. By shifting from a mindset of competition to one of collaboration, we open new paths toward collective action and social transformation.


Conversations about investing often center funders and those with financial power. When we reframe the conversation to include nonprofit employees, consultants, social justice advocates, and other everyday folk, we open the way for new possibilities.


The nonprofit world is full of assumptions and received wisdom that often does not align with the communities being served. When we change our minds, we reshape our culture to be more inclusive, more effective, and more human.