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Before you think I’m giving out recipes for soup, don’t worry… my skills in the kitchen amount to piercing a plastic film and popping in the microwave for 3 minutes!
I recently came across Detroit SOUP on BBC News 24 whilst doing some channel surfing. It describes itself as a ‘micro-granting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in Detroit’. So what does that mean? For a $5 donation, those attending the SOUP get food (soup!), a chance to network and a vote. There are presentations by various entrepreneurs looking to raise funding for local projects which range from environmental, social justice and community projects to art, fashion and technology, and each attendee gets to vote on the project they think is worthy of the money raised from the donations on the night.
The Detroit SOUP is a genuine grassroots movement which is aimed at reversing the decline in Detroit over many years as a result of the collapse of the car industry and the bankruptcy of the city in 2013. The empowerment of local communities can only be good for business, and as communities look to improve the visual, educational, employment and cultural aspects in their local area then entrepreneurs, new businesses and investment often follow. You only need to look at the development of Shoreditch in London to see how it has gone from another run down inner city area in the East End to a hipster paradise for trendy young technology entrepreneurs with big beards and eye water inducing skinny jeans. The change has been driven not by government initiatives but by those in the creative industries and the hip technology companies (such as, SoundCloud and TweetDeck) centred around ‘Silicon Roundabout’.
Over 5 years and 95 dinners, the Detroit SOUP has now raised around $85,000 for local projects. In addition, and equally as important, they have a local community which is networking, sharing ideas and resources and being part of a catalyst for change. Perhaps in contrast with the current UK general election, young people who attend the SOUP feel they have a vote which will actually make a difference to their own community and get a chance to meet those presenting and ask questions.
The great thing about the idea is that it is easily replicated and there are now SOUPS starting to spring up all over the world.
If you’re interested in starting a SOUP in your local area then I’d love to hear about it and discuss with you. Please contact Angus McGuire on 01383 721 621.

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