Center for Innovation Research

iLabs and Ford Community Corps




Over the past several years, iLabs faculty and students have worked on multiple phases of a project ​in partnership with the Ford Community Corps with a goal to engage UM-Dearborn students and local nonprofit organizations to ​leverage University talent to ​provide data-driven solutions to challenges faced by ​nonprofits in Metro-Detroit.

Over the course of this project, over 60 students, over 10 faculty members, and 89​ ​​NPOs​ were engaged in various phases ​led by iLabs. iLabs was also excited to host the first ever Nonprofit Opportunity Challenge in August 2015.

PHASE I: Surveying Non-profit Communities

As a pilot phase, UM-Dearborn faculty and students worked with NPO’s to identify their needs and how regional resources could be developed to support capacity building in this sector. Four faculty and Four students engaged with 89 NPOs through surveys and focus groups. 

To learn more about this phase and its findings, click here.

PHASE II: Data Driven Decision Making

With the primary goal of creating a database for nonprofits, 6 students and 5 faculty members worked with 15 NPOs to collect data for the purposes of creating business intellegence dashboards to benchmark nonprofit operations.

PHASE III: Expanding Student Engagement

This current phase focuses on developing strategies to help local nonprofits build program and/or operational capacity and develop sustainable data-driven decision making practices at a program and/or organization-level. This is done by engaging students and faculty in Academic Service Learning (ASL) courses and a separate iLabs team in student-led projects to support local organizations. Faculty, students, and iLabs researchers work with NPO’s to identify actionable projects and work to complete such projects over the course of one term (15 weeks). 

Here is an example of the work a team of iLabs students completed for the Gleaners Mercado Food Hub in Southwest Detroit: