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White House Names Detroit Crowdfunding Project a “Champion of Change”

Detroit SOUP, a monthly low-cost dinner event that supports local startups, attracts attention from Washington D.C. policymakers.

The White House recognized Detroit resident Amy Kaherl on Tuesday as one of 12 crowdfunding “Champions of Change,” according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. Kaherl was singled out for her work running Detroit SOUP, a monthly fundraising event where citizens pay $5 for food and vote on funding for projects that benefit the local community.

The presentation was streamed online, and Kaherl said she hoped that the event would cast her city in a positive light. Detroit’s been well-known in recent years for economic turmoil and dilapidated cityscapes.

But the Soup project is a small bright spot for the city. Detroiters that participate eat soup, bread and salad together while watching presenters tout projects that impact citizens’ lives. The Jam Handy building, located near Detroit’s midtown area, hosts the sessions, and the winning project receives all the money collected that evening.

Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez founded Detroit Soup in February 2010, and by April, the first fundraising winner was a Rust Belt Architecture photo book that received $110. Today the Soup sessions garner hundreds of attendees. More than $30,000 has been disbursed to local projects, including some supporting bicycle education and safety and a program to grow and sell food.

Kaherl, the Soup’s current leader, pays for rent and general operation expenses in the Jam Handy building with an $80,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Soup gets seven to 18 proposals a month and Kaherl and staff narrow these entries to about a handful that will be presented before diners.

“Crowdfunding is the 21st century equivalent of barn-raising,” said Thomas Kalil, the White House deputy director for technology and innovation, in an earlier prepared statement. “We can use it to help our neighbors and fellow citizens start a business, enrich our culture, and apply grassroots creativity and imagination to challenges big and small.”

Photo from Shutterstock.

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.