Discovering and applying new and innovative economic development tools, models, policies, and programs
Creating Jobs and Wealth in Distressed Michigan Communities

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The REI Innovation Fellows Program is seeking applicants to incorporate the tools, models, and policies identified in Co-Learning Projects, or new ideas, into practice in communities around Michigan. The Innovation Fellows program was established in 2016 to attract and support top champions in communities and organizations to tackle the tough economic development issues that our distressed communities face every day. Innovation Fellows provide on-the-ground support and coordination to move concepts to actions, implementing new economic development tools, models, and policies. These Fellowships are funded up to $10,000 through a competitive award process.

2022 Innovation Fellow and Chief Equity Officer at Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Tony Willis, focused on exploring communal and cooperative investment/business models, specifically worker-owner cooperatives and community investment trusts, that could be deployed in the Lansing region to combat economic instability. Willis stated that the fellowship "helped manifest ideas and concerns related to economic stability into proactive programing to build awareness about the need of succession planning for businesses, how worker owner cooperatives could be a great solution, and how Community Investment Trusts could be away to enhance local ownership and equity for distressed communities." Tony further stated, "I was also able to connect with some of the most knowledgeable, passionate, and connected individuals within economic development because of the programming REI/CCED held."

Visit the REI Application page to learn more on all projects and to apply. The program deadline is December 12, 2022. Please contact Jenan Jondy at for more information and to answer any questions.

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