The REI University Center has identified the following topics for possible Co-Learning Plans in 2018. To submit an application or to learn more, please visit

The deadline for all applications is Friday, December 14, 2018. Please direct questions to Ms. Jennifer Bruen at or 517-353-9555

  • A. Blockchain Technology Impact

    Blockchain technology is a decentralized public ledger and database platform that enables Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to be exchanged. Because it's a distributed database system, serving as an open electronic ledger, Blockchain may be able to simplify business operations for all parties. For these reasons, the technology is being explored by financial institutions, stock exchanges, music, diamonds, insurance, and Internet of Things (IOT) devices. Advocates have suggested that this kind of electronic ledger system could be useful to voting systems, weapon or vehicle registrations, medical records, or even to confirm ownership of antiquities or artwork. This innovative Co-Learning Plan will explore the current and possible impact of Blockchain Technology in Michigan. How might it affect consumers and businesses in the future? Might economic developers find it useful? Apply Now!

  • B. Can Local Produce Stop Climate Change?

    Does growing produce locally provide significant climate change benefits for communities seeking to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions impact? There appears to be no recent study that quantifies the magnitude of the potential benefits from a community taking this type of strategy in their climate action plan. Addressing this lack of data by working directly with farmers markets, a study could be used to grow local sustainable food systems by educating vendors, developing market information for customers, promoting helpful policies, and soliciting additional support from cities around the Great Lakes region to reap the climate-friendly benefits. Apply Now!

  • C. Community Benefit Agreements

    In 2016, Detroit enacted a Community Benefits Ordinance, the first of its kind in the United States, which included a range of participatory planning mechanisms triggered at two different investment thresholds. While the efforts of policymakers and community groups are laudatory, the ordinance is widely believed to be hamstrung because community engagement occurs late in the development process. What are the opportunities and impediments to strengthening and advocating for community benefit agreements in Michigan? What the potential impacts of CBOs on equitable economic development? Apply Now!

  • D. Energy Co-ops Across America

    How could rural Energy Co-op entities expand their operations and provide high-speed internet service to rural communities? Where do energy co-ops offering broadband exist today? How do they work and what has their success been? What role can they play in supporting broadband/technology-enabled economic development in rural Michigan? Apply Now!

  • E. MILE Act, Part II

    In 2014 REI supported a Co-Learning Plan to examine the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act, which offers businesses an opportunity to seek intrastate investment crowdfunding from any resident of Michigan, and its potential impact in Michigan. As a follow-up, we might want to look into what industries/businesses have succeeded using this legislation. Or, if businesses are not succeeding, using this tool, what needs to be done to utilize it better… or how can economic developers expand its reach and impact? Apply Now!

  • F. Online Market Place and Main Street

    What is the future of commercial retail stores in an online marketplace? What will it look like? What economic development strategies should local communities implement to embrace Amazon, EBay, or other internet based market tools within their vibrant local commercial districts? What strategies should local and state economic developers do to support Main Street mixed with internet based commercial retail? Apply Now!

  • G. Repair Cafés

    A "repair café" is a meeting place in which people repair household electrical and mechanical devices, computers, bicycles, clothing, etc. They are organized by and for local residents. Repair cafés are held at a fixed location where tools are available, and where they can fix their broken goods with the help of volunteers. Its objectives are to reduce waste, to maintain repair skills, and to strengthen social cohesion. What has been their impact on reducing waste, and providing skill training for individuals? Do they build a sense of community? Do they have a positive economic impact in distressed communities? What can economic developers do to support this economic sector? Apply Now!

  • H. The Reuse Industry

    As demand continues to grow for "vintage", "salvage" or "reclaimed" products, the scope and scale of the industry is called into question. What is the impact of this industry in Michigan, and how can it be expanded? What role can economic developers have in supporting this industry? Apply Now!

  • I. Other Idea Not Listed

    We welcome innovative ideas under this category. What tools, models, policies or programs would support this idea? Consider your level of professional or academic experience in the topic area you are suggesting, as it pertains to economic development. Apply Now!