Making Detroit Better, One Soup at a Time

Amy Kaherl

Amy Kaherl is being honored as a Champion of Change for her accomplishments as a crowdfunding pioneer.

Every month, about 300 Detroiters each pay $5 for soup, salad, bread, and a vote to support a creative local project for social change. The music is exciting, the lights are dim, and people sit on the floor around old doors and boards that are converted into temporary tables. We are ready to listen to, and collaborate with, people who want to make Detroit better—from a 12-year-old boy who wants a clean park next to his school, to a 40-year-old woman who wants to help others learn financial literacy. The opportunities are open for anything to happen!

Through Detroit SOUP, neighbors have given neighbors over $27,000 for projects related to urban agriculture, art, social justice, entrepreneurship, technology, and education. It’s pretty amazing to watch people gather together, listen to these presenters in total silence, and then eat, share, and vote together.

SOUP has a natural way of connecting people. We are meeting to have a shared experience. People can bump elbows sitting next to one another on the floor, stand a little less awkwardly in line together, and talk about what project they think would best benefit from their $5. We have watched friendships made, jobs found, resources shared, projects find new collaborators, and even a couple meet and marry.

We share works of art from fellow Detroiters to explore and engage others. We want the ideas of participation, art in the everyday, and civic engagement to resonate in our work. The people are the power and the dinner is the act of what we know is good: giving to one another, listening, asking questions, participating together, engaging in conversations about how to make things better, and practicing our role in democracy. Multiple races, ethnicities, religions, and philosophies gather together. We get to vote our ideals, and might end up changed or challenged in the process.

The project is simple. In a world where many things seem polished and perfect, we aim to create a space where we acknowledge the imperfect. We are exploring and navigating what a new Detroit can look like, and SOUP acts as a catalyst to provide an opportunity to know what people are thinking on the ground level. There is something magical about Detroiters that breeds friendliness and challenges those who have their ego ahead of the progress of the city. We’re all in this thing together, and we seem to know that on a very real level.

Starting your own dinner in your own city can be easy. There are a few resources available. First, head to sundaysoup.org and see if there is a dinner already happening within your city.  You will also find information on how to start your own Soup program.

Amy Kaherl is Director of Detroit SOUP.

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