Collision Works creates spaces that bring people together and uses personal stories to build empathy; helping people reflect on themselves as individuals, reflect together as a city, and collectively tell new narratives to share with a broader audience.  The result is resilient communities. 

The non-profit side of our work has four main components:

  • Collision Sparks, a buddy system to build new relationships
  • Collision Space, our onsite public events
  • Collision Friends, our volunteer and supporter network
  • Collision Labs, a youth design mentoring program




We match up long time Detroit residents with newcomers, to help people see the city through each other’s eyes and build lasting relationships. It’s easy and fun.

We partner with local companies bringing in Detroit newcomers and large, long running churches and community based organizations that have many long-time resident members. People sign up online and get matched up. When participants get a spark buddy they also get a booklet that contains lists of things in the city they might do together, discount incentives to attend select places and events as a pair, conversation starters, and simple games and activities they can play to get to know each other a little better. They simply commit to three activities over six months.




We host regular events, weekly, monthly, and quarterly that use storytelling and group activities to both entertain and build lasting relationships. In the future these events will happen in our container hotel. But for now they happen out in the community and at First Container, which will open again this summer in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Last year in our first year with First Container we hosted 6 monthly events and two additional “special events.” We partnered with local organizations including the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Design Festival, as well as smaller, grass roots organizations, to offer opportunities for story exchanges and community dialog. Over the summer we had over 200 attendees at our monthly events, 60 participants in our book-lending program, and several hundred guests at our special events. 40% of our participants attended more than one event. If you sign up for our newsletter we will send you updates on events. Or you can just like our Facebook page.



All people that are interested in supporting the project are called Collision Works Friends. This encompasses both “volunteers” and people with general interest in the project. Friends have varying levels of project involvement. Some volunteer to operate First Container, others help out with marketing or business needs, others volunteer just for occasional special events and activities, and some just read our newsletter and spread the word about what we are up to. We currently have nearly 900 “friends” (not including our social media followers) and 50 of them are active volunteers. We have monthly friends meetings where we discuss programs, opportunities, and collaborate on new ideas. We also experiment with empathy building activities and exercises to find good ideas to bring to larger audiences. They are interactive, free, and a lot of fun. The friends program began in May 2013 and the interactive monthly meetings began in January 2014. All time, meeting space, and snacks are self provided or donated. You are also free to join us the fourth Tuesday of every month. We need lots of help. Maybe your skills match?



A new and sustainable design mentoring program beginning in late 2014

We identify creative interest in six residents aged 15-19, matching each with a skilled mentor new to the city and one that is from Detroit. Together they create a replicable object from a personal story (coffee mugs, postcards, wall art, and decorative pillows) sold via local retail and eventually each room in the hotel with revenue going back to the kids and the program. The program lasts 12 weeks three times a year and can scale quickly and sustainably. Kids learn to use digital image tools like Adobe Photoshop and illustrator. They also learn storytelling techniques. They then work with experienced designers to create the easily replicable high quality designs. Kids attend one 2.5 hour session per week with instructors after school and healthy snacks are provided. They are also allowed free access to the supervised lab, open 40 hours per week and mentors are also on-hand to work with participants. Each year the program uses surplus revenue to kickstart a program in a nearby neighborhood that the kids select. It’s awesome.