Emotive Mechanics in East Detroit

 What in the world moves you? How do you move the world?

Yesterday I met with a principal at his East Detroit school. Few things ground human relationships like concern for the safety of people who have been harmed or terrified, and you could briefly see it cross his face as he spoke about the number one thing students ask for help with: safety from violence in and outside of school.

You can read about that in the news or a policy report [1]. Hearing it directly from Detroit youth, tasting gunpowder in the air from a recent shooting, or seeing it momentarily tug at a grown man’s composure takes the experience to a different level of reality.

The issue moves him and his staff, he’s doing remarkable things to cultivate a culture of empathy and appreciation to help the most “at risk” youth in the school move forward from within and beyond the city. We’re focused on de-escalation, conflict resolution, and challenge based learning initiatives to help youth embrace and resolve challenges in creative non-violent ways [2].

There’s a bigger vision too: we believe creating a culture that feelingly sees the world bolsters solution-focused thinking with meaningful action. That’s essential to the attitude of entrepreneurship needed within and beyond the communities we’re all a part of. Whether you’re in East Detroit or across the world in Australia, we see plenty of challenges that arose from inconsiderate actions. People get into fights, countries escalate toward war when words become rhetoric to catalyze injustice. Recognizing, embracing, and resolving true needs with sensitivity to the consequences of our actions applies to doing good work in any form.

I call that emotive mechanics. We aim to change the way people look at and feel about the world with tangible actions, but we’re guided by a judicious mix of our own emotions and tools for making sense of the world through education. In that sense, we’re emotive mechanics too.

[1] In 2011 I facilitated a group of youth from various Detroit schools for the Engineering Society of Detroit Institute’s “Future City” symposium. They envisioned the “what & how” of a Detroit 30 years into the future. Safety was among their key concerns. You can read the report here:


[2] In particular, I’m looking into Restorative Practice, the arts, and outdoor education. For a bit about restorative practice:


For those interested, the school is part of the Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy. Some may have heard about the Catherine Ferguson Academy in the news in previous years, these schools are part of the same organization.

Pictured in cover photo: a staff member from Incite Focus Labs in Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy’s greenhouse smiles from within the aquaponics tank.

Yes, that’s me in the video playing a tune of mine titled “Emotive Mechanics”, I also work as the principal strategist at ISMOTION.