Photo: IFW Detroit

Highlights from IWF Detroit 2023 — From Motown to Generative AI

Posted on October 09, 2023 by Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation

Then: Henry Ford….Marvin Gaye…..Gilda Radner….Rosa Parks
Now: Generative AI…..EV Innovation….People Movers…More

With more than 700 leaders from 33 countries and all 50 states descending on Detroit for the 2023 International Women’s Forum, the “What’s Going On?” theme made Motown proud. As I immersed myself in the action, it was clear that attention to detail was woven through imaginative programming over the two-plus days. Whatever you think of Detroit, this is a Renaissance City where philanthropy, diversity, perseverance, and hope create new realities for residents and the world.

IWF Detriot 1

Harvard Business School Professor and Author Rosabeth Moss Kantor's pre-session on "Thinking Outside the Building" was a TPF-affirmation just with different words: Replace negativity with the "optimism of activism."

Being open to possibilities: the car industry could have owned "cell phones" since car phones were the originals, but the car manufacturers didn't think of them as a line of business.

Best Buy Health…Geek Squad is transitioning to provide health monitoring since they are going into homes.

Dreaming big takes just as much time and energy as dreaming small.

The founder of Venture Philanthropy said she wanted to start a new sector, and she did.

IWF Detriot 2

The opening plenary with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer showed how bravery, values, experience, and relationships can lead to a better world. When we think beyond ourselves, the moral imperatives catch our attention and propel us to act. Voting in every election: local, state, and federal is a must!

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

With both GM and Ford in Detroit, senior leaders revealed that innovation takes time but is crucial. Leaders who think forward and know it takes investment will indeed change how we move and better utilize the earth's resources. Think electricity!

Both sessions on Generative AI almost exploded my brain….it is happening. We aren't ready. We must understand it and use it appropriately—ethics, regulation, and training are all needed. Rather than being frightened, we should figure out how to use it for a better world. In the nugget department, each time you give any entity your cell phone number, you and your behaviors are likely being analyzed.

In short sessions entitled "Ideas Remaking the World," it struck me how each presenter was international. It raised the question: shouldn't these transformative ideas also be taking root, or are they already taking root in the United States?
  • Taking judges and the judicial system out into rural communities to help indigenous populations, yes, often women, secure property and legal title.
  • Eliminating plastic waste in ways that can improve not only the environment but also the economy.
  • Preparing people of all ages, including school children, on how to build their personal resilience in disasters.

Sessions on cross-sector collaborations echoed how TPF works with people, businesses, non-profits, government, and media. Showcasing how the Detroit Riverwalk became a reality was like a case study on The Bay Park in Sarasota.

Listening to Fatma Samoura, the first African and female Secretary General of FIFA, describing the complexities and cultural changes needed for the global sport reminded me how shared aspirations must be part of any major shift.

While each one of the 700+ leaders and presenters had stories that inspired, each driven to make the world a better place, the stand-out was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who called out the Flint, Michigan water crisis with data, perseverance, and caring that the children she was treating each had lead poisoning in their bodies. I did not resist suggesting to her that her book, What the Eyes Don't See could be TPF's next book circle focus.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha

Detroit pulled out all of the stops for our Dine-arounds and Behind the Scenes, including an evening at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, dinner at the Whitney, and feeding a giraffe at the Detroit Zoo.

With every conversation, I shared a bit about The Patterson Foundation, offering ideas as others presented challenges and borrowing nuggets that I hope you will ponder in this Wakelet. I did smile when I saw one of my Tweets projected on the big screen.

Debra Jacobs X post

What’s Going On? So much…let’s embrace opportunities to create more new realities.




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