What Exactly is DXF and Why Does That Matter?

This article is the first in a two part series launching our new strategic plan.  You can learn more about the author - DXF’s Executive Director, paul hudson mack - on his LinkedIn page and read about DXF’s leadership transition in this Crain’s article.

In September, I had the privilege of stepping in as DXF’s new Executive Director - taking over for founder and ED of 13 years, Jeanette Pierce.  It’s been a wonderfully overwhelming six months filled with on-boarding to DXF’s energy and activities, getting to know the diverse network DXF engages, transitioning into leading the day-to-day work, and digging into a strategic planning process to understand how to lead into the future.  

There’s a lot already going on at DXF.  Our public tours and custom experiences give an insider’s view of Detroit and introduce participants to things to love all over Detroit.  Our concierge program provides a pop-up welcome center at any event or venue - introducing attendees to what they can do while in Detroit and answering questions about what they can discover in culture, food, drink, and more.  We also promote inclusive prosperity as we work with tours stops downtown and the neighborhoods, promote small businesses and local innovators, and help participants engage with Detroit’s complex history and current context.

And there’s more to come.  I’m excited to announce that DXF has completed a new strategic plan.  The Executive Summary gives a quick-read overview on how we will move into the future.  In the full Strategic Plan, you can find an expanded summary in the first 14 pages, followed by a review of our research and findings in building the plan, and details of how we will execute our plan.  The whole thing is a great read - giving solid insights into DXF’s path forward and details of how we will move down that path.

I’d also guess you’re not here for me to repeat what you can read in the plan.  So let’s dig deeper and get more concrete on the direction for DXF’s future. In this post, I’m going to focus on how we built the plan and what we learned from Detroiters about what makes DXF special.

Please, take a read and comment.  What do you think of our process for creating our strategic plan and moving DXF into the future?  What are some of your favorite aspects of DXF and our work? What can we do to build on those assets going forward?


The journey matters - how we built our strategic plan

Recognizing that we have to transition from a founder-led to a team-led organization, the entire DXF team was involved in brainstorming sessions and review cycles to create the plan.  The team also took research trips--two days of tours in Chicago and Toronto--and the findings are one of my favorite parts of the plan. We learned that our neighbors find many aspects of Detroit’s revitalization inspiring and hope to emulate what’s happening here.  And our tour providers, while fantastic, consistently bolstered our confidence that DXF experiences offer exceptional value and leading practices when compared to regional competition. Investing in our team’s capacity to grow and lead the work will continue to be critical to our future successes.

We also sought diverse input from DXF’s network through 1:1 interviews and a community engagement tour.  I was impressed with the many insights on what Detroit needs from DXF. Some clear themes also arose about the assets DXF can build on, our most important growth opportunities, and the next steps in growing DXF’s leadership on our mission.  This listening and sharing process was so impactful - inviting many voices to shape our thinking. Because of these diverse inputs, I’m even more confident that we have the right go-forward plan.

Recognizing DXF’s core assets - building on a successful foundation

We often say on tours that we can’t build the future very well if we’re not aware of the assets we already have - what’s already here to build on.  We hope to apply that wisdom to our own path forward - DXF needs to stay true to what our stakeholders find most valuable. Growth must be built on the brand and trust we’ve developed in the last 13 years.  The core of DXF’s work stays the same - as seen in our updated mission and vision statements in the plan.

DXF’s leading brand was clear from stakeholder input and our market analysis.  Locals and visitors alike trust us to show them the best and most authentic aspects of Detroit - and they consistently walk away with new things to love in the city and a richer understanding of our history and current context.  Everyone, from first-time visitors to the city’s civic and corporate leaders, looks to us to uncover un(der)told stories and hand the megaphone to inspiring local voices. Because of this work, we have developed a unique network across Detroit, that includes corporate and economic development leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, small business owners,  and neighborhood and community organizations.

In conclusion

This is where you come in - we look to our stakeholders to continue to help us understand what’s most valuable and impactful about what we do at DXF.  Thanks in advance for sharing your stories about positive outcomes you’ve seen from our tours and community presence. Feel free to also offer ideas about how we build on the best parts of DXF going forward.

And stay tuned for part 2 - where we’ll talk more about how Detroit is changing, and what that means for the opportunities for DXF to grow and adapt in how we achieve our mission.  There are some exciting changes coming...