The Center for Michigan is a “think-and-do” tank founded by former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power in early 2006. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, The Center’s objective is to make Michigan a better place by by encouraging greater understanding and involvement in policy issues among the state’s citizens and making sure their voices are regularly heard. We do this by regularly calling forth citizen views, amplifying those views and projecting them into the halls of power.
The Center’s work can be described in only three verbs – engage, inform and achieve – which work together to make up a dynamic model of social and political change.
Engage: We believe the Michigan political system has in large part failed to live up to its promise because of excessive partisanship and the outsized influence of powerful single-interest groups. A result has been that many ordinary citizens feel left out in the cold by our current politics. To remedy these problems, The Center works to call forth citizen views through our interactive, small-group community conversations and other public engagement tools that provide opportunities for thousands of Michigan citizens each year to better understand public policy issues, discuss them with fellow citizens and develop common ground positions. Through this process of bottom-up “deliberative democracy”, The Center sets its policy priorities and works to enhance citizen participation in a democracy. Since our foundation, The Center has engaged more than 16,000 Michigan citizens in our various outreach programs, by far the largest public engagement effort in Michigan history. To assure statistical rigor and legitimacy of our policy positions, we are careful to make sure the demography of our participants – in gender, age, race and geographical location – matches the diversity of Michigan’s population.
Inform: We believe an informed public is the iron core of a democratic society. Unfortunately, an information gap has opened up between our citizens and our leaders. We are striving to provide independent, balanced, thoughtful and high-quality journalism: a survival guide for Michiganders with a stake in our state’s future. We also work collaboratively with various media to provide in-depth reporting to our partners; in so doing, we are building journalism capacity in ways that support Michigan news media, citizens, business and philanthropy. Our major focus is Bridge Magazine, our free online news magazine. Our popular Michigan Truth Squad examines and fact checks political advertisements. Our journalism work has won us both national and state awards.
Achieve: We want to put thoughts into action. We call forth citizen voices through our public outreach work; we inform our citizens and nourish and amplify citizen views through our journalism; and we take the result of our work into the halls of power as legitimate expressions of citizen attitudes. For example, in the years since our founding, our work has resulted in changing state law to prevent local school boards from reducing the school year, cutting appropriations for the state’s prison system by $200 million annually and in sharply increasing state support for early childhood schooling programs. Our recent publication, The Public’s Agenda for Public Education, has precipitated widespread discussion of how best to improve student learning in Michigan schools.
Organization: Founded in 2006, The Center for Michigan is incorporated in Michigan as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Officers include: Philip H. Power, Chairman; John Bebow, President and CEO; Kathleen K. Power, Vice President; Loyal A. Eldridge III, Secretary; Karla A. Campbell, Treasurer. Directors include: Paul Hillegonds; Michael Jandernoa; Dr. Glenda D. Price; Douglas Rothwell; Dr. Marilyn Schlack; Paula Cunningham.
We are fortunate to have attracted a group of distinguished Michigan citizens to serve on our Steering Committee. These include:
- Richard T. Cole, Chair, Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing, Michigan State University
- Paul Courant, former Provost; University of Michigan Librarian
- Paul Dimond, Of Counsel, Miller Canfield
- Elisabeth Gerber, Professor, Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
- Larry Good, Chairman, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce
- Steve Hamp, Chair, Michigan Education Excellence Foundation and the New Economy Initiative
- Paul Hillegonds, Senior Vice President, DTE Energy; former President, Detroit Renaissance, and former Speaker, Michigan House of Representatives
- Mike Jandernoa, managing partner, Bridge Street Capitol.
- Tom Lewand, Partner, Bodman LLP
- Anne Mervenne, President, Mervenne & Co.
- William G. Milliken, Former Governor of Michigan
- Bill Parfet, Chairman and CEO of MPI Research
- Milt Rohwer, President Emeritus, The Frey Foundation.
- Doug Ross, former State Senator and Director of the Michigan Department of Commerce.
- Doug Rothwell, President, Business Leaders for Michigan
- Craig Ruff, Senior Policy Fellow, Public Sector Consultants
- John A. (“Joe”) Schwarz, Former member of Congress and former Michigan State Senator
- Jan Urban-Lurain, President, Spectra Data and Research, Inc., and Senior Advisor, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce
- Cynthia Wilbanks, Vice President for Government Relations, University of Michigan