How Norman Clement and Detroit Change Initiative are empowering change

How Norman Clement and Detroit Change Initiative are empowering change

Across all the important issues we focus on, Michigan LCV collaborates with many incredible partners and organizations working toward positive change on important issues relating to drinking water, voting rights, climate action, and more. 

For this Partner Spotlight, we spoke with Norman Clement, founder and executive director of Detroit Change Initiative (DCI), a non-profit organization focused on voter education, engagement, mobilization, protection, and youth leadership development. As democracy and voting rights have become bigger parts of our work, Michigan LCV’s Democracy For All team has collaborated in recent years with Detroit Change Initiative on voter engagement and ‘Get Out The Vote’ efforts, as well as voter education around Proposal 2 and recent changes and expansions to our voting rights and options here in Michigan. 

Detroit Change Initiative Founder and Executive Director Norman Clement (Credit: Detroit Change Initiative). 

Since 2017, Norman and Detroit Change Initiative have been working to educate Detroiters about available resources and opportunities to influence positive change in their communities and amplify the voices of the people. Initially inspired by the work of other Detroit grassroots groups like Youth of Detroit, Sound Mind Sound Body, and the Detroit Hip Hop Caucus, Norman’s work is driven by how policy impacts everyday people – and how everyday people can impact policy. 

In his role, Norman has helped shape and guide the organization’s mission and vision and how Detroit Change Initiative works with communities in Detroit. As Norman emphasizes, when working in local communities it is vitally important to not dictate, but simply listen. 

“Our work is focused on local issues impacting Detroit communities and we pride ourselves on meeting people where they are. Black Americans are not a monolithic group and the Black community in Detroit is affected by different issues in different ways, but people sometimes don’t realize they can be the change they want to see. As an organization, we try to empower people and help them understand that if they don’t like what they see in their communities, they can do something about it.” – Norman Clement, executive director and founder of Detroit Change Initiative


In 2018, Detroit Change Initiative was largely focused on voter registration and voting rights work and hosted bi-weekly roundtable discussions where Detroiters could come together and talk about issues impacting their communities. When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, Norman and the organization pivoted to focus on food drops, distributing health resources and personal protective equipment (PPE), and supporting the Black community in Detroit to rebuild and foster trust in vaccines to protect the health of the communities. These efforts made positive impacts by helping educate and empower communities around healthcare, and the work has continued. Last year, Detroit Change Initiative executed a program in partnership with the American Heart Association to improve access to defibrillators and teach people life-saving CPR skills to address disproportionate numbers of young Black Americans dying of heart disease. 

Although Detroit Change Initiatives’ work spans many different issues impacting Detroit communities, there is an intentional focus on democracy and engaging Detroiters to learn about and participate in the democratic process. Norman strongly believes in the impact non-profits and grassroots organizations can make in our democracy, especially on the local level – and Detroit Change Initiative’s democracy engagement work is front and center in 2024, a monumental election year. 

Norman (center) with members of Michigan LCV’s Democracy For All team at a Proposal 2 press conference in Southwest Detroit in 2022. 

This belief and focus shine through in the organization’s new program called “The Road to 80,” which is centered around engaging Black youth in Detroit to work with local clerks to achieve 80% voter participation in elections. The program is available to anyone 16 years or older and has already registered 547 young people with the goal of 2,000 total across Wayne County this year. By working with local clerks, Norman and Detroit Change Initiative hope more young people will be able to learn about our democratic process, engage in safe and secure elections, and develop professionally in a paid role. 

The “Road to 80” program is just one example of the impactful, community-centric work Detroit Change Initiative is doing to educate voters and increase participation in our elections. With changes and expansions to our voting options in Michigan brought about by Proposal 2 being implemented in this year’s elections, it is more important than ever to educate voters across the state and ensure everyone is aware of how they can access the ballot. But as Norman says, voting is just the first step. That’s why Detroit Change Initiative is focused on helping Detroit communities organize, advocate, and hold their elected officials accountable – empowering communities to be catalysts for change. 

To learn more about Norman’s work and Detroit Change Initiative, please visit their website at  

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