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Former Microsoft CEO and now L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer grew up in suburban Detroit. Now he and his wife are planning a homecoming that tells a powerful story. They have a plan — a plan to combat and end intergenerational poverty in Detroit.

The plan starts with the news that he and his wife, Connie, co-founders of their philanthropy, The Ballmer Group, will be opening a Detroit office directing efforts to fight poverty and enhance youth development. This is uplifting news.

With a net worth estimated at $32.6 billion, the couple’s announcement and the timing to provide fresh energy, focus, and investment in the futures of our youth, families, and communities couldn’t have been better, coinciding, as it does, with the momentum that has been gathering in Detroit the past couple of years.

This bodes well for all our collective futures. We know that children raised in poverty — in many cases generational poverty — along with other, adverse conditions, will have an extraordinary burden to bear in order to catch up with or just keep even with their peers who aren’t burdened with these societal conditions. The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority board recently pledged $5 million a year for a minimum of three years to provide supports to help Detroit children succeed.

The Ballmer Group’s investments, currently focused in Los Angeles and Washington, will soon be operating in Detroit with funds that support initiatives and organizations aimed at improving economic mobility for children and families. This initiative will accelerate existing neighborhood transformations by convening key partners, empowering local leadership, and supporting the use of proven programs and interventions.

This is music not only to my ears but to many in Detroit and the surrounding metropolitan region.

Often in the public and nonprofit sector, we can tell what was spent, but often struggle to provide assessment or return on investment. The Ballmer Group has said “good-intentions are not enough.” They want to elevate the conversation where those involved take calculated risks and provide measurable outcomes for our public and private investment. They hope to focus on direct, data-driven strategies to start breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Detroit. Together we stand ready to seize the day.

Tom Watkins

former president

Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority

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