Detroit Future Media Apprenticeship Program

Allied Media Projects is wrapping-up of the apprenticeship component of our Detroit Future Media (DFM) training program. The DFM Apprenticeship Program is a three-month continued learning experience for graduates of the Detroit Future Media workshops that began in June.

DFM graduates selected for the program are paired with small businesses, non-profit, or grassroots organization who are interested in integrating media into their work or improving their online presence. Host organizations and apprentices are carefully paired with each other based on complimentary needs and skills offered.

Major support for the program is through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program and the Ford Foundation.

We launched Detroit Future Media in 2011 to offer in-depth trainings for Detroiters ages 18-80 interested in building Detroit’s community media economy. The Detroit Future Media workshops include classes in audio, video, graphics, and web design, with focuses on the application of these skills in education, entrepreneurship, and community organizing. Participants graduate with unique skill sets necessary to train other Detroiters in digital media, create their own jobs, foster collaborative forms of community wealth creation, and support media-based community organizing for a better Detroit.


DFM participants attend two workshops per week, for 20 weeks. One weekly workshop is in media skills: audio, video, graphics, and web design. These media skills workshops are offered in four week segments and participants can choose a different skills area for each segment. The second weekly workshop is on a focus area: education, entrepreneurship, or community organizing. These focus areas are an opportunity to develop skills and perspective for strategic application of media production skills. In the diagram below, each color represents a potential path that a student could take through the 20-week program.

DFM2012 Structure image

Throughout the program, participants work on a major media project that uplifts their vision for Detroit’s Future. There are are two peer feedback critiques built into the program to support creative development and hold the participants accountable to the program. Some of the examples of major media projects that students have developed include:

  • 13 in the Hole, a documentary on environmental justice issues in Southwest Detroit
  • What is Food Justice?, a documentary
  • Detroit Sprouts, logo and t-shirt design
  • Detroit Represent, promotional video
  • CorkTown: Who decides, who benefits?, a video and map
  • a promotional video for the Marygrove College Social Justice Program
  •, a website promoting a youth orchestra program
  •, a website for a local video production company
  • Movement // Movement, logo & t-shirt design for an Allied Media Conference track


The DFM Apprenticeship Program provides additional opportunity for graduates to put skills into practice beyond the 20-week training program. Our goal with Detroit Future Media is to both supply Detroit with more skilled digital media artists, and to increase local demand for these artists.

For the DFM Apprenticeship Program, we reached out to the local business, nonprofit, and grassroots communities, inviting them to apply to host an apprentice for a three-month period. Once Hosts were selected, we matched them with graduates of the training program:

The goal with these partnerships is to support host organizations in developing new digital media resources for their organizations, and to be left with the capacity to sustain those resources.

To launch the Apprenticeship Program we hosted an orientation for all apprentices, hosts, and DFM staff, where we developed guiding principles and identified our vision for holistic working relationships between apprentices and hosts. At the orientation we began by reading the principles of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, and broke up into small groups to discuss how these principles related to our lives and work. We then asked what are our principles for holistic working relationships with one-another and how can we put these principles into practice. We returned to the larger group and consolidated our ideas into guidelines/indicators for the work of each host-apprentice partnership:

  • Justice/balance
  • Awareness of self and others
  • Collectivity and collaboration
  • Inclusivity
  • Sustainability
  • Impact and focused energy

Apprenticeship Program Orientation

From this point we asked each person in the room to articulate a time when they experienced a positive learning experience, and a time of negative learning experience. This was a prompt for us to identify each of our learning styles and needs. We reflected on what were the work and learning dynamics that each partnership needed to thrive and we consolidated these reflections into agreements:

  • Being present In the movement while being focused
  • Fun!
  • Genuinely caring about who you work with.
  • Both parties involved are teaching and learning/speaking and listening
  • Honest communication
  • Consistent communication
  • Relevance

These positive partnership agreements are how we will hold each other accountable and support healthy working relationship between host organizations and apprentices.

We are also supporting these partnerships by assigning a DFM staff person as mentor to each apprentice. The mentor’s role is to assist apprentices with their projects through biweekly check-ins and monthly full-group "Critical Friends Consultancy" meetings. Mentors also support host organizations by offering ideas for project management of the apprentice's work. These ongoing support structures apprentices aim to deliver quality media products while supporting the learning and growing of both hosts and apprentices.

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