The concept was simple: invite community members to enjoy a meal consisting of soup, salad, and bread. While they ate, they would listen to other community members pitch ideas for projects to improve the community (specifically in the areas of art, justice, urban agriculture, and social entrepreneurship), then everyone would cast votes for their favorite idea. The pooled $5 donations collected from each attendee at the door would then be granted to the project that received the largest number of votes.

It’s a brilliant, elegant concept that’s paid dividends.

Since that fateful February evening in 2010, Detroit SOUP has hosted 90 dinners (each averaging over 200 attendees) and awarded over $85,000 to Detroiters with ideas for projects to improve their communities (“Money from Detroiters to Detroiters,” as Amy Kaherl puts it). SOUP has been so successful over the last five years that national media outlets like the New York Times and CNN have covered its efforts. Even the White House has recognized Kaherl and SOUP for their work.

So go check out their website, and consider setting up one yourself.