LISC National

A Tale of Commitment and Community

Dr. Shaun S. Nethercott, Recipient of the “Exemplary Neighborhood Leadership” Award

Dr. Shaun Nethercott is a community leader, trailblazer, playwright and oral storyteller…a true modern-day renaissance woman. During her 30-year career as an engaged community artist, she has produced 32 plays that integrated wide-scale community engagement activities. She has garnered many awards, including the Kresge Artist in 2016 and the Governor’s Art Award.

Her work as an artist and community leader is centered on one purpose. “Making a city that works for everyone,” Dr. Shaun says. “That’s an investment that we can all be proud of.”

Dr. Shaun’s life and work focuses on creating collectives that work and help others succeed. As the Building Sustainable Communities Community Engagement Consultant for the Congress of Communities, she is leading the Mexicantown-Hubbard-Corktown (MHC) Building Sustainable Communities Coalition in Southwest Detroit. The MHC Coalition is funded by LISC, and is its first multi-neighborhood, multi-agency community development effort. The work Dr. Nethercott is doing with the MHC Coalition is an extension of the community-based work she pioneered at Matrix Theatre Company, which she founded and led for 25 years.


While Dr. Shaun proudly accepted Detroit LISC’s honor at the annual Community Development Awards ceremony, she is the first to point out that “leadership is always about collaboration.” According to Dr. Shaun, this award gave her a chance to also lift up the other people and community activists who are working together for the common good.

According to Dr. Shaun the core of transformation, particularly in the midst of Detroit’s time of revitalization, must be done in a shared fashion.  “I think we are stronger together,” she points out. “The big myth of our culture is the myth of individualism. We need each other in order to thrive…if you want to make a change – you have to do it as a group. That’s how change is made.”

Photo and video credit: The Kresge Foundation
Photo and video credit: The Kresge Foundation

A Detroit resident for 31 years, Dr. Shaun lives in the Hubbard Farms neighborhood, but she is truly a citizen of the world. In her spare time, she and her husband Wesley love to travel the world and write about their adventures. She also volunteers with local organizations fighting for social justice.

So what is on the horizon for Dr. Shaun? She is applying for a grant from Creative Many to help fund an oral story project that would include video interviews with actual area residents, and then stage a performance with actors would enacting these stories.

She also has accepted a position as the Executive Director of Marygrove College's Institute for Detroit Studies.

Photo credit: Dr. Shaun S. Nethercott
Photo credit: Dr. Shaun S. Nethercott

Communities are living organism – changing and evolving. Dr. Shaun says. “I’d love to have these voices heard and then return in five years to ask these people the same questions and see what has changed.”

The MHC Coalition plans to sponsor a series of community conversations to facilitate dialogue around creating a spirit of wholeness and solidarity in the face of change.