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FONO surveys key New Orleans neighborhood and nonprofit leaders on the focus of their work and their needs moving forward - April 6-12, 2009

From April 6-12, 2009 FONO board members reached out to and met with leaders from 7 neighborhood groups representing various parts of New Orleans and surrounding parishes (Mid City, Lakeview, Plaquemines Parish, East New Orleans, St. Bernard, Holy Cross/Lower 9th, Broadmoor and Gentilly) and 13 local organizations working on education, rebuilding, coastal restoration and levee protection, economic development, green initiatives and more (New Schools New Orleans, Beacon of Hope, New Orleans Institute, Women of the Storm, Americas Wetland, Neighborhood Partnerships Network,, Idea Village, New Orleans Creative Arts Institute, St. Bernard Project, Global Green, Operation Comeback/PRC, Rebuilding Together New Orleans).  Information gathered from these meetings will help shape FONO's work and advocacy message moving forward.
In a letter to the FONO Board of Directors, Acting Executive Director, Denise Byrne stated the following observations:  "There is a lot of excitement and energy throughout.  In the words of Tim Williamson, President of Idea Village, the city of New Orleans is an incredible laboratory for social innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.  All of these neighborhoods and nonprofits have been able to accomplish amazing things, under incredible stress and with scarce resources and a lack of capacity.   Many have developed cutting edge models for how to do things right and they want to share it with others around the world.  Whether we are talking disaster recovery, citizenry engagement and leadership, economic development, public school reform, green building, arts and science education, or the power of volunteerism, New Orleans is setting the trend for the rest of the nation to follow."  

Frustration is highest with the State of Louisiana.  While everyone is disgusted with the Mayor's Office, these leaders feel that there is no vision or leadership coming out of Baton Rouge.  Furthermore, they have all said they need resources and training so that they can do their own advocacy at the city, state and federal levels. Their greatest fear right now is that the incredible recovery that is taking place in the region will stall and run out of gas due to: a) the economic downturn, which is affecting their private funding; b) the nightmare of dealing with the City's dysfunctional bureaucracy; and c) the roadblocks to funds promised or controlled by the State."
Other observations made by FONO board members during this April visit include:

  • The high quality and number of AmeriCorps members now working in the city, and how this program has helped local organizations "leap frog" in their own organizational development, enabling them to expand their reach and level of services in a short period of time.
  • The high number of energetic and enthusiastic volunteers, from across the nation and beyond, that are still pouring into NOLA everyday and whose potential has not been harnessed effectively by local organizations in terms of PR, advocacy and fundraising.
  • The rich knowledge base that exists at the neighborhood level which needs to be shared and spread around the city and beyond.  And the unfortunate tendency of human beings to work in "silos" because they are too stressed, trying to keep their own lives together, or they don't have the time to look around or reach out to others because they are too busy getting the work done in their own back yard.
To view Denise Byrne's notes on the April meetings with local partners, please click here.

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