The New Orleans Citizen Participation Project

Mar 12, 2012

March 2012 Project Report

Just as spring brings new growth to our world, spring is bringing to new progress to the New Orleans Citizen Participation Project.

Our District Council Pilot Project is moving ahead in partnership with the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association, which recently elected new leadership and restructured its committee system.  This has elevated levels of enthusiasm and participation, and the committees are meeting regularly.  In particular, we are assisting GCIA with rewriting its bylaws, which is a precursor to another piece we are collaborating on, working to obtain official nonprofit status for the organization.  We have also provided support for GCIA's communications and outreach, which in turn enhances the organization's ability to provide information and connectivity to its individual member neighborhood associations.  Also, thanks in part to the generosity of ESRI, we are making good progress in creating a consensus map of the neighborhood boundaries in Gentilly/Planning District 6.  Redoing the antiquated neighborhood boundary map in New Orleans is vitally important not just for advancing the Citizen Participation Project but also for several other critical city initiatives (including its accelerated outflow of information to the community), and Gentilly is serving as the demonstration project and testing ground for the methodology we propose to use citywide.

Good progress is also being made with our Latino Community of Interest pilot project.  Individual meetings have been conducted with over a dozen individual Latino community leaders, many of them faith leaders.  This in turn has led to the scheduling of multiple community outreach meetings in collaboration with these leaders.  Turnout at the first of these exceeded expectations, and we are now bringing the information about the CPP to an entirely new audience (including Spanish language informational materials).  We are in the final stages of developing a detailed survey for the New Orleans Latino community, focusing on community needs, attitudes towards government and government services, levels of (and barriers to) civic engagement, and the relationship between Latinos and their neighborhoods.  Once the survey is translated, it will be conducted in conjunction with our partner Puentes New Orleans and the community leaders.  The survey results will not only help us tailor the CPP message and reach more Latino community members, it will also provide information that we will share with city government regarding ways to more effectively outreach to, and provide services to, Latino individuals and families.

Most promising of all, New Orleans city government is using key aspects of the proposed Citizen Participation Program model to design civic engagement structures for the newly formed New Orleans Recreation Commission and Police Community Advisory Boards.  This work is being led by the city's Neighborhood Engagement Office and its director (and former director of Puentes) Lucas Diaz.  While opposition remains within some segments of city government to the overall CPP project and approach, we hope that proving its value within these two settings will overcome this resistance and help move towards a comprehensive approach to civic engagement.  While these two projects are going on, the City Planning Commission is developing internal policies for working with citizen input, which is a valuable corollary to the external civic engagement work.  Finally, we have been meeting with members of the New Orleans City Council to discuss the status of the overall work and how to build on this momentum; in addition, we are working with the Council members and the Neighborhood Engagement Office to identify an opportunity to do a pilot participatory budgeting process in the city.

While there are still challenges ahead, each of these victories -- large and small -- brings us another step down the path.  We are excited that the pilot projects are producing real benefits for our partners, and equally enthused to see initial signs of work taking root in city government.  We are grateful beyond words for the support we receive through Global Giving; every contribution not only enables our work but provides powerful encouragement as we face these challenges and take these individual steps forward.


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Project Leader

Hillary Brown

New Orleans, LA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of The New Orleans Citizen Participation Project