Friday, May 11, 2012

Inspiration from New Orleans

Photo of author Alexandra Chaikin
By Alexandra Chaikin,
Online Media Project Manager
For the past four days I’ve been very lucky. I have been working in the vibrant, complex city of New Orleans at the NeighborWorks Training Institute, meeting many of the people who make positive social and economic change possible in communities across this country.

Every day I’ve heard new stories of success and transformation – turning superfund sites into urban gardens, empowering residents to build anew after Katrina, partnering with banks to stem foreclosures, the list could go on. What’s been most striking to me is the accumulated knowledge of the conference attendees and their willingness to share that knowledge, and receive knowledge from others, in service of the greater good.

I also saw with clarity the importance of NeighborWorks training division staff in making this exchange of ideas possible. I believe passionately in the value of online media (hence my title!), but it is the in-person conversations that often inspire new or improved courses of action. I applaud our staff for their work behind the scenes organizing the classes and meetings in a way that enabled these discussions.

For those of you who could not attend, or who want a quick reference for inspiration, here were some of my favorite quotes and photos:

Photo by Chad Klawetter via Instagram
“Our city is not in a rebuilding phase; it is in an opportunity phase.”
–Brian Lawlor, director of housing policy, City of New Orleans at resident leadership symposium

 “The Community Building and Organizing program has already surpassed its goal of developing 7000 resident leaders.”
–Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorksAmerica at CB&O dinner

“The challenge is to constantly expand ordinary people's self confidence.”
–Marie Kennedy, keynote speaker at resident leadership symposium

The photo and quotes were submitted via Twitter. You can see more on our Storify page. You can also visit the Leaders for Communities site for materials and discussion related to the May 9 symposium on resident leadership. To learn about all of NeighborWorks' efforts in the Gulf, visit our website.