While challenges such as entrenched poverty and overincarceration remain, funder collaborations, cross-sectoral partnerships, and community-based leadership and participation have helped transform New Orleans in the decade since Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage to the city, a paper from the Greater New Orleans Funders Network argues.
The paper, Fulfilling the Promise, Making New Orleans a Just and Resilient City (16 pages, PDF), outlines the progress made and challenges that remain in areas where philanthropy has played an important role, including education, economic development, affordable housing, environmental restoration, and public health. And it highlights the significant public, private, and philanthropic investment — including the nearly $7 billion dollars Louisiana stands to receive from the BP oil spill settlement — that is expected to help New Orleans address "the triple threats of disappearing coastal wetlands, climate change, and failing municipal infrastructure," while inviting other funders to join efforts to not only protect the city but also "transform the regional economy [through] the creation of a new knowledge-based, globally exportable industry."
"If we are intentional about building economic resilience in addition to environmental resilience," the paper argues, "these investments in place promise to catalyze opportunities for people who live throughout the region."
According to the paper, the planning and implementation process going forward should focus on community engagement and support for community-based institutions, especially those led by people of color. The paper calls on funders and their partners to prioritize equity and justice as a core grantmaking strategy, build systems that balance the need for economic growth and development with the need for social supports, and address the injustice of low-income neighborhoods of color being most vulnerable to future disasters.
Managed by Grantmakers for Southern Progress, a project of Neighborhood Funders Group, the Greater New Orleans Funders Network includes Baptist Community Ministries, the blue moon fund, the Foundation for Louisiana, and the Ford, Greater New Orleans, Kellogg, Kresge, JPMorgan Chase, Surdna, and Walton Family foundations, which collectively have invested nearly $570 million since 2005 to support the city's recovery.
"Philanthropic investment can be the key that unlocks New Orleans’ potential," said Ford Foundation senior program manager Jerry Maldonado. "We can make New Orleans a model for cities across the country. But we need more funders to be a part of this effort."