"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: www.sustainthenine.org

Founded in December 2006, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) is a 501(c)3 grassroots organization devoted to restoring New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward as a safe, environmentally just and economically vibrant community – and one of the first to become carbon-neutral in North America.

Born in the aftermath of catastrophic flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward caused by the failure of the federal levee system following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, CSED provides community-based support to residents of the Lower Ninth Ward – from “River to Bayou” – in all aspects of sustainability for area neighborhoods as part of long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Our mission is to stimulate civic engagement, repopulate, sustain natural systems, assist community leadership and preserve resources in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhoods.

Our goal is the re-creation and repopulation of a strong community, mindful of its resources and vulnerabilities, with an engaged citizenry that is active, resilient, prosperous, energy independent and beautiful as Built Environment.

In addition, we continue to maintain a strong presence in all development initiatives for the Lower 9. CSED remains dedicated to supporting the construction of the Alfred Lawless School system that was lost during the flood due to the failure of the federal levee system, the development of economic opportunities along the commercial corridors of the L9, as well as the on-going effort to bring a grocery store to the community through the Fresh Food Initiative (CSED administers a $25K Chase Design Competition award to support the grocery store development).

CSED also hired a local resident to support mental health outreach efforts for people still affected by Hurricane Katrina as well as the new disaster from the BP Oil Spill.

CSED also continues to work with multiple state and local partners on:

- Louisiana Coastal Restoration initiatives and the L9 Bayou Bienvenue regeneration.

- Built Environment efforts which includes rebuilding and renovation, blight issues, empty lots, and energy efficiency of existing structures, infrastructure, walkability, return of displaced residents

- Food Security for all L9 residents that involves community gardening, urban farming, reintroduction of tree canopy and support of the local Sankofa Farmers Market.

These and a growing number of new initiatives are led by CSED’s talented Executive Director, Tracy Nelson, a resident of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Idea Village

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: www.ideavillage.org

Thirteen years ago a group of New Orleans entrepreneurs calling themselves The Idea Village asked a very important question: What if?

What if you could create economic and social change in New Orleans?

What if you could do it in a way that not only inspired entrepreneurs, but those who believed in them as well?

These questions were the result of many conversations between five local entrepreneurs at the Loa Bar in downtown New Orleans on how to reverse the last 40 years of fundamental economic and social decline. New Orleans was in a downward spiral and concerned civic leaders and entrepreneurs wanted to create an environment that would allow emerging talent to stay in New Orleans, grow businesses and create quality jobs.
The core problem was the exodus of the best and brightest from the community; from 1990-2000, there was a net loss of over 41, 23-35 year olds from the State of Louisiana. This brain drain created a vacuum of innovative individuals to provide new thinking to grow the economy and to address pressing social issues such as crime and education.

The collective answer to this problem was to attract and retain entrepreneurial talent that would in turn create innovative solutions to the social challenges and become the next generation civic leaders. To accomplish this goal, New Orleans needed a linked network of business, government, and university resources to support high impact startups. New Orleans needed a “village” for new ideas.

The entrepreneurs continued to meet to discuss how the group would execute this vision. Action was needed, not another plan. In August 2000, each of them contributed $2,000 towards a $10,000 business plan contest.

Word spread quickly and companies began contacting the group with offers of in-kind support for the winner, eventually leading to a grand prize worth over $125,000. The group’s mission became clear – transform New Orleans by stimulating entrepreneurial growth. This organic coming together of like-minded individuals in an implementation-oriented manner ignited a movement that eventually gave rise to The Idea Village.

Twelve years later, New Orleans has developed a vibrant, interconnected entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes corporations, non-profits, universities, and government who collaborate to make New Orleans a place for people with big ideas, grand dreams, and the passion to build, grow, and execute. New Orleans is becoming a globally recognized ecosystem.

Forbes named New Orleans the “Biggest Brain Magnet” of 2011 as well as the No. 2 “Best City for Jobs.” A July 2010 Brookings Institute “Katrina After 5” report states that New Orleans entrepreneurial activity is 40% above the national average, while Inc. called New Orleans the “Coolest Startup City in America.

The Brain Drain has turned into the Brain Gain as inspired individuals have flocked to the city and new entrepreneurial hubs are sprouting up throughout the community driven by passionate, committed entrepreneurs. Capital is being invested in new ventures and entrepreneurial leaders are evolving to solve critical issues with innovative solutions.

New models for health care, education, physical infrastructure, food, and creative media are being incubated and developed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Urban Conservancy

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: www.urbanconservancy.org

The Urban Conservancy’s core values guide our interaction with each other, our stakeholders, our associates and our community. We believe in:

- Equity

- Collaboration

- Being pro-active

Dynamic integration

- Being solution-focused

- Facilitation

- Well-informed constituents

- Being pro-local

Our values provide consistency as we strive to meet our goals:


Communities have the right to democratically control their urban environment.


All residents deserve a high quality of life.

The unique culture of Southeast Louisiana is at the heart of our quality of life.


Responsible development maintains the strengths of the historic built environment including connectivity within and between neighborhoods.


Residents need transparency in government and access to accurate information in order to make informed decisions with regard to their communities.


Diversified local economies sustain the people who live and work in the community.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Homegrown National Park

Location: Toronto, ON

Website: www.davidsuzuki.org

Inspired by Richard Louv and Douglas Tallamy, in 2013 we embarked on a mission to establish the world's first "Homegrown National Park" by crowd-sourcing a vibrant green corridor along the former path of Garrison Creek in the City of Toronto.

In the project's first year, our 21 volunteer Neighbourhood Park Rangers helped partner organizations to spur more than a dozen creative green interventions, from pothole planters and canoe gardens to butterfly friendly schoolyards and "parkify-ing" a residential street.

In 2014 we are aiming to deepen and expand the project to adjacent neighbourhoods in the Greater Garrison Creek area. We will begin connecting with community groups this winter and plan to train another crop of Park Rangers in the spring. Find out more by reading stories below, and stay tuned by joining our Facebook page.

If you're interested in getting involved or learning more, feel free to contact project leader Jode Roberts.