Community adaptability key to New Orleans future

Home / Urban Regeneration / Community adaptability key to New Orleans future

Community adaptability key to New Orleans future

To paraphrase Charles Darwin, it’s not the strongest of the communities or the smartest that survive, it’s the most adaptable to change that do so.

No one has ever said that building and sustaining a vibrant community is easy work. However, it is well recognized that when deploying approaches that lead to sporadic pockets of success combined with a reliance on traditional ways of doing things usually makes it harder not easier for a community to reach its full inclusive social and economic potential.

Communities that understand this fact and focus their efforts on fostering community’s capacity to solve its own problems and in the process develop strategies which address structural issues that negatively impact the community’s competitive position socially and economically are the communities that are successful at sustaining vibrant communities.

Using this context, let’s put this in perspective most citizens can relate to.

Suppose for a minute you go to the doctor complaining of an ailment. The doctor looks at your symptoms, medical history, prior illnesses, treatments and medications to properly diagnose the ailment and recommend a treatment plan. After following this process, the doctor has prescribed a prescription “limited in supply” that will stabilize your ailment but will only treat some of the symptoms you are experiencing.

The doctor further informs you that you will need to address lingering long-term health issues contributing to your declining health and that you will need to make significant structural life changes and begin to do things differently if you are to avoid the inevitable premature decline in your health that you may not be able to recover from.

Now, using this analogy, let’s look at New Orleans since Katrina. In hurricane Katrina, New Orleans experienced one of the worst disasters to ever hit an American city. On the surface, the ailment’s affecting the city was clear to diagnose with many of the underlying symptoms present well before the storm. However, after the storm the initial treatment prescribed (similar to an antibiotic) to address the ailments, that is, the aftermath of the storm and rebuilding, was in large part the infusion of federal temporary grant resources to get the New Orleans on its feet again. In doing so, the treatment has put the city on a path toward progress as evidenced by increased private investment and population gains to name a few.

What’s important to note about this treatment is the fact that the use of federal support to cities for urban regeneration efforts has been in decline for decades and should not be seen or relied upon as a continuing effort for the city. If the disaster had not occurred it is highly unlikely New Orleans would have received such support. As such, while effectively serving as a short-term stabilizing approach, its use as a prescribed long-term treatment cannot be viewed as a cure for the continued aliments facing New Orleans. The resources are no longer there to do as witnessed by the shrinking community development resources provided to New Orleans annually by the federal government. Given this reality, the fact of the matter is the community as a whole will need to rely on its ability to make the necessary changes within itself to get to the next stage of long-term recovery.

More importantly, and not to be ignored is no treatment is not without side effects. When you consider the limited nature of the prescribed treatment with the emerging side effects of the rebuilding efforts (many separate from federal support) to include but not limited to a noticeable increase in housing costs compared to wages for the average citizen and as many observe and is up for debate, is a perceived strain on the city’s immune system, that is, its unique organic culture (competitive advantage) as new comers are unfamiliar with its value as glue which holds the city together and in the end if not nurtured may have the potential to weaken or sterilize the city’s uniqueness which makes it a great American city.

The greatest challenge facing New Orleans in the years ahead shall be to accurately diagnose its problems and challenges and not be stagnant by building the capacity of the community to respond with strategies that leverage the city’s limited resources and energy toward the goal of making New Orleans a competitive city well into the 21st century for all its citizens.

The key question to be answered is whether the “citizens” of New Orleans have the drive to take on this challenge and create a New Century City led by creativity and opportunity for all its citizens?

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt