Following the convening in Durham this past December, the New Orleans Council returned home inspired and with renewed energy to pursue Forward Cities’ mission of fostering inclusive innovation in our community. At the time of the convening, New Orleans was deliberating three possible interventions to pursue in our study area. With the help of our local data partner, Richard Campanella, we targeted a region within the 7th and 8th wards of New Orleans. Looking at rates of entrepreneurship, relative lack of gentrification, income levels and the large amount of undeveloped property, we believed we could have significant impact in this neighborhood. We were particularly interested in the areas of food culture, film and micro-enterprise.
 
Since the New Year, we decided to focus on two specific projects. First is supporting a local university, Dillard University, expand their film program. Dillard is a small, private, historically black institution dating back to 1869 and its film program was recently named one of two signature programs at the university. Combining this strong academic foundation with the fact that New Orleans is currently number one in the country for film production, demonstrates a clear opportunity for the community. The possibilities are many: from developing film-related infrastructure near the university to providing hands-on training using the latest technology. This expansion will strengthen both student and community competitiveness within the regional and global marketplace. The Forward Cities New Orleans council will assist in creating a strategic plan that assesses the funding, people, real estate and other factors necessary in leveraging this academic institution to create a film production hub anchored in the community. Along with the prospect of creating a new attraction linked to Dillard’s beautiful campus, this expansion has the potential of creating many new jobs for New Orleanians throughout the corridor.
 
Secondly, we will focus on economic opportunity for community members through an intervention focused on micro-enterprise development. In partnership with Fund 17, a local nonprofit that provides training and resources to underserved entrepreneurs in New Orleans, we will target micro-entrepreneurs in the neighborhood and help them expand their enterprises through workshops, one-on-one assistance and affordable micro-loans. The first, vital step to this intervention will be community research to learn more about existing but potentially “invisible” home-based enterprise. We are excited that this surveying will be completed with the help of Loveland Technology’s Site Control. We learned of this Detroit-based mapping technology during a networking dinner at the Durham convening. This new partnership is a true testament to the power of bringing together innovative thinkers from around the country, which is exactly what the Forward Cities convenings do.
 
Here in New Orleans, we are optimistic about the potential of what we have planned for the future. We look forward to bringing updates of our progress and sharing new lessons to the final and upcoming Cleveland convening in June.
 
Haley Burns is the Founder and Executive Director of Fund 17, a nonprofit that creates sustainable livelihoods in the 17 wards of New Orleans by providing training and resources to underserved entrepreneurs. Learn more about Haley and Fund 17 here: http://www.fund17.org/