How a community-university partnership brought together analysis and political muscle to sustain New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward
Rebuilding Community after Katrina
Transformative Education in the New Orleans Planning Initiative
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edited by Ken Reardon and John Forester
Rebuilding Community after Katrina chronicles the innovative and ambitious partnership between Cornell University’s City and Regional Planning department and ACORN Housing, an affiliate of what was the nation’s largest low-income community organization. These unlikely allies came together to begin to rebuild devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The editors and contributors to this volume allow participants’ voices to show how this partnership integrated careful, technical analysis with aggressive community outreach and organizing. With essays by activists, organizers, community members, and academics on the ground, Rebuilding Community after Katrina presents insights on the challenges involved in changing the way politicians and analysts imagined the future of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
What emerges from this complex drama are lessons about community planning, organizational relationships, and team building across multi-cultural lines. The accounts presented in Rebuilding Community after Katrina raise important and sensitive questions about the appropriate roles of outsiders in community-based planning processes.
Contributors include: Efrem Bycer, Richard Hayes, Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Praj Kasbekar, Richard Kiely, Crystal Lackey Launder, David Lessinger, Sarah McKinley, Anisa Mendizabal, Brian Rosa, Andrew Rumbach, Joanna Winter, and the editors.
Read the Introduction (pdf).
"A lively, honest, exciting book, Rebuilding Community after Katrina provides an insider’s perspective on trying to plan and organize the rebirth of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. It provides insiders’ perspectives, and the voices resonate loud and clear—each with their own style and honesty. The interviews are fascinating. The intensely compelling tales show what happens when you put students and faculty into a truly volatile situation with high stakes. This isn’t your average service learning program."
"[This book] compiles reflections on an unusual initiative. The ACORN-University Partnership (AUP) brought together a New Orleans community organization, ACORN, and a New York university, Cornell, to contribute to the city's rebuilding in the months after Hurricane Katrina.... The book is frank in reflecting on power disparities and the challenges encountered along the way.... Rebuilding Community after Katrina is also open about the personal experiences of those working on the plan. For instance, an Indian graduate student reflects on her prejudices and experiences of racism in the US.... In detailing AUP's intersection of academic and on-the-ground work, the book argues for a more service-oriented approach to planning education."
"The book confirms some of the best partnership practices and reveals some new insights. It addresses how community organizers and community planners use different processes and approaches to solve the same problems, and how both are necessary for community success and vitality. It also underscores the importance of planning, knowing the history of a community, understanding the existing relationships and politics, and the requirement of addressing issues of inclusion and institutional racism.... Reardon and Forester and the chapter authors do an excellent job describing the work of this partnership by detailing the evolution of the partners, the engagement with residents, the products created by the partnership, and the multidimensional reflections offered by faculty, students, community partners, and residents."
"Rebuilding Community After Katrina represents a collective attempt by Cornell students and faculty staff to make sense of their experiences with planning for rebuilding in collaboration with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the primarily African-American residents who returned to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flooded many homes and businesses.... The student reflections read remarkably.... That many of the reflections highlight common experiences in professional contexts may well be the book's best contribution: here is what you are in for when you move from student to practitioner.... There is not much writing, not even in textbooks, aimed at helping students or practitioners weather the politics, and this book fills a gap offering critical insights into self-management as an important professional skill."
"Their project is notable in scope and ambition and it is a credit to the contributors that they can convey its complexity and drama in such a slim volume. They tell the story of the ACORN University Partnership (AUP), a collaboration among two well-established and successful grassroots organizations and three universities that aimed to combine city planning expertise with rigorous community organizing to bring disaster relief and redevelopment to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.... This project produced a lot of good. It is exemplary and inspirational in many ways. There is much insight to be mined from this story."
Part I • Setting Out the Players, Plot, Promises, and Problems
Part II • The People’s Plan and Community Members
Part III • Work on the Ground in New Orleans
Part IV • Looking Backward and Looking Forward
Ken Reardon is Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Planning and Community Development at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. His work on university-community engagement, including the East St. Louis Action Research Project, has earned him the American Institute of Certified Planners President’s Award, the Dale Prize for Excellence in City Planning, and the Ernest Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Community Engagement.
John Forester is a Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. He is the author of Planning in the Face of Conflict and Dealing with Differences: Dramas of Mediating Public Disputes, and is the co-author (with Norman Krumholz) of Making Equity Planning Work: Leadership in the Public Sector.