TOGETHER Initiative — "Building Power Through Community"


Following a two-month planning phase launched by the Equity Caucus event, neighborhood and cultural groups work with technical-assistance providers who are part of the Equity Caucus in developing strategies and projects to address inequities in specific quality-of-life areas. Working groups members collaborate on project proposals that are ultimately submitted to FFL for grant consideration.

Foundation for Louisiana’s TOGETHER initiative is designed to shift policy-making around by strengthening community resident’s engagement in decision-making about issues impacting their communities. Started in 2013, TOGETHER is built upon the Foundation’s deeply held value that residents carry the best wisdom to solve the problems that they face in their own communities. Each year’s participants are community members or representatives of grassroots community organizations and interests. This year, we intend to include a particular focus on challenges faced by coastal communities both within New Orleans and across adjacent parishes. Participants themselves drive much of the work.

TOGETHER Initiative Values:
Trusing community partners
Holding stakeholders accountable
Engagement for everyone
Responsive and proactive

The cultural fabric that has made New Orleans home for generations of families has been tattered over time by structural inequities. An already fragile community’s challenges have been compounded in recent years by man-made and natural disasters, leaving thousands of residents displaced and homeless. As part of this project, high-speed Internet access also may be offered for public use in city-owned or supported facilities like parks, libraries and New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) centers. The City imagines working with community organizations to offer new services such as digital skills training in these spaces. Additionally, this project will explore design options that allow the network to be leveraged for future potential public-private partnerships.

Against this backdrop, Foundation for Louisiana (FFL) and its key funding partners — including the Greater New Orleans Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Ford Foundation, Surdna Foundation and blue moon fund — believe that residents must play a strong role in shaping policies that will drive comprehensive zoning and transportation planning and decision making. New Orleans as one of its coastal cities is the epicenter for ensuring that low-income and minority residents and communities throughout Louisiana, especially Coastal regions, gain ownership over and benefit from mitigation and adaptation efforts around the state.

Since its inception as the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF), Foundation for Louisiana has been committed to promoting an equitable rebuilding of Louisiana and ensuring that all residents — regardless of race, income, age, or gender — can contribute to and benefit from Louisiana’s rebirth and renewed prosperity. These core values serve as pillars for its new funding initiative: “TOGETHER — Building Power in Community.”

How it works
The TOGETHER Initiative is a three-phase process:

Phase I: LEAD training. Working with a combination of community leaders, activists, officials and FFL staff, trainees learn leadership skills that can help prepare them for taking on leadership roles in policy reform and advocacy.

Phase II: Equity Caucus. Residents and LEAD graduates come together in one room with nonprofit representatives and people from across southern Louisiana toidentify the critical needs of the community. This meeting serves as a jumping-off pointfor a two month planning period, where participants work to focus on priorities and finalize their action plans to the point where leaders can submit grant proposals to fund a project.

Phase III: Grants awarded.

What we hope to achieve
In facilitation this three step grant making process, the TOGETHER Initiative utilizes a citizen-focused and citizen-driven approach to empowering disenfranchised communities across southeastern Louisiana. With the training, coalition building and grant funding necessary to carry out strategies for building power we are confident that resident leaders can have a significant impact on policy and advocacy efforts in their neighborhoods and communities.

The Convergence Partnership, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Surdna Foundation have committed to years two and three of this work. Together, we see the need for neighborhood and community organization capacity building, strong community organizing, and robust community engagement to ensure that redevelopment increases equity in our city.

LEAD Program
Objective: Foster and develop neighborhood leadership and strategies to make positive change in the community

FFL launched the Leadership Engagement Advocacy Development (LEAD) Community Training Program to assist neighborhood leaders and advocates in developing the necessary skills to engage in and influence policy-making. Some components of this programs were piloted with broad community input including former LEAD participants.

Our LEAD 2014 Program — with its theme, “The Claiborne Corridor and the Cultural Economy” — included topics (over a seven-week period) that addressed everything from the principles of community organizing and the use of multimedia to tell an organization’s story to engaging politicians and media to create change and establishing legal protection for neighborhood associations.

2014 LEAD Graduates
Culture Bearers: Cherice Harrison-Nelson (Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame), James Patrick Crilly (Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MCCNO), Kelly Harris Brassy (, Sabrina Mays-Montana (Faces of Culture; Treme for Treme), Greer Mendy), Tekrema Center for Art and Culture), Katrina Brees (I Heart Louisiana), Big Chief Larry Bannock (Golden Star Hunters), Tamah Yisrael (Neo Jazz School of Music)

Neighborhood Advocates: Big Chief Tyrone Casby (Mohawk Hunters), Cheryl Austin (Greater Treme Consortium, Inc.), Gerard Rouchon (“New Zion” City Preservation Association, Inc.), Yamise Crawford (Central City Renaissance Alliance), Cynthia Harris (“New Zion” City Preservation Association, Inc.), Renaldo Trepagnier (Voices of Experience, Inc./(B.W. Cooper)

Nonprofit Staff: Ashley Green (Urban League of Greater New Orleans Young Professionals), Chemwapuwa Blackman (Neighborhoods Partnership Network), Dorcas Omojola (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Greater New Orleans), Esther Pew (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, (Greater New Orleans), Chandra Grayson (Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana), Dipo Mosadomi (Kedila Family Learning Services), Rev. Dwight Webster (Justice and Beyond), Kelley Williams (New Orleans Food Cooperative)

Youth Leaders: Michelle Conway (Habitat for Humanity), Tamara Kliot (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Greater New Orleans), Willmarine Hurst (Parent Leadership Training Institute), Derrick Mullins (Bard Early College New Orleans), Yolanda Andrade (Bard Early College New Orleans)

Program Overview
LEAD will take place in March 2017.

Who should apply
Louisiana residents who:
• are at least 15 years of age
• are interested in advocating for change in your community
• who can commit to attending at least six weeks of the training sessions
(Assistance with child care and transportation and other costs may be available)

Please submit applications online via email to (TBD), via mail or in person:
Foundation for Louisiana
Attn: Ameca Reali, New Orleans Program Officer
4035 Washington Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70125

Objective: To develop specific citizen-focused and citizen-led plans that increase participation in collective decision-making and lead to changes in target policy areas in the Claiborne Corridor.

The three objectives of the Caucus are:
1. to adopt the values of the TOGETHER initiative
2. to identify key areas of policy making where citizens may have impact; and
3. to begin developing specific plans to increase citizen engagement that yield policy changes.

The Equity Caucus is designed as a way to develop a culture of collective action and collective decision-making which will help ensure that vulnerable communities have a substantial role in deciding how their neighborhoods will develop and evolve.

Collectively, the Caucus process adheres to the TOGETHER values in order to:
• improve how policy and advocacy experts engage with communities;
• increase communities’ participation in advocacy and policy efforts;
• increase equity in advocacy and community engagement practices; and
• maximize citizens’ collective decision-making.

The structure for 2017 will be different. We will host one big meeting and then smaller meetings.

Objective: Identify and support the implementation of strong citizen-led and citizen-developed plans for increasing citizen engagement and a effecting policy change.

Following a two-month planning phase launched by the Equity Caucus event, neighborhood and cultural groups work with technical-assistance providers who are part of the Equity Caucus in developing strategies and projects to address inequities in specific quality-of-life areas. Working groups members collaborate on project proposals that are ultimately submitted to FFL for grant consideration.

Grants were made in two tiers:
• Small capacity grants (up to $5,000) For neighborhood and cultural groups that need to build capacity and leadership before tackling a policy issue;
• Policy change grants ($20,000-$30,000) For the implementation of collaborative, citizen-led, citizen-focused projects that aim to change a specific policy affecting the built environment.

Examples of our success highlights:
Water Wise
Queen Cherice Harrison Nelson’s Green Paper

The TOGETHER Initiative is made possible with support from the City of New Orleans through its Network for Economic Opportunity, JP Morgan Chase, Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Metropolitan Opportunities Fund, the Convergence Partnership, Surdna Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

TOGETHER Initiative

Snapshots from our TOGETHER Initiative word

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