Unified New Orleans Plan


Unified New Orleans Plan


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans officials and planners faced big challenges: a ravaged infrastructure, massive financial losses, finger pointing about how the crisis was handled and citizens who lost faith in their government.

Over the course of a year, dozens of recovery plans had gone into effect – federal, state, local, philanthropic, and more – with some successful, some wandering and many at cross-purposes. It had become a mess.

The Unified New Orleans Plan was created to unify them all – to take the best of the best and effectively manage the rest in one grand collaborative and transparent effort. The Plan addressed critical needs like housing, flood protection, transportation and public services as well as produce 13 district-level plans with recovery priorities for the city’s neighborhoods. Full community participation was seen as essential as initial planning efforts were met with anger and protest from affected citizens.

That’s where we came in. Along with our partner, AmericaSpeaks, we facilitated a citywide conversation between New Orleans officials and 2,400 displaced residents across 24 cities. At the time, a meeting like this was unprecedented in its size and scope.

With key decision-makers listening, citizens discussed how to ensure safety from future flooding, empower residents to rebuild safe and stable neighborhoods, provide incentives and housing so people could return, and establish sustainable, equitable public services. There was great deal of emotion and intensity, but as people understood their input was valued, acceptance of the plan increased.


At the end of the discussions, 92% of participants agreed that the Unified New Orleans Plan should go forward. The overwhelming support of the citizenry urged the New Orleans City Council and Louisiana Recovery Authority to approve the $14.5 billion plan. The process also ensured the people of New Orleans were energized to stay involved and hold officials accountable for outcomes for years to come.



Webcasting and teleconferencing enabled real-time dialogue between all of the participants across the country. Every round table was equipped with a laptop where groups could type in their concerns. Our team quickly read all of this input, categorized it, and identified major themes for city officials to respond to. In this way, votes with meaningful choices were pushed out to all participants in all the sites.