Found Words – Veronica Barbarin

Quick write up in the Times-Picayune — but I’m really pleased with it:

Mapping project linked to street-level advocacy
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Veronica Barbarin

During a visit to New Orleans last year, Stephen Danley, a social policy doctoral student at Oxford University whose research focuses on the roles neighborhood associations play in the city, met with a former employee of City-Works who asked the student if he would be willing to incorporate some mapping into his research.

Danley agreed to take on the task that would help the nonprofit neighborhood advocacy group, formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with its community mapping project, one of their earliest endeavors. The aim of the mapping project is to gather and share information about post-Katrina neighborhood planning efforts in a way that ultimately supports grass-roots projects.

While he has a database of more than 270 neighborhood associations across New Orleans, Danley has focused a good deal of his research on the East. He has reached out to about two dozen neighborhood groups and has attended a few neighborhood association meetings, including those of the Eastern New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission and the West Barrington Neighborhood Association. He said these two groups are microexamples of the diverse associations we have in the East.

“(The) ENONAC is a powerhouse with state legislation that strengthens its role in the area,” Danley said. “West Barrington is a small group of close-knit residents that is focused on addressing day-to-day quality-of-life issues in a way that is effective without being overwhelming to its volunteers.” Both, he said, are even more effective when they can work together on some projects.

Ultimately, Danley wants to use his research to produce maps for City-Works that show where neighborhood associations do or do not exist, to fill in the blanks when it comes to missing or incorrect contact information and to compile a report that examines the different ways community and neighborhood groups operate.

“All too often it is only the biggest, strongest and most publicized associations that are talked about,” he said. “I’m particularly excited about this (report), as it appears there are numerous models for effective organizations that are rarely discussed, but have developed in parallel around the city.”

To compile the three components of his research, Danley has put together a survey for neighborhood associations. You can find it at http://www.fluidsurveys.com/surveys/stephen-r/community-mapping-project.

Danley said he sees the mapping project primarily as a community resource that can lead to a greater understanding about the importance of street-level advocacy. “This report, and hopefully my doctoral research more broadly, can help with that process,” he said.

Danley hopes to have his mapping project complete by mid-August.

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