The Neighborhoods Partnership Network (NPN) works to make all of New Orleans’ neighborhoods great places to live. NPN facilitates neighborhood collaboration, increase access to government and information, and strengthen the voices of individuals and communities across New Orleans.
On the Neighborhood Partnerships Network’s homepage, you’re one click away from finding out the meeting times and locations of dozens of different neighborhood organizations all over New Orleans.
NPN — that’s shorthand for the Neighborhood Partnerships Network — was born after Katrina to help communities all over the city maximize limited resources and work with each other to accomplish common goals. One way NPN facilitates neighborhood collaboration is through a series of workshops on building capacity.
So what’s capacity?
“Building capacity is giving people the skills and ability to either work with government, or in their neighborhood being able to leverage the relationships they have,” says Jason Stopa, who works on policy and education for NPN.
I meet him in a room full of neighborhood leaders from all over the city. They’ve come to do something called asset mapping.
“Asset mapping is this idea of how to build from the assets in your neighborhood,” explains Stopa. “People are the asset instead of the needs.”
The training session on asset mapping begins.
Alexandra Miller, an urban planner with experience in public engagement, stands in front of a white board. She’s leading the day’s workshop on capacity building.
“How many people think organizing is really easy?” Miller jokingly asks. No hands go up, and the room erupts in laughter.
“There’s always going to be these challenges in organizing,” says Miller, “because you’re dealing with people. Everybody’s got their own ideas about what’s important. So it’s all about figuring out what are those common goals and figuring out how to move towards them.”
Representatives from about 75 groups throughout the city are participating in these capacity building workshops. Twenty of them are in the room on the day I show up.
“If we ever get our community to be on one accord, we could change some of the game” says one participant.
“If everyone in this room lived in one neighborhood,” says another participant, “we could get a lot done. But we’re drops of water in pools of water.”
“She’s so right,” jumps in a woman across the room. “We’re putting out fires of our own. But if collectively we came together, we could hose your spot, then my spot, and then actually move forward."