Friday, July 18, 2008
Convening with Ms. Foundation
I recently had the pleasure of representing Women’s Initiative at the Ms. Foundation for Women convening for grantee organizations in New Orleans from June 9-13, 2008. The convening featured representatives from grantee organizations of the Foundation’s Collaborative Fund for Women’s Economic Development and Fairy Godmother Fund, which focus on microenterprise development. Also attending were Ms. Foundation staff; Elaine Edgcomb, Director of research group Aspen Institute/FIELD; and representatives from funders Citi, JP Morgan Chase, and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. The convening consisted of an opening reception on Tuesday evening, followed by two and a half days of grantee organizations working to develop a plan to continue their good work despite the end of Ms. Foundation funding. There were small and large group and individual brainstorming and exercises, featuring expert facilitation by consultants Jennifer Henderson and Connie Evans. While we all came up with ideas for making our organizations sustainable and/or self-sufficient, we also decided to continue the conversation online, so I created an online Facebook group for us and others who are passionate about women’s economic developmenthere.
Convening attendees were also taught about New Orleans culture during the week. We received samples of products from local women-owned businesses, including a sampling of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines. Attendees at Tuesday’s opening reception enjoyed performances by the local Ashe Cultural Center, which featured song, dance, spoken word, and musical performances from New Orleans’ Second Line culture. On Thursday, we watched a selection from the upcoming film “Trouble the Water,” which followed families affected by Katrina. However, the most unforgettable learnings about local culture came on Wednesday when we went to the Lower Ninth Ward to visit nonprofit Common Ground to learn of their post-Katrina community cleanup, rebuilding, and advocacy efforts. Other than the good work of this nonprofit, it was really hard to note progress in the area in the 3 years after Katrina. I’ve shared some photos below so you can see what I mean.
Left to Right
1.Here’s our group learning about Common Ground and their services.
2. This is the view behind Common Ground, and that’s part of the partially rebuilt flood wall to the left. This view represents much of the view around the district: overgrown grasses in empty lots where houses once existed.
3. Three years after Katrina, it’s hard to believe that sights like this still exist: a totally destroyed house filled with totally destroyed belongings.