Sunday, December 24, 2006

What is the Gentilly Project about?

I've been advised that it's time for a recap:

Those who haven't been to New Orleans since Katrina often know it by the extremes. Much reporting seem to convey either things being "back to normal" or the city being still in ruin. In fact, there is much variety within the city (Orleans Parish) and neighboring areas, with lots of neighborhoods in the vast area between "normal" and "ruin."

The project exists to draw attention to these middle ground areas like Gentilly, and document the rebuilding progress at the property level. That way, those in distant places can see what progress is (and is not) within a particular area and get a more accurate sense of where the needs are. This project is a pilot. With additional resources, we'd expand the project to encompass more of the city.

Drawing attention to this middle ground includes people: those who were between great wealth and great poverty in New Orleans. It is my personal view that those in the middle must also be the focus of recovery, and we as a nation are neglecting their circumstances too much. You're not that different at all from those people in the NOLA middle ground if you've ever owned a home, held a steady job for a few years, or have started a small business.

I first conceived this project in November 2005 on my first visit to New Orleans post-Katrina. This project applies my research in the field of organizations and management. While this project does have a mission of service, it also has a role in advancing knowledge that is just as important. We are creating model here of accelerated development. Too often after major disasters, "normalcy" is elusive several years later.

Dr. Xun Shi of Dartmouth's Geography deparment is my project colleague. His research background in GIS (geographic information systems) helps make real a technical system that enables us all to see where the progress and needs are in Gentilly. What impresses me about Xun: When I first introduced this project idea to him, he understood it immediately from both a scientific perspective and a human perspective.

Dr. Beverly Wright, founder and director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, is a project colleague too, but the current phase of the project doesn't allow us the opportunity to fully access her expertise. However, after I spoke with her last week, I see ways we can help accelerate environmental development in NOLA in 2007.

Dr. Quintus Jett
Principal investigator, Gentilly Project
Center for Digital Strategies
Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College


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