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Rebuilding New Orleans: Facilitators Needed

Skilled facilitators are invited to volunteer for an essential role at the Unified New Orleans Planning Process – Community Congress II, a historic and innovative town meeting in which thousands of New Orleanians will discuss and influence options for rebuilding their beloved city. Community Congress II will be held on December 2, 2006 across five locations: New Orleans, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Houston and another city to be announced.

A limited number of facilitators are required for each location, so please carefully review the following information and apply immediately if you are interested.


The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP), created by the City of New Orleans is a process to create a single city plan for New Orleans that will incorporate planning at the neighborhood, district, and city level.

Citizens will have the opportunity to contribute to the UNOP planning process through a series of meetings that focus on individual districts as well as three Community Congresses that will address the city-wide plan. For more information on UNOP, visit www.unifiedneworleansplan.com.

Community Congress II will bring together the current and former population of New Orleans for thoughtful deliberation about the plan to rebuild the city. Facilitators will work with small groups of ten people to deliberate about a series of questions that will be asked over the course of the day. Via laptop computers and keypad polling devices, individual tables will share results of their conversations with the thousands of others participating across the five sites. The results of this meeting will shape the next steps for the Unified New Orleans Plan.


This unique meeting will be designed and produced by AmericaSpeaks using its 21st Century Town Meeting model. These Town Meetings create an intimate, safe space where diverse groups of people can tell their stories, listen to one another, and wrestle over tough choices, while at the same time finding consensus among thousands of people through the use of keypad polling and groupware computers.

Community Congress II is aiming to engage as many New Orleanians as possible who are currently living both in the city and in the diaspora.  In particular, we are seeking participation from citizens whose voices have not been heard in the process to date, in addition to those who are already involved.

AmericaSpeaks is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has worked in more than 40 communities around the U.S and in Europe.  For more information about AmericaSpeaks, go to www.americaspeaks.org.



  • Significant experience facilitating small group face-to-face deliberation, building toward consensus while holding respectful space for difference
  • Able to adhere to a tightly-timed program, but also able to immediately respond to real-time change in design and direction from lead facilitator
  • Able to focus on one’s own small group while maintaining overarching responsibility to the total assembled group
  • Deep listening skills; able to hear both unique individual voices and also emergent themes
  • Comfortable with diversity on many dimensions
  • Comfortable with the expression of strong emotions and able to support this expression, drawing the important content back into the conversation
  • Aware of one’s own thoughts, opinions and feelings but able to transcend them to stay in a facilitation role despite any personal stake in the content of the conversation

Because of the significant impact that Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans’ African American community, AmericaSpeaks is strongly seeking local facilitators of color to support the deliberations. Please assist us to recruit as many facilitators as possible who fit one or both of these characteristics. Note that all applicants to be a volunteer facilitator are appreciated and will be considered.


  • Volunteer your time, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturday, December 2 in one of the five meeting cities: New Orleans, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Houston or a city to be announced.
  • Register and attend a 2.5 hour program orientation at one of several sites and times before the meeting.
  • Participate in a quick debrief at the conclusion of the meeting to provide feedback and suggestions to planners and colleagues.

IF INTERESTED, please apply with the following information to Susanna Haas Lyons, at the address below:

  1. Your full contact information (name, email, phone, address, race and gender)
  2. Short summary of your facilitation experience
  3. How did you hear about this facilitation opportunity?

Thank you for considering this opportunity. We welcome your support in helping us recruit skilled facilitators for Community Congress II through the wide distribution of this email to your networks. Note that spaces for facilitators are limited, so please apply soon if you would like to participate.

Don’t hesitate to be in touch with Susan Haas Lyons with any questions you may have.

Susanna Haas Lyons
Community Congress II Facilitator Coordinator
e: shaaslyons@americaspeaks.org
p: 202-775-3939 x1019
w: www.americaspeaks.org

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this call Sandy! 🙂

    Applicants are invited to use our online sign up form: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=170522741924

  2. Do take note that the first Community Congress hosted by AmericaSpeaks and the UNOP was a tragic failure that exaggerated the tensions of the rebuilding process. The questions asked were leading and the only significant result was that affluent and unflooded neighborhoods voiced a desire to have recovery money directed for themselves.

    AmericaSpeaks has insinuated itself in a highly charged situtation, and has already shown a blatant disregard for the political realities.

    The result of this initial "Congress" has been to drive people away from the UNOP, as people are beginning to feel that a particular outcome has been ordained.

    Their bungling has poured salt on wounds. There is a sick and false insinuation that if we do not participate in the UNOP, that we are not going to have a say in our recovery. It's horrible that we've spent all summer working on neighborhood recovery plans, to be told that we have to start over.

    We've had a year vibrant civic engagement in the City of New Orleans in the year since Katrina. People are organizing themselves at a neighborhood level to position themselves to have a say in the allocation of CDBG funds. Although initially it was merely to show viability specific neighborhoods, these neighborhood groups will hopefully guide the development of the city, and not some overarching city-wide plan.

    The prioritization of infrastructure? What exactly does that mean? The questions asked by AmericaSpeaks are childlishly simplistic. 2.5 hours of facilitation training, really amounts to 2.5 hours on how to use keypads.

    In all, this is a horrible allocation of resources. I've yet to see the real need for this Community Congress II.

    If this is anything besides an institution building exercise for AmericaSpeaks, it is a fig-leaf for the fact that many New Orleans residents were given a one-way ticket to nonwhere two Septembers ago.

    The $2.3 million dollars raised from, as of yet, unknown sources for the sake of these now homeless New Orleanians would have been better spend on a) bringing them home b) real recovery planning.

    Population surveys, financial planning, etc.

  3. Susanna Haas Lyons says:

    Hi Alan,

    The spontaneous citizen activism in New Orleans and diaspora has been amazing to witness and support. I hope that your views of UNOP and AmericaSpeaks' contriubtions to the planning process have been swayed by the successes of Community Congress II and III, with:
    * participation of nearly 4,000 people across 21 cities who were able to influence development of city's recovery plan
    * attendees whose demographics mirrored pre-Katrina New Orleans
    * the draft plan submitted for citizen review and feedback during Community Congress III featured participant recommendations heard in Community Congress II
    * at the end of Community Congress III, 91% of participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the unified plan should go forward and 92% of participants were committed to remaining engaged in the rebuilding process

    For more about how this process turned out:
    * Watch a Community Congress II Video
    * Read a Times Picayune article Unified N.O. Plan gaining steam

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