What’s Next For New Orleans?

Having recently marked the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, New Orleans is now coping with new social and community redevelopment challenges. As the only US service-based January Term IXP, the 2011 New Orleans IXP will offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience first-hand one of the most unique cities in the country.

From January 4-15, 2011, HBS students will return to New Orleans for the sixth time since Katrina to partner with various social enterprise organizations. While the dynamic issues affecting New Orleans today are different than those faced by the city immediately after Katrina, the critical need for community service and leadership remains unchanged.

This past summer, with the physical and psychological effects of Katrina still lingering, New Orleans faced the economic reverberations of the Gulf Coast oil spill. As the region’s guiding force, New Orleans again found itself in the crosshairs of hardship. The underlying evidence of recent tragedy and ongoing adversity remains deceptively hidden to the casual passer-by or tourist: life goes on in the Crescent City and visitors and locals alike still boisterously crowd the French Quarter streets with fresh beignets, po’boys, and Abita beers in hand. However, New Orleans’ long-time residents living only a few short miles away know the truth: there is still work to be done, and our help is still needed.

Harvard Business School students will be returning to New Orleans in January for the sixth time since Katrina to help the city deal with a new set of economic, cultural, and educational challenges. The original student-led IXP has blossomed into an annual mainstay amongst the New Orleans social enterprise community, providing HBS students a real-world consulting opportunity complete with high stakes and expectations.

From the Classroom to the Real World
This service-focused IXP exposes participants to the management and leadership challenges of working in a social sector organization. Importantly, the IXP requires them to consider how economic and business factors, public policy, and cultural dynamics affect social change in the New Orleans community.

Working directly with partner organizations and their staff on high-priority projects, student teams assist with specific community-based strategic initiatives. Students will select from a wide variety of partner organizations whose areas of focus range from education to economic development, infrastructure renewal to healthcare. Examples of past New Orleans partner organizations include Make It Right, Idea Village, Broadmoor, Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, and FirstLine Schools.

On the ground, the IXP student teams receive high-level information and personnel access to help them decipher the issues and attack the problems facing their partner organizations. Seeking specific action-based recommendations, student teams work towards a deliverable in the form of a final presentation accompanied by supporting documentation prepared over the course of the IXP. Ultimately, students will experience first-hand the excitement and difficulties of working with a social enterprise in an entrepreneurial environment.

During last year’s NOLA IXP, both Freddie Martignetti (OI) and Andrew Lechleiter (OF) had the opportunity to work with distinctively different partner organizations. Having no prior consulting experience, Freddie partnered with Teach for America (TFA) in their New Orleans-based regional office. Together with his team consisting of Whitney Petersmeyer (HBS 2010), Raymond Tong (OB), Stephen Menaquale (OH), and Benjamin Schumacher (OC), Freddie worked on new strategies to encourage TFA corps members to remain in New Orleans following their two years with the program.

The nature of the TFA project is emblematic of the need for young leadership in New Orleans. TFA strives to keep their young, motivated, and intelligent corps members in the city to continue as part of the ongoing rebuilding effort. In many ways, this is what the NOLA IXP is all about: bringing a novel approach and tenacious attitude to bear in a place that needs help. New Orleans presents a genuine opportunity to preserve what has worked and start fresh on what has not.

As an RC project leader, Andrew and his student team worked on a Habitat for Humanity home building project in the Lower 9th Ward. With gloved hands and protective eyewear, Sean Matsuoka (OI), Abigail Wattley (HBS 2010), Gordon Ross (HBS 2010), and Andrew worked closely with Habitat and building coordinators. The team seized the opportunity to escape the HBS case study comfort zone and test previously-unknown building skills. Wielding saws, hammers, and paint brushes, they worked directly with the future homeowners to transform their houses into safe, inhabitable homes over the course of IXP.

For each NOLA IXP project, a willingness to work hard and to take great care for what you do is more important than prior experience. Working with a team of motivated students and engaged partner organizations promises to be a powerful and rewarding real-world endeavor.

What’s the Focus? The City, the People
Getting to know New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street is critical to the mission of the NOLA IXP. This year’s schedule includes ample free time to explore the city as well as numerous opportunities to interact with partner organizations, community leaders, NOLA-based HBS alumni, and other IXP participants. Students will leave New Orleans on January 15th with an intimate understanding of what makes New Orleans tick.

As the only domestic social enterprise-focused IXP, New Orleans offers a diversity of experiences not necessarily found in other January Term opportunities. A singular and unique place, New Orleans is difficult to define. The people that live there are the personification of everything that makes the city so special: the music, the art, the cuisine, the poetry, the architecture. everything. These people are living proof that the fighting spirit lives on, and they are the reason the NOLA IXP presents such a wonderful opportunity.

As you evaluate your January plans, please consider joining us in New Orleans to help transform “The City that Care Forgot” into the city where hope was restored.

Please contact Andrew and Freddie with questions, and register by October 4th. For additional information on the 2011 New Orleans IXP, including daily schedule and travel and cost details, please visit //mba.hbs.edu/IXP/2011/NOLA.

Andrew Lechleiter (OF) and Freddie Martignetti (OI) both participated in the 2010 New Orleans IXP and are excited to return to “The Big Easy” as joint student leaders on the 2011 service and leadership IXP in New Orleans.