Behind the Scenes at the Cities of Service 2017 Resilience AmeriCorps Academy

Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA Cohort 2017

From March 20–22, 2017, Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members from 10 US cities gathered in New Orleans for the second annual Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps Academy. Over three days, VISTA members engaged in a series of hands-on training sessions to explore resilience concepts and design practical means to build resilience within low-income communities across the country. Read about the top moments below and explore #ResAc2017 to see highlights from the event on our social channels.

VISTA Members Tour the Gentilly Resilience District

Top: Mirabeau Water Gardens. / Lower Left: NORA Green Water Lot. / Lower Right: VISTAs and their supervisors tour the Mirabeau Water Gardens.

Led by City of New Orleans Resilience Outreach Manager, Charles Allen, Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs and their supervisors toured the Gentilly Resilience District to learn how the city has become more resilient after Hurricane Katrina.

While the hurricane had a devastating impact on the area, since 2005 the city has enhanced its green infrastructure, improved relations between local government and community-based organizations, and assessed its plan to increase capacity in agencies that manage these works. Two sites in particular, the Mirabeau Water Gardens and the NORA Green Water Lot, represent opportunity for the city, with revitalizations in this area being replicable throughout other areas of New Orleans.

Cities of Service Executive Director and City of New Orleans Chief Resilience Officer Welcome VISTA Members

Cities of Service Executive Director Myung J. Lee and City of New Orleans Chief Resilience Officer and Deputy Mayor Jeff Hebert welcome VISTAs and their supervisors to New Orleans.

Cities of Service Executive Director, Myung J. Lee, and City of New Orleans Chief Resilience Officer and Deputy Mayor, Jeff Hebert, welcomed the incoming class of Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs in downtown New Orleans. VISTA members learned about the purpose of the Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps program and the role of resilience in the City of New Orleans.

Resilience Leaders Get to Know Each Other

VISTAs and their supervisors play BINGO to get to know each other.

VISTA members and their supervisors participated in an interactive icebreaker to get to know others in their cohort. A new take on an old classic, VISTAs played BINGO to discover interesting facts about one another to prepare for the service year ahead.

City of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu Addresses VISTA Members, Tells Story of Resilience in New Orleans

City of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Cities of Service Executive Director Myung J. Lee, and the Cities of Service AmeriCorps cohort of 2017.

City of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed VISTA members and — through an inspiring tale of the recent history of the city — illustrated how New Orleans has set a standard of excellence when it comes to resilience. By utilizing the power of national service and citizen engagement in the rebuilding of a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu led the city through a revival in order to overcome its challenges and thrive.

“The character of the people and their preparation to respond to unseen, unknown events is the very definition of resilience. Resilient institutions, resilient planning, resilient social cohesion [are key] so that you can actually survive and stand up. That’s why resilience at the end of the day really matters.”

City Teams Assess Shocks and Stresses in Their Communities

Top: City of Anchorage VISTAs assess shocks and stresses in their community. / Middle Left: Program Manager Rosalind Becker explains the resilience model. / Middle Right: Program Manager Rachel Greenburg with City of Phoenix VISTAs and supervisor Michael Hammett, assessing challenges in their city. / Bottom: Acute shocks are sudden, sharp events that threaten a city. Stresses weaken the fabric of a city on a daily or cyclical basis.

VISTA members and their supervisors analyzed the shocks and stresses affecting the communities they serve. By assessing the assets they are currently leveraging to address these challenges, city teams were able to take their existing Impact Volunteering initiatives to the next level. Impact Volunteering is a Cities of Service strategy that engages citizen volunteers to identify and solve public problems alongside municipal government. Explore our guide to learn more about how this strategy can support your city.

Returning VISTAs Lead Panel Reflecting on First Year of Program

Program Manager Rosalind Becker facilitates panel of returning VISTAs.

Returning VISTAs Jenny Hernandez from the City of El Paso, Trevor Riley from the City of Chicago, and Mackenzie Boli from the City of Boulder participated in a panel led by Program Manager Rosalind Becker to share best practices and lessons learned from their first year in the Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps program.

Panelists reflected on both the successes and challenges they faced while implementing Impact Volunteering initiatives in their respective cities during the first year of the program, contributing to the network of knowledge available to the VISTA cohort. The number one takeaway for successful community engagement? “When you start a conversation, open your ears, not your mouth.”

VISTAs Flex Their Problem Solving Skills In People Participation Session

Top Left: Program Manager Rachel Greenburg leads People Participation session. / Right: Teams problem solve challenges associated with flooding.

Led by Program Manager, Rachel Greenburg, VISTAs and their supervisors explored what it means to go beyond just checking the box when it comes to citizen participation. Through role-playing scenarios and activities like card-storming, city teams discovered various techniques to involve the public in problem-solving and build social cohesion in their communities.

Teams Exchange Ideas In World Cafe

Resilience leaders exchange ideas about building relationships.

VISTA members and their supervisors participated in a World Cafe to exchange ideas about program implementation. By engaging in an open dialogue with their cohort, participants shared common experiences of building trust in communities. They explored how the communication style and assumptions VISTAs bring with them can hinder or improve the success of Impact Volunteering initiatives. Teams left with best practices to implement World Cafes in the cities they serve.

Building resilience is a team effort. Thank you to our Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs for the time, enthusiasm, and great ideas they brought to the Cities of Service 2017 Resilience AmeriCorps Academy!