Sometimes the U.S. Needs a Little Chinese Efficiency

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 22:40
Posted in category The Big Picture
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There are few times where I will say ” China is more efficient than the U.S”, but the last 4 days I have had one of those moments.

No it is not some fad… No I am not mad… I was in New Orleans attending the annual Hands On Network conference.as the executive Director of Hands On Shanghai (and more recently Hands On China)

It was a week filled with seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and learning about how to organize spontaneous volunteers within over 68 cities worldwide (6 more coming online soon).

The conference was a 3 day crash session on how to organize volunteers to have a positive impact on the community, and with the conference being held in New Orleans… a lot of us were able to see where theory and application can either go really right… or really wrong as we were sitting in what was perhaps the most glaring example of what happens when the systems fails the people, and the impact that volunteers can have to in such times.

As this was my first trip to New Orleans, I really had no frame of reference from which to measure the devastation. While I was in Missouri for the 93 floods, and saw the day-to-day of the destruction, CNN’s coverage of the floods just did not provide the same baseline for me to judge.

However, during our tours of the affected areas, one thing became clear. that the residents of the affected areas had been let down by the powers to be at all levels, and on multiple occasions. Beginning with the Corps of Engineers who failed to maintain the levies, to the mayor, governor, and president who all failed those that put them in office, New Orleans is quite literally a black eye in the face of a nation for all to see.

to this day, what shocks me most is that so little has been done in some of the poorest areas. Of course, the superdome was repaired (180+ million USD), the French Quarter is filled with party goes, but for many who called New Orleans home, little has changed in the 18 months since the levies broke.

While I was not expecting to see affected communities back to pre-Katrina… I was expecting a lot more than what I saw. In the lower 9, there are still houses still literally stacked on top of one another. In another district, houses that should be demolished are left standing. And it is just one of those cases where the efficiency of China’s urban planning could have rally benefited the residents of New Orleans.

At one point, one of the Executive Directors commented that they could not believe so little had been done, and to my surprise someone said that it takes time.

Of course while not privy to the planning surrounding the reconstruction, the fact that there are still houses on top of each other shows that the process is stuck in red tape…. and that while the city of New Orleans has spent 18 months planning.. the Chinese would have spent that time building.

In the meantime, I am proud of the fact that for the last 18 months over 100 volunteers from Hands On and Americorps have been onsite, and it is good to see that when those in power fail to rise to the occasion there are those that do.

to learn more about the effort in New Orleans, I encourage you to visit the Hands On gulf Coast and Hands on New Orleans sites. for those looking for a way to spend your holiday to assist others, you can learn about more about opportunities there

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