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In early March, a three-person delegation from the Seattle, Wash., National Forum site traveled to Louisiana to participate in the New Orleans Health Department's (NOHD's) Youth Violence Prevention Summit, and engage in peer-to-peer training. Chris Gunther, manager of strategic initiatives for NOHD, and Mariko Lockhart, director of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, later shared with NFYVP News their recollections of the visit.

New Orleans's Perspective
by Chris Gunther
Like that of our sister cities, New Orleans's work with the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention involves a wide range of local partners: government agencies, schools, community-based organizations, mental health professionals, and advocates, to name a few. NOHD periodically convenes these groups for a Youth Violence Prevention Summit—a "come one, come all" gathering of our local partners in preventing violence.

The NOLA Summit is an opportunity to update partners on our progress in preventing youth violence and collectively plan next steps as a community. During the Summit, we also try to provide opportunities for learning and training, which helps break the mold of a typical violence prevention meeting and reflects our commitment to building our partners' capacity for youth violence prevention.

Visiting team from Seattle with members of CeaseFire New Orleans
Visiting team from Seattle with members of CeaseFire New Orleans. From
left to right: Hakim Kashif, Mariko Lockhart, Gregory Rattler, Sarah Walker,
Dwight Anderson, Calvin Pep, Eleuthera Lisch, and Nicholas Holmes.

One of the strengths of the National Forum is its ability to serve as a network for peer communities adopting similar approaches to a shared challenge. A connection to this network is one of the areas where New Orleans has benefited most from participating in the Forum. Mariko Lockhart and Eleuthera Lisch of Seattle spoke at the 2013 National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, and we had learned about Seattle's exciting work through the UNITY Cities Network.

When we began discussing whom to invite as a keynote speaker for the NOLA Youth Violence Prevention Summit, Mariko and the Seattle team jumped to mind. As a city just 3 years into adopting a community-wide approach to addressing youth violence, we wanted to hear from a site that had more experience. Could they tell us what to pay attention to in the years ahead, and the challenges that might arise as our work continues to evolve? What would they suggest to sustain the momentum and energy we've built up over the past few years?

Now 6 years into its Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, Seattle fit the bill as an "older sister" city that could share some insights with our community.

This year's Summit* was the first we held since launching the NOLA FOR LIFE PLAYbook, our strategic plan to prevent youth violence, so it was packed with updates from a busy period of implementation.

Among the many engaging sessions were a few highlights:
  • The growth of our initiative to expand the restorative approaches in schools—an effort that has garnered significant public support, including a recent editorial in the local newspaper
  • The presentation of a report describing how neighborhood-level factors impact youth safety in NOLA
  • The announcement of a new pilot initiative aimed at coordinating social services for at-risk youth—part of the NOLA FOR LIFE Services Collaborative
Noting the differences between New Orleans and Seattle, one Summit attendee asked, "What about your work is applicable in our community?"

The answer is: a great deal. Though our cities differ in many ways, the challenges our most vulnerable communities face are similar. With consideration of local context, promising approaches from one community can be adapted for use in another locality. CeaseFire New Orleans is an example of the way a national model (Cure Violence) can be adapted to a very specific local context. At the same time, Seattle's Neighborhood Networks is a compelling example of how local government can support implementation of evidence-informed practices while building the capacity of neighborhood-based nonprofits.

Above all, a spirit of camaraderie and shared learning characterized the visit. I'm certain the Seattle team gained as much from the experience as we did, and we found the growing sense of a national community committed to preventing youth violence inspiring and uplifting.

We hope to make a reciprocal visit to Seattle soon!

*Not to be confused with the National Summit on Youth Violence Prevention, to be held next month in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Seattle's Perspective
by Mariko Lockhart
At the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI), collaborating with partners and learning from one another to more effectively reduce youth violence is part of our DNA. SYVPI is in its sixth year of implementing an innovative, coordinated service delivery system for youths at risk of perpetrating—or becoming victims of—violence.

We work with multiple nonprofit service providers, city and county departments, private sector partners, and community stakeholders to ensure responsiveness and accountability, and course correction, when necessary. At the core of our approach is the establishment of Neighborhood Networks, which consists of local anchor institutions selected to lead SYVPI in neighborhoods most affected by youth violence. These networks serve both as referral hubs and home base for the 1,500 youths enrolled in SYVPI. Their staffers work continually with service provider partners to ensure youths are connected to caring adults, programs, and services they have chosen to change their path.

Mariko Lockhart, at left, giving the keynote address at NOHD's Youth Violence Prevention Summit, March 6
Mariko Lockhart, at left, giving the keynote address at NOHD's Youth Violence
Prevention Summit, March 6

NOLA FOR LIFE is a model for comprehensive, thoughtful planning to tackle all aspects of the prevention-to-reentry continuum. So I jumped at the chance to see it in action. Moreover, having been part of Cities United discussions on reducing black male homicide with the movement's co-founder, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, I wanted to learn more about their approach to aligning multiple national initiatives.

In conversations during our site visit and at the Summit presentation, it was exciting to share Seattle's comprehensive, coordinated, and community-based approach to youth violence prevention, lessons we've learned along the way, and recent SYVPI developments. SYVPI's research partner, Sarah Walker, Ph.D., of the University of Washington's Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy, and Eleuthera Lisch, the Seattle YMCA's director of government affairs and former Alive and Free street outreach director, accompanied me on the site visit before the Summit.

Dr. Walker led a discussion on SYVPI's risk assessment tool and its validation process with NOLA FOR LIFE partners and staff. Members of the NOLA FOR LIFE team briefed us on their Group Violence Reduction Strategy (based on David Kennedy's call-in model), their Comprehensive Workforce Reentry Program, and CeaseFire New Orleans.

After in-depth meetings with the CeaseFire street outreach workers at their hospital site and headquarters, we signed the group's pledge: "We pledge not to abuse, hit, or shoot anyone. We'll use our influence to maintain the peace."

NOLA is doing amazing work that, after only a few years, has resulted in decreased violence. In 2014, the city saw its lowest number of murders in more than 40 years.

There is clearly more rich information sharing and partnership to come with New Orleans. We hope to host a NOLA delegation to Seattle in the future!