Like countless other communities in the United States, Baton Rouge has struggled with the entrenched and interrelated issues of economic disparities, struggling schools and poor health outcomes, all within the current context of the nation’s severe economic turmoil. The inner-city is plagued with economic disparities magnified by a high poverty rate which is three percentage points above the national average (17.2% vs. 14.3%), and by nearly one in four children living below the poverty line. Graduation rates in East Baton Rouge Parish schools continue to decline along with other challenges that include truancy, achievement gaps, the retention of qualified teachers and community involvement. Finally, there is the need to address the impact of poor health and high-risk conditions that have a significant impact on infant and adult mortality as well as overall community well-being. Baton Rouge has the second highest per capita HIV/AIDS rate in the U.S. Louisiana ranks 49th in child well-being, which is a composite index including infant mortality rates and low birth weight babies, all of which are linked to teenage pregnancies, poverty and mental health issues.
The interrelatedness of these issues makes them more daunting. With problems this systemic, there has been a historical tendency in Baton Rouge to look up for the answers. MetroMorphosis’ approach to new solutions begins with dialogue – by inviting more people to start a different conversation about similar issues. Our model relies on a citizen-led innovation framework which leads to social action and facilitates improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Baton Rouge. We have successfully conducted citizen-led innovation workshops that allowed our leaders and participants to identify adaptive challenges, envision a better future and learn new approaches which have led to the creation of community networks focused on outcomes. These types of citizen-led innovations will become a means by which interest-holders from across various sectors can participate in deploying innovative solutions to historically intractable problems.
MetroMorphosis encompasses a journey to re-invent a city. Strategically convening and catalyzing both community leaders and residents – who have never seen themselves as leaders before – is leading to the design of new approaches, strengthening social networks and moving communities forward to implement lasting change. Our goal is that through the platform, learning and convening opportunities, and the diversity, expertise, and drive of the community, MetroMorphosis will foster the change necessary to measurably improve our community.
MetroMorphosis was confirmed as a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code on July 26, 2012.