Mission and Vision

The Committee for a Better New Orleans works to create equity and opportunity for all New Orleanians by developing community leaders, fostering civic engagement, and advocating for open, effective, accountable government.

CBNO’s vision is a New Orleans where everyone has a voice and every voice is heard.

As a diverse community organization, a catalyst and convener, we will realize that vision by working to bring all voices to the table to effect systemic changes that will build a better future for all New Orleanians.

Organizational Values

We believe that all New Orleans residents deserve fair access to opportunity and the avenues that lead to it, such as education, employment and good health. All must be empowered to achieve their full potential.

We honor and respect all people, have compassion for their individual challenges, and support them in their quest for a good quality of life. We value the wisdom and support the leadership inherent in all New Orleans communities.

In our organization, in our work, in our city, we celebrate the multitude of cultures and backgrounds and consider it one of our greatest communal strengths.

Convening, connecting and collaborating with the greatest number of stakeholders is essential to our work and central to our ability to serve. We build bridges, develop networks, and collect and share information to enhance all our partnerships.

To serve the community, we must be with the community: listening, asking, supporting, and including. We are guided by those we serve; we are always open and accountable to them.

To participate meaningfully in civic life and successfully chart a path to a better future, residents must be informed about issues, policies, projects, and the contexts around them, including the city’s processes, agendas, and services. CBNO brings information to all communities, both proactively and responsively, in appropriate languages.

Building on research, best practices, ongoing evaluation, and – always — community input, we seek constant improvement, broader perspectives, and breakthrough achievements. Taking thoughtful risks is necessary to success.

By empowering community voice, amplifying and focusing it towards those in positions of power, we effect meaningful, enduring change at systemic levels, while also building trust among communities and between people and government.

Every action we take is intended to generate results, to promote the greater good for all New Orleanians.


Theory of Change
CBNO works from a Theory of Change which holds that a thriving 21st century city requires open, accountable and responsive governance. CBNO believes that this can only be achieved through robust partnership between that city’s government and its residents. Our premise is that informed citizens become engaged citizens; engaged citizens provide more input to government; government then uses this input to make better decisions, which benefits the citizens (especially disadvantaged citizens who are most dependent on effective government programs and services). This means that all communities must be fully capable of participating in civic decision-making. To do this, they need to:
· Be informed about the issues and the workings of government;
· Have access to open, respectful deliberative opportunities;
· Have meaningful avenues for input to decision-makers before decisions are made; and
· Be able to track how that input is used.
This creates an engaged, participating citizenry that votes at higher rates, participates more in civic life, and has a higher capacity to resolve problems at the neighborhood and community level, without relying on government. Research has linked higher levels of citizen engagement to increased public safety, improved health outcomes, and greater government effectiveness. It creates a more open and effective government that operates efficiently, serves its constituents more effectively, and is less susceptible to corruption.


We believe that systemic change is the most meaningful and enduring.  For example, substantive reform of our public education system will improve economic opportunity, reduce crime and positively impact the quality of life of everyone who lives, works and plays in New Orleans.  At the same time, it will reduce the need for direct educational services such as tutoring or after-school programs.

Change at this level impacts the greatest number of individuals and stakeholders, so a fundamental principle of all CBNO’s work is to engage the greatest possible number of people, organizations and decision-makers in the processes of designing and implementing systemic changes.  While we value all voices, extra effort is made to reach those individuals and communities that typically are least likely to be at the table and to be heard as the decisions are made.

There are many great places on our planet.  But none combine the culture, the history, the joie de vivre, the aromas and flavors, the music and food, the entrepreneurial spirit and welcoming attitude, the sheer humanity of the people, the way we do in New Orleans.  Our opportunity, our responsibility and our privilege is to do everything we can to polish this treasure up to its full measure of beauty.

Our Team


Nellie Catzen

Executive Director

Email Nellie

Nellie Catzen is a convener, connector, and capacity builder. She is the Executive Director of the Committee for a Better New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that puts community voice at the center of local government decision making. From boardrooms to crawfish boils, Nellie seeks to create meaningful relationships to drive social change. Bringing in twelve years of experience in community empowerment, program development, nonprofit leadership, Nellie leads CBNO’s strategic direction, advocacy initiatives and programming.  Nellie graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She’s at her best when dancing to live music on the streets of New Orleans.

Board of Directors


  1.  Scott Branta, The Domain Companies
  2. Roland Bullard, Dillard University
  3. Anthony Carter (Treasurer), Downtown Development District
  4. Lukasz Chodyla (Co-Chair), People’s Health
  5. Anthony Feret, Entergy Services
  6. Kelsey Foster, Algiers Economic Development Corporation
  7. Mamie Gasperecz, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust
  8. Julie Grantz, Ochsner Medical Systems
  9. Tim Hemphill, LSU Health Foundation
  10. Robin Jones (Secretary), New Orleans City Planning Commission
  11. C.C. Kahr, Pro Bono Project
  12. Mithun Kamath, Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office
  13. Dawn Domengeaux Lapeyrolerie, Office of Councilmember Donna Glapion
  14. Malaika Moran, SOCIALSTEP
  15. Dr. Patrice Sentino, Center for Hope Children and Family Services
  16. Conrad “Duke” Williams, Choupique Holdings