I’m sure you’re aware of the many lists that New Orleans finds itself at the top or bottom of. For many years we’ve heard we’re near the top of the list for violent crime. At the same time we’re near the top of the list for best places to start a business. We’re near the bottom of the list of per capita income. And near the top of the list of dollars gambled on professional sports.

Some of these lists have dubious veracity – and there are so many of them you probably have list-fatigue – but it’s instructive to talk about one list we don’t hear much about. The teen birth rate list.

We’re not in a good spot on this one. New Orleans has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation.

Why this is relevant for a show about New Orleans business? Because, being a teenage mom creates a challenge for a young woman that substantially limits her pathway to a successful career. If a woman has a baby before she’s 18, her chance of graduating college before she’s 30 is 2%.

An organization called Generation Hope is looking to change this trajectory. It provides financial and life-skill assistance to help teenage moms get through college.

Nicole Lewis, founder of Generation Hope, helping teenage parents with life skills and cash to give their children a better life

Nicole Lewis, founder of Generation Hope, helping teenage parents with life skills and cash to give their children a better life

Generation Hope started out in Washington DC in 2010. In 2023 they expanded into New Orleans – for no other reason than the founder and CEO of Generation Hope, Nicole Lewis, recognized the need here.

Making a difference to our economy and our society at an individualized level is also the function of another New Orleans organization, Global New Orleans.

Global New Orleans implements the U.S State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Exchange Program. What does that mean exactly? Well, when the State Department determines a leader, or future leader, from another country is worth cultivating a relationship with, they invite them to the US as their guest. While they’re here, Global New Orleans lets them discover what being a New Orleanian is all about – by arranging experiences to meet locals.

That might be an event at a local business. Or it might be a one-on-one red beans and rice dinner at someone’s home. Global New Orleans describes this as, “citizen diplomacy.”

The Executive Director of Global New Orleans is Laila Bondi.

Laila Bondi, Executive Director of Global New Orleans, influencing world leaders through crawfish boils and office parties under the guise of citizen diplomacy

Laila Bondi, Executive Director of Global New Orleans, influencing world leaders through crawfish boils and office parties under the guise of citizen diplomacy

In most conversations about the economy, we’re talking about broad-brush-stroke measurements: inflation, interest rates, the stock market, and unemployment. If we break these statistics down, all of them are created one business, one household, one family, and one person at a time.

But, although individuals are the building blocks of the economy, it’s rare that we actually to get find out about the micro-economy from any kind of individual perspective. Nicole and Laila are working with individuals at very different ends of the economic spectrum and their insights are equally unique and illuminating.

Laila Bondi, Peter Ricchiuti, Nicole Lewis, Out to Lunch at NOLA Brewing

Laila Bondi, Peter Ricchiuti, Nicole Lewis, Out to Lunch at NOLA Brewing

Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.