New Orleans’ long-term future depends on the City’s ability to invest in water and flood management systems. In order to expand this critical infrastructure, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans must be able to collect revenue for its services. The FUSE Executive Fellow will build the Board’s ability to sustainably and equitably collect revenue by analyzing the complex dynamics surrounding the issue and by developing and implementing a strategic revenue plan.
Fellowship Dates: October 23, 2023 – October 21, 2024
Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual base salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE Corps is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and can effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. They receive FUSE training, coaching, and professional support throughout their fellowships to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
Water and drainage management are crucial for the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, given its vulnerability to storms and floods. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) relies on revenue from monthly water bill payments to fund capital projects to upgrade and expand the necessary infrastructure. However, the Board has been grappling with significant challenges in revenue collection for several years, leading to a critical need for intervention.
The SWBNO’s revenue collection challenges stem in large part from outdated metering systems and insufficient staffing levels, resulting in inaccurate bills and customer disputes. Consequently, the City implemented a moratorium on water shutoffs, further decreasing customers’ motivation to pay their bills. By 2018, approximately 17% of the Board’s accounts were delinquent, amounting to over $13.5 million in unpaid bills. While the installation of smart metering systems aims to address billing inaccuracies, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new obstacle.
Before the pandemic, around 30,000 accounts were delinquent, but by May 2020, an additional 13,000 customers could not pay their bills. This compelled the implementation of an additional shutoff ban. In 2023, approximately 700 landlords of multifamily buildings refused to pay their water bills, despite tenants fulfilling their rent obligations. Employing shutoffs in this scenario would have been politically unpopular as tenants lacked the ability to enforce payment from landlords. Concurrently, the Board has faced internal challenges that hindered its trust-building efforts.
New Orleans has partnered with FUSE Corps to address these challenges to enhance SWBNO’s revenue performance. A FUSE Executive Fellow will be assigned to analyze the factors influencing the Board’s ability to collect dues and identify opportunities to increase revenue effectively. The Executive Fellow will also seek to foster alignment among the Board’s executive team and leadership, building a cohesive and unified approach to address the issue. The ultimate goal is to establish trust, generate sustainable revenue, and develop a strategic framework that ensures the Board’s operational continuity and facilitates investment in the City’s future.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.
Starting in October 2023, the FUSE Executive Fellow will build deep relationships with critical stakeholders. This will include SWBNO staff (executives, managers, and frontline employees), City Council members, customers of all kinds (residential, commercial, and other), and tenants’ rights activists to understand the strengths, needs, opportunities, and aspirations these partners have for local water rights and management. At the same time, the Executive Fellow will conduct an extensive review to identify best practices and innovative approaches to collecting water revenues with an equity and justice lens in communities similar to New Orleans. This review should also include an intensive study of the Board’s revenue data to help the Executive Fellow understand key performance indicators so that their recommendations effectively improve performance.
Next, the Executive Fellow will conduct a PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental) analysis of the macro-level forces affecting water bill collections in New Orleans. The scope of the PESTLE analysis should include all approaches to revenue, including recovery, protection, and generation. In addition, the analysis should identify the roadblocks and enabling factors to consider when developing a realistic revenue strategy.
After the analysis, the Executive Fellow will develop a Board-wide strategic plan to increase revenue. This plan should break silos to include all operating units (including human resources, legal, and collections teams). In addition, it should address the skills and personnel gaps in the Board’s workforce so that SWBNO is equipped with an effective team. Finally, the plan should address equity concerns and prevent disproportionate harm (i.e., shutoffs) to low-income and BIPOC customers.
Finally, the Executive Fellow will begin the implementation of the strategic plan. Initially, they will focus on promoting alignment across the executive team and leadership. By cultivating buy-in and promoting cooperation on the strategy, the Executive Fellow will enable progress across the organization.
By October 2024, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
- Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in New Orleans government, customers, and community advocates. In addition, conduct a literature review of water revenue and equity practices that have been effective in cities similar to New Orleans.
- Develop a PESTLE Analysis – Analyze the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors affecting the Board’s ability to collect revenue from all types of customers.
- Create a Strategic Revenue Plan – Craft a comprehensive, organization-wide strategic plan to measurably improve revenue collection, protection, and generation while integrating justice and equity into the approach.
- Facilitate Progress – Advance the strategic revenue plan, specifically promoting executive and leadership buy-in and alignment.
- Executive Sponsor – Ghassan Korban, Executive Director; Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans
- Project Supervisor – E. Grey Lewis, Chief Financial Officer; Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in strategic process improvement and experience with the legal issues affecting collections management is strongly preferred for this project.
- Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
- Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
- Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
- Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies, and other processes.
- Communicates effectively verbally and in writing and excels in active listening and conversing.
- Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies to support more effective decision-making.
- Establishes and maintains strong relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government, particularly including community-based relationships.
- Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
- Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.
FUSE is an equal-opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.