Lafayette-Based 24-Hour Citizen Project Strengthens Community with Annual Showcase Event | Local events

Revealed. To throw it. Fund it. Do it. This is the premise of the 24-hour citizen project in Lafayette that lights the fire for community empowerment.

Founded by Butch Roussel in 2016, the project is a volunteer-led event that connects people with community ideas with experts and funders through a 24-hour pitch event.

The project is under the Civicside organization, and the event is their signature, annual celebration for local residents to showcase ideas that will improve the community. The project was subject to a call for ideas between June 15 and August 31, and eight teams were selected to participate in the presentation event on November 4 and 5.






Butch Roussel is pictured on stage during last year’s 24 Hour Citizen Project pitch.




“People need to feel they have the ability to impact their community,” Roussel said. “But there are a lot of people who don’t know how.”

The 24-hour event takes place on a Friday and Saturday each year. First, teams arrive on Friday to meet with experts, work on their ideas, finalize a pitch presentation, and network with other teams to share what they’ve learned. On Saturday, the public event begins with a social hour to educate community members about the ideas. Then the pitch presentations begin. Each team has three minutes to present their projects to donors and the public. Historically, approximately four projects receive funding each year through the process.

“It’s just one of those nights where you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s why I’m sticking around.’ The energy is with like-minded people who really want to get out there and activate their community in a positive way,” said Blake Lagneaux, Civicside Board Member of the project.







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Allison Brandon with the ‘Mad Thinkers’ team walks down the tunnel for her team’s pitch at last year’s 24 Hour Pitch Project.




After receiving funding, teams are required to write “Dear Community” letters throughout the year to update residents on the progress of projects. Roussel said these letters provide transparency to the public, but also hold the teams accountable.

The pitch event has funded projects that aim to solve everything from improving the academic performance of students in the Lafayette Parish School System (Team Saturday School) to reducing the amount of waste created at the International Festival ( Team Greening Festival).

Some of the teams competing this year are focusing on initiatives such as introducing Louisiana Creole culture to a younger generation (Team Heritage), creating an annual event to celebrate farmers (Team Farm Love), and provision of an inclusive space for rest and refreshment. at festivals and large-scale events (Team Inclusive Spaces).

In 2015, Roussel gave a TED talk for TEDxVermilionStreet to explain the evolution of Civicside and the 24-hour citizen project. In the video, he explains that community activists are made up of the “I want”, “you can” and “I want”, which inspired the project.







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The “Farm Love” team wants to create an annual event to celebrate the farmers in the community. The team members, from left to right, are Aurore Ballengee, Max Bacque, Erin Strenge and Chris Adams. They will participate in the 24 Hour Citizen Project on November 5, 2022.




In addition to the project, Roussel also organizes exchanges of ideas so that the inhabitants have a space to share ideas. He said these events allow people to feel confident and comfortable sharing their ideas with others, instead of keeping them to themselves.

Lagneaux said most of the “leg work” for the council is gathering ideas and empowering people to act. This includes connecting people in the community when exchanging ideas.







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Part of the 24-hour citizen project team Pictured from left to right are Kevin Blanchard, Carlee Alm-Labar, Blake Lagneau, Butch Roussel and Kate Durio.




“Usually at the end of a meeting you can send them away with six people to talk to,” Lagneaux said. “You know how Cajuns are, we all know someone.”

Over the years, Roussel and his team have made a conscious effort to reach out to diverse neighborhoods to ensure the projects featured reflect the people who live in the area. They have also recruited people who historically have not been engaged in the community and who become involved after participating in the program.

In the future, Roussel hopes the project will serve as a model for other places in the state to do the same.

“There are these kinds of micro-hits that keep adding up over time to have a big impact on the community, and that’s what I like to see,” Roussel said. “People fell in love with their community throughout the process.”

The 24-Hour Citizens Project showcase event will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 5 at Hideaway Hall, 422 Refinery St.

About Edward Fries

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