09/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Isn't New Orleans...Awesome?

Ask which city is home to the largest international contemporary art biennial ever in America, or the only one with a government department of social entrepreneurship and one's guess would probably include major hubs like NY or LA. But the answer--New Orleans. Surprised?

In the run-up to the 3rd anniversary of Katrina, much media attention has been and will be paid to how far the city hasn't come. Bush's most recent, and possibly last, presidential visit hasn't helped, with meritless claims of "brighter days to come" only really affirming that it's still pretty dark.

But while the mismanagement of one of the largest natural disasters in our country surely holds more stories of heartache and corruption than have gone reported, the glass-half-empty approach may be doing more harm than good. Bad story after sad story has left the public conscious with the image of a city forlorn and forgotten, amplifying the aversion to revisit, mentally or physically. But speak to anyone who's visited post-Katrina and you'll invariably hear that they've fallen in love, never want to leave, or always want to go back. The disparity is curious at best and begs the questions: why? what's there? what makes New Orleans so (dare we say) awesome?

In the vacuum of responsible government aid, a swath of creative individuals (local and transplanted) have filled the void and, in the process, have turned New Orleans into one of the move innovative cities in America. The story has remained as far outside the mainstream media as it has mainstream practices. But one project is marking the anniversary of Katrina by shedding light on the hidden city that's developed among the entropy and outside the larger infrastructure, media, and public eye--The New Orleans 100.

Comprised of 100 of the most innovative ideas to take root in the city since Katrina, The New Orleans 100 is a website and media initiative that lists and encourages discussion about the inspiring people, organizations, and projects that define the rebirth of New Orleans.

Upon taking a serious look at this list, our major metropolises actually begin to look a little conservative and cumbrous in comparison. Projects include everything from a company that turns bail bond profits into preschool program funding, to the world's first receivables exchange; from musicians poised to one-up Lil Wayne to the greenest of architecture firms.
"After hearing so many of the positive changes and innovative projects post-Katrina, we decided enough is enough," said Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Co-Founder of alldaybuffet. "We know that the levees broke. We know that our city is dysfunctional. We know that. But do you know about Prospect.1? Or about the influx of young professionals into New Orleans? The world needs to know about the NEW New Orleans."

3 years after Katrina, it is shocking how much has yet to be done and it's easy to criticize, especially where criticism is due. But maybe it's time to give New Orleans its identity back and stop focusing on what NOLA isn't in, favor of what it is--a vibrant and beautiful city with a future.

The initiative encourages bloggers and internet users to spread the positive spin by writing, emailing, digging, stumbling and using other social web tools. So check out the list and pass it on here