Letter from the Director: Our Past and Our Future

April 17, 2019 by Kristen Ellingboe

The 100% NGO Network launched in January 2015 with an initial goal of bringing together national organizations advancing climate solutions campaigns to share approaches toward a vision of 100% by 2050. Some of the first dozen or so organizations included Center for Community Change, Climate Justice Alliance, Environment America, Sierra Club, Solutions Project, and Emerald Cities Collaborative. Together they understood in order to achieve large-scale and systemic transition it would require a far more diversified set of targets, strategies, tactics, leaders, and constituencies than ever before.

So in 2016 the Network worked to grow and distribute power as a means to further build the collaboration necessary to overcome an entrenched, powerful status quo. The Network added its first staff (that would be me) to both support the ongoing collaboration of the initial national groups and to do more to include frontline, environmental justice coalitions and leaders of color. By 2017, frontline leaders made up a third of the Network and it continues to grow more diverse and inclusive. These leaders led the work to re-write our shared vision and reshape our programming.

Now with over 75 non-profit organizations with a strong representation from frontline/Environmental Justice groups we are working together toward a 100% clean energy future that is racially equitable and just. The 100% Network’s unique role is to foster strategic discussions that amplify frontline voices, share practices that center equity and the inclusion of frontline leaders, and build relationships ready for collaboration.  

Our work together is more important than ever. The urgency comes not only because of the impacts of pollution and climate change, but also because frontline members are seeing campaigns driving 100% policies without an equity lens crop up across the country. The Network must double-down on shifting the center of gravity towards equity, demand a commitment to resourcing and supporting frontline organizations directly, and be a space for building relationships among leaders across the country.  

Denise Fairchild from Emerald Cities wisely described the work that needs to happen, especially through this Network, as a "drumming circle" where people can come and join in an effort to amplify the shared vision, bring their skills and resources and invite others to join in. We believe it necessary to foster discourse through having the necessary hard conversations around the intersections of our extractive economy, racism, climate change, workforce development/worker rights and new energy economic solutions so that we can build a shared political analysis. And through it we hope everyone together can:

  • Learn and share the opportunities, challenges, effective practices, and policies as well as support each other in local efforts. With an eye toward replication and scaling up for national impact;
  • Shift the narrative of 100% and renewable energy to one that is rooted in the groundswell of community ownership, energy equity, energy democracy, and abundance of frontline leadership and leadership of color;
  • Encourage and when possible facilitate the redistribution and democratizing of resources to move towards frontline community solutions;
  • Build up the capacity of local leaders to create radical teams of collaboration, trust, and solutions together to create bold change;
  • Convene leaders for strategic planning and collective impact.

All of this can only work if we ground ourselves in love and justice and open our hearts and minds to hear the voice of those who have the most at stake and find ways to ally with their leadership, including providing resources for them to lead. We can no longer dismiss, ignore or tear each other down, but these times require us to build deep, grounded and intersectional relationships and campaigns that forward the movement for change.   

I look forward to working with you to build a network of partners and colleagues committed to justice.

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Aiko Schafer is the Director of the 100% Network.  

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