By JANINE FINNELL, Executive Director, Leaders in Energy
Do you feel that you matter and that you can make a difference to make this world a better place through positive action? Increasingly, people are feeling bombarded by so much bad news that they can start totally tuning out or becoming paralyzed by inaction because they are totally overloaded or disillusioned. It’s like what can one person do?
The Urgency of Now
I won’t lie to you. There are numerous alarming lists of concerns impacting the critical life support systems of our planet, e.g., Collapse: How Societies Chose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Many of these pertain to how we produce and consume energy, including climate change and deforestation. I refer to these warning signs as “The Urgency of Now.”
Clean Energy and Sustainability Developments Offer Potential to Transform our Economy
At the same time, there are innovative energy technology and policy solutions that offer hope. These include low-carbon energy systems, e.g., solar, battery storage, fuel cells, developments in small nuclear power, algae-based fuels, etc.
How can we advance clean energy and sustainable solutions to move us from “The Urgency of Now” to a “Happy Planet”? By the way, there actually is a Happy Planet Index, which measures sustainable wellbeing. The index is weighted to give progressively higher scores to nations with lower ecological footprints and those with people living longer and more fulfilled lives.
What’s involved in advancing transformative change in larger, complex systems?
We are all familiar with individuals who set transformative change in motion leading to movements that produced great change. Examples include Martin Luther King on civil rights, Nelson Mandela on abolishing apartheid, Susan B. Antony promoting women’s right to vote, and Jane Goodall in raising the awareness on our interconnectedness and dependence on the natural world. Elon Musk is a similar visionary in the clean energy arena. He heads the American company, Tesla, which manufactures electric cars, energy storage systems, and solar panels.
Steve Waddell, a sociologist who researches societal learning and change, has developed a framework that categorizes the types of change in large systems. He refers to this transformative change in systems as “third order change,” as opposed to incremental change, like first and second order changes to the existing system. First order change refers to making tweaks. Reform is an example of second order change.
The Power of One and Joining Groups
So how can we transform ourselves to reach our potential to further positive change? I refer to this as “The Power of One” to reach our highest capability. How can we multiply this even further by collaborating with others through an “Action Network” to lead to solutions that are even greater than what can be accomplished by one individual? We live in a society of groups. Through relationships with others, our ideas and actions can influence the world and lead to solutions that are greater than those that any one individual may perceive.
Building an Action Network for Change
I want to share a story on my efforts to bring about transformative change for a better world. In November 2012, I was seeking new professional opportunities and founded a LinkedIn group with an invite to 25 people. From there, the group continued to grow through online platforms and at face-to-face events. We have now formally become a nonprofit organization based in the Washington, DC area.
At Leaders in Energy, we are focused on building a global action network to advance clean energy and sustainable solutions. We are connecting people in the U.S. and around the world who are passionate about clean energy and sustainability in over 100 countries. We have worked on actions and strategies ranging from consensus building to convening experts on energy systems such as microgrids to reduce greenhouse gases and taking actions to move from a throwaway society to a circular economy. Leaders in Energy connects people through our website, LinkedIn page, and other social media, as well as our face-to-face events. We also connect job seekers with hiring managers and help those seeking solutions to link with vendors providing a variety of sustainability solutions.
Stories of Leaders in Energy Members Making a Difference
There are many stories of Leaders in Energy members connecting to find green jobs, get inspired, and collaborate on projects to make a difference.
That is why I am so excited about our 4th annual Four Generations Awards and Holiday Event, where we will honor those individuals who are making a difference and responding to “The Urgency of Now.” We will recognize five women and men in four generations (Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomer, and World War II/Traditionalist), with ages in their 20s to 90s, for the transformative change that they are creating through their work in energy technology, economics, policy, education, and solar energy. See more on our awardees here.
Leaders in Energy is building a community of engaged leaders to create a sustainable energy system, economy, and world. The three main areas of action are the green economy, sustainable communities, and multigenerational leadership. With operations in Metro Washington DC, we’ve built a base that spans most major metropolitan areas and over 100 countries. More information is available at http://www.leadersinenergy.org and in the Leaders in Energy Research, Communication, Policies & Analysis (LERCPA) LinkedIn group.
 See “Table 1: Criteria for Distinguishing Orders of Change in Problem Solving Initiatives” in Steve Waddell, “Social Integration: A Global Societal Learning and Change Perspective,” Presentation to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Expert Group Meeting on Dialogue in the Social Integration Process: Building peaceful social relations by, for and with people, New York 21 – 23 November 2005.
 Adapted from Our Philosophy Page, Riemens Commodity Solutions, Aysegul Riemens, https://www.linkedin.com/in/aysegulriemens/.