Sustainable Communities Boot Camp
Building Bridges for Energy Efficiency
Breakthrough moments at ISC's Green Boot camp
Val Jenson didn't know what to expect when he signed up for the workshop. Even on the plane to Boston, he was skeptical of what could be achieved over the three days.
Prior to attending the Institute for Sustainable Communities' Green Boot Camp, Jensen spent the better part of a year in a stalemate with the City of Chicago. Jensen is the Vice President for Marketing and Environmental Programs at Chicago's Commonwealth Edison, a large electric utility serving the greater Illinois area, and also sits on the city's Retrofit Steering Committee. The committee, charged with designing a city-wide program to increase the energy efficiency of the city's current industrial, commercial, and residential buildings, was having difficulty moving forward.
I can't emphasize enough that, though cities and utilities are huge institutions staggering towards some set of goals, they are driven oftentimes by a small handful of people. Sometimes all it really takes is for those people to get together, cut through some of the haze that surrounds these relationships, and find out that they are really trying to go in the same direction.
—Val Jensen, Commonwealth Edison
Looking back, Jensen believes that a lack of trust and understanding between members of the committee was to blame. ComEd had a long history of working with the city although the relationship was often strained. Cooperation was improving when city leaders invited the utility to join their Retrofit Steering Committee in 2008, but their past history made progress difficult. The discussions bogged down over what seemed to be widely divergent views on an institutional structure for efficiency work in the City and even the basic objectives of a retrofit plan.
It was in this contentious atmosphere that Jensen and several other members of the steering committee arrived at Harvard University for ISC's Green Boot Camp. The focus and time away from Chicago, and their usual routine, provided by the Boot Camp proved course-changing. After spending many hours immersed in the Boot Camp's team-building environment, Jensen and the city staff with primary responsibility for the retrofit strategy took advantage of this space and went for a walk along the Charles River. The conversation during their walk led to what Jensen calls an "epiphanous moment". They finally understood each other's motivations and realized, for the first time, that they were all working towards the same goal.
Breaking through past history and finally gaining each other's trust was the crucial first step that allowed these key individuals to meet their building energy retrofit challenges together. Within a few months, the steering committee agreed on a retrofit strategy that included all building types. The city and ComEd each took the lead on different building types – but working together in implementation.
"I can't emphasize enough that, though cities and utilities are huge institutions staggering towards some set of goals, they are driven oftentimes by a small handful of people," Jensen remarked after the Boot Camp. "Sometimes all it really takes is for those people to get together, cut through some of the haze that surrounds these relationships, and find out that they are really trying to go in the same direction."
Read More about the Sustainable Communities Green Boot Camp
Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of HUD
As part of the evening session Coming Together to Break New Ground, Deputy Secretary Ron Sims talks about building prosperous regional economies that are both sustainable and equitable.
More Boot Camp Video:
- Coming Together to Break New Ground
Xavier de Souza Briggs, White House Office of Management & Budget
- Facing the Challenges of Implementation
John Robert Smith, Reconnecting
America (former Mayor of
Jonathan Rose, Rose Companies
Anthony Williams, Harvard
Kennedy School (former Mayor
of Washington, DC)
- Delivering Regional Economic Prosperity
Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul
- Achieving Equitable Outcomes
Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink
- Attaining the Promise
Alan Durning, Sightline Institute
- Virtual Modelling: Puget Sound Decision Commons