July 23, 2016

Our new chapter: The Power Shift Network

When I stepped into my role as Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition (EAC) on June 8, 2015, I began with a "listening tour" of our partners, close allies, supporters, board members, and former staff members. I asked some tough questions.

My favorite: “EAC has been around for over ten years now. Should it continue to exist? Why?”

I didn’t want this organization that I believed in so deeply to go away. That’s not why I asked. I asked this question because I wanted to make sure that EAC was contributing to the climate movement in a meaningful way. I asked because I wanted to know that we were focusing on what is most beneficial for the young people who are at the forefront of that movement.

Over the course of these conversations, every person I spoke to said “yes,”—they all agreed that EAC should continue to exist. I was glad, and relieved. When I probed for the “why,” though, I heard different responses from everyone. However, one common thread was clear: for years, we had made our name by hosting Power Shift—convergences for young activists who were ready to learn what they could do to steer their future away from climate catastrophe. But what I heard in these conversations was that in addition to spaces like national Power Shifts, the youth climate movement also needed sustained, behind-the-scenes support: trainings, campaign toolkits, small monetary grants, strategic advice, and opportunities to not only establish but sustain the relationships that help a movement thrive.

Another reality that I discussed with our partners, allies and supporters was this: the youth climate movement looks vastly different than it did ten years ago.

When EAC was founded in 2005, there was mainstream “environmentalism”—but only the very beginnings of a grassroots, radical, youth-led climate justice movement. Now, that movement is enormous, and comprised of hundreds of organizations, who together embrace a humbling diversity of strategies and perspectives. That movement has risen up, fully prepared to overcome the single greatest challenge our planet has ever faced. This reality has been a challenge for EAC—but as an organizer, it’s a reality that I welcome. Stopping dirty energy infrastructure in its tracks, supporting clean energy development, democratizing our utilities, divesting from fossil fuels, and promoting a green and just economy is all critical work. And if we’re going to stop the climate crisis, it all needs to be happening now.

A hard truth was that EAC’s structure had become an impediment to its ability to support all of this exciting and necessary work. It was clear that the organization we had set up more than a decade earlier was no longer able to meet the needs of the scope and power that our movement had grown into.

A few of the partners in our coalition formed the idea of restructuring EAC into a more decentralized and nimble network before I stepped into my role. It didn’t take long for me to see the potential strength of a structure that gave more power and support to grassroots organizations and young people fighting climate injustice and the extractive economy. From my own experience fighting extreme fee hikes while a student at UCLA, I know firsthand how effective scrappy campus groups can be at affecting change—especially if they have access to a little support.

EAC partners, staff and board members shared my excitement for this idea of transforming ourselves into a decentralized hub built by and for the grassroots youth climate movement. That’s why we have spent the last year working together to build the infrastructure for our new chapter: the Power Shift Network. 

The new Power Shift Network will be a national network of climate, clean energy, and social justice organizations, including student-led groups, who, together, mobilize the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future and resilient, thriving communities for all. Our members will strive to nurture a collaborative culture in which individuals support one another in moving toward the same vision of a just world, do not shy away from intelligent conversations about differences, and experiment with new approaches and solutions to climate injustice.

To us, building a powerful, sustainable, and thriving movement means creating spaces and opportunities for partners to meet, share ideas, and work together. It means connecting partners to individuals and organizations who will make them even more successful. And it means serving as a vessel of knowledge and resources, all aimed at equipping young people with the knowledge, tools, and funding to be successful in the fight for climate justice.

There’s a lot that I don’t know about what this will look like a few years (or even a few months!) from now, but here’s what I do know: Things won’t go exactly as planned. We’ll learn a lot along the way. And we’ll only be successful if hearts and minds like yours give us honest feedback, hold us accountable, and come along for the ride.

So—are you ready for a power shift?

Help us launch our new chapter. Plug in to the Power Shift Network’s Thunderclap today.