A Letter of Thanksgiving

The turkey is brining, the cornbread for dressing is going in the oven, broth’s on the stove for tomorrow’s collards, and I can barely resist making tonight’s dinner of the Pumpkin Surprise. But all that’s just the trimmings – Thanksgiving is really about gratitude.

Gratitude is one of Groundwell’s guiding principles. We begin with gratitude, we work with a spirit of service, we respect the communities where we serve, and we believe that respect begins by understanding the places and listening to the people where we work. This year, we have a lot to be grateful for.

I take time every day to write down the specifics as a part of my daily prayer and devotional practice – three things I’m grateful for, one thing I need help with, and a reminder of my purpose in service. Particularly on the hard days when the problems seem to outnumber the solutions, grounding myself in gratitude fuels me forward. And during 2018, I’ve filled up a whole book.

The people and places Groundswell serves are filled with such an abundance of Good! I wish I had the words to share them all here, but I’ll just call out a few to show what good is possible when we work together in loving service to our neighbors.

Before the end of this year, we’ll be under construction on enough Share Power community solar projects to serve nearly 200 families, including more than 125 Empowered families whose community solar subscription will cut their electricity bill in half. That’s money back in people’s pockets to pay the rent, buy groceries, spend on school supplies, and live a little easier.

The good we will do for our communities is all thanks to our partners in service, many of whom represent local congregations who’ve lent their rooftops, parking lots, and other spaces to us to build community power projects that will extend their own mission in the neighborhood.  These partners also include values-aligned solar investors who believe in the power of private capital to do good, and whose investment (literally and figuratively) makes Share Power possible. Our solar engineering and construction partners have also committed to the mission by providing training and job opportunities to people from the neighborhoods where we’re working. We are grateful for the whole extended team.

The people we serve have inspired, informed, and driven us forward. I’d like to share a special thank you to all the people who took time out of their days to sit with us in a series of Human Centered Design research sessions that enabled us to build the Share Power platform and our customer enrollment program in a way that will serve everyone, regardless of their household income, with dignity and respect.

Without the local and state leaders who set the rules of the road for the solar market in each of our 50 states, we couldn’t even get to go. While the places we work have diverse laws and regulatory frameworks, each has an abundance of opportunity. The District of Columbia has among the most forward-leaning clean energy policies in the nation that is now being even more closely connected to making solar power a Made in DC industry, Baltimore and Maryland are looking to lead on energy storage and resilience, New York is pioneering community ownership models, and my home state of Georgia is pairing groundbreaking low-income energy efficiency programs with big solar projects that are focused on economic competitiveness and quality of life. We appreciate all of our partners in each state and place, and we’re grateful for the abundance of opportunities to connect solar power to economic empowerment that you’re helping to create. And this upcoming year, we look forward to getting to know Illinois and Hawaii!

Our funders are so much more than philanthropy. Together and individually, they are the best strategic investors an entrepreneurial team like ours could ask for. They’ve helped make us smarter by understanding the powerful role that Community Development Finance can play to scale this marketplace, connecting us with expertise and new partners we couldn’t have accessed on our own, challenging us with tough questions about how we will increase our impact from some really great projects to new models that could open up the solar market to our low-income neighbors, and more.

You may have noticed that partnership is a theme here. We believe that partnership is leadership, and that working with local values-aligned organizations with complimentary skills is always a better decision that reinventing the wheel or going it alone. The project we’re leading with partners Elevate Energy, Southface, and Clean Energy Works that was recently awarded funding from the U.S Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to support research that will rapidly accelerate community solar access for low-income communities is a great recent example of the power of partnership.

The people of Groundswell are at the core of everything we do and they have shaped, nurtured, and kept our culture. While we all share a sense of mission, each individual – including the team of expert consultants who expand our capabilities where we need it – makes a unique contribution to the whole and bring a sense of joy and delight to the work. From Kristal’s soaring voice to Krysta keeping us fit with the daily squats challenge- we’re a team.

Our Board of directors is part of that team, too. Next month when they meet for our Fourth Quarter convening, they’ll be inviting a few great new folks to join the “superhero” squad they’re building to lead Groundswell forward into a strategic planning process next year. Are you Shuri or Professor X? Our Board Governance Chair Kimberly Lewis wants to hear from you.

In closing, I’d like to express our appreciation for you. And not just because you’ve read this entire letter of gratitude : ) Whether you’re enrolled to subscribe to one of our Share Power projects, you’re one of our wind power customers, you’re among our partners and community advisors, or you just keep up to date and in touch – we are grateful for your commitment, your trust, and your willingness to share your ideas with us.

Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving and an abundant year ahead,