C2C Fellows recently held its second regional training workshop at the University of Georgia-Athens. Over twenty students from around the Southeast convened for the weekend to critically examine and refine the skills they will need to lead their generation to a sustainable future.
The workshop began on Friday evening with a keynote address from Eban Goodstein, director of C2C Fellows and the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, about the looming environmental challenges that motivated many of the participants to attend the weekend event. Yet, instead of simply listing the problems and solutions, Goodstein challenged the young leaders in the room to think seriously about their role in de-carbonizing the future. They were asked to envision themselves in positions of power and to identify the skills they will need to begin to learn now to achieve that vision. Answers included knowledge of the issues, public speaking, community engagement, fundraising, and strong values.
With these ideas in mind, the night ended with a discussion with two young sustainability entrepreneurs about the skills they needed to succeed in their respective fields. Oliver Ferrari, founder of MarionEco LCC based in Atlanta, Georgia, talked about establishing and running a sustainability services company that helps educational institutions and other groups implement sustainability programs. Jeff Hitner, founder of Ethikus, also shared his experiences in establishing his company that promotes ethical and sustainable consumption in New York City.
Saturday morning began with development of the skills discussed the night before when Goodstein revealed the secret of fundraising. The Fellows then broke into groups and developed their own funding pitch for an innovative sustainable idea. Once they had polished their presentation, each team gave their pitch to a funding “foundation panel” consisting of Sarah Boykin from UT Chattanooga and Lindy Biggs from Auburn University. While each team presented innovative ideas, Sarah and Lindy had limited funds to invest and had to pick the most promising projects to support. The winning pitch from three students from the University of Tennessee involved a “green” spin on the Teach for America program with an idea called Teach for the Earth.
In the afternoon, the students transitioned to developing another important skill for emerging leaders—public speaking. After Goodstein reviewed the important qualities of an engaging speech, each Fellow refined their own story about an inspiring individual in their life. Working in groups, the Fellows developed their ideas with help from their peers and C2C facilitators over the course of the afternoon. By early evening, each Fellow had an engaging and powerful story that helped to impart the inspiration they felt onto their audience.
After a full day of skills training and development, Saturday’s activities concluded with a special screening of the upcoming film, The Island President. The film chronicles the courageous journey of President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives as he struggles for an international climate change agreement at Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 in order to save his country from destruction due to rising sea levels. The screening had particular importance because, several days before the workshop, President Nasheed had been ousted from office in a coup performed by his political opponents.
The C2C Fellows workshop ended on Sunday with a final delivery of the Fellow’s stories developed the previous day and a special dialogue with a young climate activist. After practicing their speeches a multitude of times (one of the secrets to public speaking!), the Fellows’ stories had evolved into engaging and diverse accounts about their inspiring individuals. From the story of a caring mother’s attempt to save her daughter’s baby frog’s life to the amazing influence of public figures such as Wangari Maathai, the stories captured the essence of what motivated each Fellow. Finally, the day ended with a video conference call with May Boeve, the executive director of 350.org. She spoke about her experiences and gave advice to the students in the room about how to make an impact as a young person. And she should know, since she helped found one of the most influential climate activist groups before she even received her undergraduate degree!