The Policy World is No Place For a One Man Wolfpack

Anyone who knows me well understands that I am an avid fan of the Boston-area sports teams. In the spirit of the New England Patriots advancing to their conference championship game, I find it fitting to kick off this blog with a quote from Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick:

“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, its not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

This quote can be applied to my experience in a few ways. First, I saw just how Environment Northeast (ENE) works as a pack to discuss thoughts and strategies before individuals go to events, such as meetings and hearings outside the office. An example of this that I was fortunate enough to be a part of is the Rhode Island Collaborative meetings. These meetings, which are held on at least a monthly basis, bring together National Grid (Rhode Island’s only utility company), the state’s Office of Energy Resources, Energy Efficiency Resource Council, Division of Public Utilities, and Attorney General’s Office, as well as other stakeholders such as ENE and People’s Power & Light. Recently, the collaborative put in a lot of work with National Grid as they developed their 2014 Energy Efficiency Program Plan. Despite all stakeholders having their own interests (understandably so), they worked as a pack towards a common target, and as a result of this the plan proposes a savings goal of 3.2% of annual sales, a figure that is unprecedented in the country.

 

RI-Collaborative

Members of the Rhode Island Collaborative group

 

The second way Belichick’s quote can apply to my experience is that it truly applies to the group of people that make up the Environment Northeast (ENE) staff. As I had mentioned in my first blog, ENE is comprised of fewer than 20 talented individuals working in offices in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Eastern Canadian provinces. Despite being so spread out geographically, these wolves are committed to their strength as a pack. While the individuals spend most of their day working hard on their own, they come together several times a week on conference calls to discuss staffing and progress on the many initiatives they work on. It is during these calls that what we know as the “ah-ha” moments occur. This, to me, was unusual in my past experiences. I have so often found that it’s really difficult to accomplish group work without meeting in person. However, the staff at ENE is really quite effective at this and it shows in their work and respect in the policy community.

 

ENE-Summer-Outing

ENE Staff at a Summer Group Outing in Boston, Massachusetts

 

It’s safe to say that during my time at ENE, the wealth of knowledge and experience that I gained far exceeded what I expected to get out of it. When I think about working as a pack to achieve a common goal, I can’t help but think about one particular experience I had while with the organization. Every year in the fall, ENE holds an annual retreat that spans a few days. Given that the small group is spread out, it is the only time during the year that everyone in the organization gets to come together. Over the course of three days, the ENE staff, along with its board of directors, put in long, productive hours with a common goal in mind – how to improve the organization. To do so, we focused on a plan for successful revenue development, external communications and branding, and implementation of the organizations initiatives. Of course at the same time it was important for everyone to get to know each other better and stimulate enthusiasm for the important work that we do. Because this was my first go-around in the policy and non-profit world, I’m unsure of how common retreats like this. Nevertheless, I applaud ENE for conducting these retreats as I feel the theme really embodies what it means to work efficiently as a team. Its one of the many reasons I feel ENE is such an effective organization.

 

Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge

View of the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge from the location of the fall retreat in Jamestown, Rhode Island

 

It really is important that wolves work together in order for their pack to be strong and effective. No one entity, whether it be an individual or an organization, can make a difference in this field without joining forces with others to make concerted group efforts. One quality that is absolutely crucial in this matter is trust. The amount of trust that the staff put in me was quite amazing. Going into the internship I knew that my supervisor (one of only two staff in the Providence office I was located in) would be going on maternity leave in mid-September. When the time came, the pack entrusted me, a new wolf amongst the crowd, with representing the organization at many of the meetings (such as the collaborative meetings discussed above) that she was typically responsible for. They also trusted me enough to the point where I felt very comfortable voicing my opinions and suggestions for improving the organization at the fall retreat. I attribute all of this to the tremendous group of people that make up ENE. I can only hope that at some point in my future I have the opportunity to work and collaborate with a pack of wolves as good as the ones I worked with during my internship.

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