Who's That Gal: Jen Stevenson, Director of Research & Operations at Climable
Name: Jen Stevenson
Occupation: Director of Research & Operations at Climable.org
Hometown: Vassalboro, ME
Current ‘hood: The Dot!
Go-to breakfast food: Weakness for pancakes
Currently reading: Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben
Tell us about Climable. What is it?
I always start by saying we are a woman-run nonprofit! We work to make the information and issues behind climate change and clean energy understandable and actionable for everyone. On some level we are technical translators because there is a lot of good info out there, but it’s not necessarily a breeze to read. On the other side, we believe clean energy should be accessible to anyone regardless of socioeconomic condition and have a variety of projects that work to bring renewables to low- and moderate-income communities, which are also the ones disproportionately impacted by, and vulnerable to, climate change.
What inspired you to work in the environmental field? How did your career path lead to Climable?
I was working in finance and felt the need to do more in terms of a positive contribution to society. I learned about a sustainable design program at the Boston Architectural College that would allow me to work full time while I pursued my Masters. The coursework there opened my eyes to systems thinking, positive feedback loops, and an iterative, integrated design approach; I drank that Kool-Aid. After I graduated I learned (by dumb luck!) about the Mass Clean Energy Center’s internship program. They pay businesses in the clean energy world to host interns each semester. Sidebar: I can’t recommend this program enough. I did a couple internships and landed at Climable. I liked the all hands on deck feel there and, as a Type A, felt compelled to get things organized. Things have taken off in the past year for us- we’re part of a team called RUN-GJC that received grants to research clean energy community microgrids. Our grants were for Chinatown and Chelsea, but we’ve now been approached by several cities in MA and RI that want us to come help replicate our community-driven model. Things are busy, and busy is good!
What makes Boston the right place for Climable to be based?
From a resilience perspective, Boston is ripe for smart upgrades in our energy sources, energy efficiency standards, and infrastructure. Our coastal city needs to be working on these issues and we are in the trenches with everyone.
From a networking perspective, I can’t think of a better place to collaborate with innovative, brilliant people. We have a wealth of environmental justice groups that do important work for their constituents and we love working with them.
From an energy perspective, Massachusetts was recently ranked the number 1 state in energy efficiency for the 8th year in a row and is one of the leading states for solar power.
What sets Climable apart from other climate change organizations?
There are technical shops that produce a lot of quality research. There are grassroots organizations that are in tune with the needs of their communities. We see ourselves in the middle of these two; we connect and facilitate conversations so that the important information gets distilled into plain language, and everyone can take part in the climate change discussion.
What is your day-to-day like at Climable?
Hectic! There’s never a dull moment. Since we’re a small organization we all wear multiple hats. It’s exciting, but (as I’m sure anyone who works at a small nonprofit could tell you) it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. I just keep my head down and have become good at prioritizing tasks. Since we always focus on the positive, we frequently start off the day exchanging dad jokes and puns.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the world of social enterprise?
It’s a great feeling knowing you work for a mission-driven organization. I’d recommend taking some time to research what the prospective company does and how they go about pursuing their goals. You want to make sure it’s a mission you can really get behind, because you will be putting a lot of time and effort into it!
How can we get more involved?
Follow us on all the social medias! That way, you’ll always hear about a new blog or podcast we have out. You can also send us ideas for content as we like to know what our audience wants. You can attend one of our events (see the event section of our website). And you could always volunteer! If you have special skills that might be of use to a scrappy nonprofit or would like to introduce us to someone who does- we’d love that! We’re continually amazed by the impressive women we meet through our work and are always looking to meet more. Also, I should take a second to give a shout-out to one of my sheros, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who says that #1 thing we can do to fight climate change is to talk about it. I love chatting with friends and family about topics that are of especial importance to me and think everyone should give it a whirl.
What’s next for Climable - and you personally?
This has been a big year for us as an organization. We are starting to engage with more neighborhoods to bring our clean energy community-led microgrids to other areas in New England and one in Puerto Rico. We are launching a new product to represent smaller organizations with environmental interests at the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) to make sure they get a say in electricity related issues. We continue to hire college student interns through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center internship program. For me, I’m looking forward to getting in a few more snowshoeing trips before the snow melts up in Maine, baking up a storm, planning my next vacation and getting caught up on Game of Thrones! (I’m a late adopter.)