From crippling drought to Hurricane Sandy, and overall record-breaking temperatures extremes across the country, it’s hard to ignore the effects of climate change. The American people recognize that the climate is changing.
The Will Steger Foundation was granted funding in the spring of 2012 to kick-start an innovative mentorship program aimed at building transformational relationships between young climate leaders and veteran staff at environmental organizations across the Midwest. The program, which launched this fall provides an alternative model for mentorship; one in which knowledge flows in both directions providing growth opportunities on both ends of the spectrum and increasing movement-building potential in new and unexpected ways. Veteran staff and youth leaders across the Midwest have both expressed interest in using cross-generational collaboration for the benefit of their unique visions. The Will Steger Foundation is exploring innovative mentorship models in an effort to support and facilitate the connection of these two groups, with a particular focus on mutual empowerment, and build a stronger national climate movement. (Read more about the program here)
One such model for this type of collaboration is the GROW coaching model, introduced to the Will Steger Foundation by professional facilitator Toby Herzlich, who uses a modified version of the model taught by the Rockwood Leadership Institute. The GROW model was originally developed by Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s, and has since gone through further developments and refinements1. The model is designed for a coach and “client” (or “coachee”) scenario and while commonly employed in business settings, can be a useful tool for facilitating productive conversations in various contexts.
Central to the concept are the cyclical steps of the conversation: Goal, Reality, Options, and Wrap up (GROW) (Fig.1). There are specific tasks or goals assigned to each of these steps that help guide the members of the conversation work through them, however, the model still encourages the participants to respond to the conditions of their individual situation and adjust the arrangement of the steps if necessary. In this way, they act as more of framework than rigid guidelines. In addition to the concise tasks, the steps are also supported by a series of discussion questions designed to provide a means for achieving the tasks. The following are few examples of the discussion questions:
- What would you like to discuss?
- What would you like to achieve?
- What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling this time was well spent?
- What is happening at the moment?
- When does this happen?
- What effect does this have?
- What other factors are relevant?
- What have you tried so far?
- What could you do to change the situation?
- What alternatives are there to that approach?
- Tell me what possibilities for action you see.
- What are the next steps?
- Precisely when will you take them?
- How and when will you enlist that support?
In addition to the questions outlined in each of the above steps, it’s important to bring clarity to other aspects of the process. The model recommends each “session” be scheduled for a minimum of 45 minutes so that both parties have enough time to work through topics without feeling rushed. Similarly, these sessions should optimally take place twice per month, and in a space that lends itself to in-depth conversation and undistracted presence. The sessions themselves should not be thought of as simply check-ins, but should have productive trajectories. The topics of these sessions are determined entirely by what is most helpful and relevant to the participants, and it is suggested that the client or ‘coachee’ prepare for the session by thinking ahead of time about what they’d like to be discussed. The role of the coach is to be a present and attentive listener in the conversation, supporting the client and keeping focused on what they’d hoped to achieve from the conversation. It is important to make sure that the coach is not taking more responsibility for the session than the client, and that they are focused on supporting the client in their own analysis/learning rather than instructing them on what to do. Overall, the conversations should have an emphasis on positivity, encouraging an outlook of success and possibility. Another potentially important part of this process is to identify more long-term goals to work on past the time frame of a single session. This can help the participants develop and practice particular skills that can have a wider scale of applications.
In the Will Steger Foundation’s search for examples of innovative mentorship, the GROW model helps bring forth some interesting and relevant tools. Of particular pertinence are its methods for ensuring self-discovery, stress on the importance of positivity, and priority on making conversations truly productive for both parties. These tools are valuable resources for all of the participants in the Will Steger Foundation’s mentorship program, and anyone interested in replicating practices that foster egalitarian learning relationships.
"The GROW Model: A Simple Process for Coaching and Mentoring." Mind Tools. Web.
Kaya Lovestrand is a Junior at Bennington College majoring in Dance and Environmental Studies. We are proud to welcome her back to the Will Steger Foundation for her second Emerging Leaders Program Internship. You can read her series of blogs on the Millenial Generation here.
The Will Steger Foundation launched an innovative mentorship program this fall with support from the RE-AMP network, connecting ten youth climate leaders with ten veteran staff at environmental non-profit organizations across the Midwest. The program fosters an egalitarian learning relationship where both participants are seen as equals and experts in their own right. The goal is to facilitate cross-generational learning and dialog that can provide growth opportunities for both parties and be shared across the climate movement. Matches were made based on skills, knowledge and desired outcomes, as well as geographic location. We made an effort to match people in the same state as face-to-face time has proven to be most effective. The program will run through spring of 2013.
Meet the matches! We want to thank everyone who has volunteered to participate in this program and acknowledge that meaningful participation demands time and commitment. The pairs below include a veteran staff member and an active member of the youth climate movement.
Institute for Local Self Reliance, Minneapolis, MN
Grand Aspirations, Minneapolis, MN
1K Friends of Wisconsin, Madison, MN
Grand Aspirations, Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network, Minneapolis, MN
Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Minneapolis, MN
University of Minnesota Beyond Coal Campaign, Minneapolis, MN
Michigan Energy Options, East Lansing, MI
Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Ann Arbor, MI
National Wildlife Federation, Ann Arbor, MI
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago, IL
National Wildlife Federation, Ann Arbor, MI
Missouri Statewide Student Coalition, St Louis, MO
Hennepin County Environmental Services, Minneapolis, MN
Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota - Will Steger Foundation, Minneapolis, MN
Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Minneapolis, MN
Eco Watch – University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Our research included investigation into a wide range of mentorship programs through online sources and surveys as well as listening sessions with staff from ten diverse organizations (both for-profits businesses and non-profits). While the key elements for success listed below may seem obvious, it is important to remember that many mainstream programs do not incorporate these components:
- Same geographical area to allow for in-person meetings
- Goals that align
- Effective orientation to the program and mentor relationship
- Mentorship agreement signed by both participants. This can also act a guide for the initial meeting
- Active listening
- Step up, step back and be aware of any unspoken power dynamics that might exist
- Committing to constructive feedback as a tool for growth
- Be Respectful of time and schedules. Use your time well and make it count
Ongoing Support from Program Facilitator
Balance Between Accountability and Flexibility
Adult and Youth Initiated and Directed
Keeping these in mind will help participants be mindful and avoid getting pulled back into top down paradigm. It is the egalitarian nature of this program that provides a unique opportunity for new growth in both directions.
Look for a series of blogs from the Will Steger Foundation this winter and spring sharing more of our research on effective mentor relationships, as well as valuable insights and learning from our program participants.
The Will Steger Foundation is proud to congratulate the following eight Midwest youth organizations for receiving competitive funding for climate solutions in partnership with the RE-AMP network. The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program is home to the Midwest Youth Caucus, a space where key youth climate leaders can network with one another and build cross-generational connections with veteran non-profit environmental organizations across the region. We play a key role in facilitating the Youth Caucus, mentoring grantees, and building a leadership pipeline. While most proposals include a movement-building component, many also include a very specific policy target. Together these initiatives exemplify the power of an integrated approach to change-making and highlight the vibrant youth leadership emerging across the Heartland.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago - Youth Volunteers
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Public Transportation in Chicago's Little Village Neighborhood
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization will continue to develop the Coalition “Communities for a 31st St. Bus Route” to advocate and support the expansion of the recently initiated 35th/ 31st St. bus route extension. The 31st St. bus route will serve six different Chicago neighborhoods and have an estimated ridership of 108,869 people who are mostly low-income and an additional 77,905 riders who have disabilities saving 490 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year and reducing emissions by 70% per trip for the average car driver in Little Village. Local youth leadership is a central pillar of LVEJO organizational structure and a core tenant of the campaign strategy for transit access.
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network in action at the Climate Math That Works conference, Minneapolis
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network/ Will Steger Foundation: Clean Energy Defense
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network (MNYEN) will build and excite the youth base across the state to protect and promote Minnesota’s clean energy legislation. Following on successful effort to secure Gov. Dayton’s veto on the bill to lift the statewide coal moratorium, MNYEN will continue to push the Governor to be a champion for climate legislation. Specific focus areas also include collaboration with Governor and staff on the MN Environmental Congress and partnership with MPIRG on a joint youth lobby day during the spring session. MNYEN is working closely with partner groups including the Will Steger Foundation (fiscal sponsor), Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Fresh Energy, and MN350 as well as youth partner organizations MPIRG and Grand Aspirations.
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group: Youth Lead Minneapolis Excel
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group are collaborating to organize Minneapolis youth as catalysts of the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign. The coalition will engage youth as constituents and as organizers of community events, grassroots outreach, coalition building, and grassroots media to educate and engage residents around a 2013 Minneapolis ballot initiative enabling municipalization. The coalition will use the threat of municipalization to secure major clean energy and energy efficiency commitments from energy utilities, create a model for other cities, and build a broad and diverse movement for climate and energy solutions.
Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition/National Wildlife Federation: Building Student Leadership for Clean Energy Campuses
The Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition is working with NWF (fiscal sponsor) to launch a statewide campaign focused on the following strategic outcomes: A “Road Map” for reducing carbon emissions on Michigan’s campuses; Statewide student led issue-based working groups to facilitate the exchange of action based efforts around reducing carbon emissions; MSSC as the leading youth/student voice for the environment in Michigan. MSSC and NWF will also continue their collaborative efforts close campus coal plants, stop fracking on public lands, prohibit Enbridge from expanding tar sands through the state, and increase renewable energy on campuses and statewide. This proposal couples movement building with action to make Michigan higher education institutions leaders and innovators in the clean energy movement.
Iowa City Summer of Solutions
Iowa City Summer of Solutions/ Grand Aspirations: Expand Energy Efficiency in Iowa City
Iowa City Summer of Solutions (a program of Grand Aspirations) seeks to increase energy efficiency in Iowa City and the Midwest through the promotion of a five-year energy efficiency plan for Iowa and maximizing Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards. The primary focus for this campaign will be encouraging tenants in rental units to improve their energy efficiency, and increasing cooperation of landlords in this process, primarily through policy. The IA City summer of Solutions program will employ youth from the Iowa City area, engage local policy makers, and engage partners from across the state.
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group: Promote Public Transit
A new generation is leading a shift in transportation habits that could dramatically transform the future of transportation in Wisconsin and across the country, if the voices of this new generation are elevated. Young people ages 16-34 are driving significantly less, and walking, biking and taking public transit more – trends that will reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. WISPIRG Foundation’s Transportation for the New Generation will elevate the voices that will shape the future of transportation and ensure that they are strong and forceful proponents of building a transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and that meets the needs of the future rather than the past.
Indigenous Environmental Network/ Energy Action Coalition: Movement Building to Stop Heart Mine in North Dakota
Indigenous Environmental Coalition (fiscally sponsored by Energy Action Coalition) is building a strong coalition of frontline and Indigenous communities, labor, youth, and communities of color across the state to halt the South Heart Mine and Power Plant in North Dakota, the first mine built in ND in 30 years proposed to produce 2.4 million tons of coal a year for the next 30 years. Organizing tactics include communication structures and in-person meetings, listening sessions with frontline communities, bucket brigades to collect air quality and soil/water samples, a campaign to educate legistators, and non-violent direct action training,
Illinois Student Environmental Coalition: Engage Students around IL Clean Energy Issues
The Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, a program of the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund, will continue to engage students across the state in advocating for a clean energy future for IL. The 2013 campaign will focus specifically on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “fix”. Illinois’ RPS needs a challenging but important technical fix to continue to meet its goals. Students were an important part of the passage of the original bill and will continue to push for more effective legislation through grassroots training, a letter writing campaign, and youth lobby day.
Across the Midwest and the nation, youth organizers are not only getting out the youth vote, they are connecting the dots between the fossil fuels industry and elections and building an informed, committed, and passionate youth base.
Youth orgs across the Midwest are actively engaging their generation in the Presidential debates, elections and critical ballot measures, and creating pipelines for new leadership in the broader climate change movement.
MPIRG, WISPIRG and the MI Student Sustainability Coalition (MSSC) have been getting out the youth vote through voter drives and Energy Action Coalition’s Power Vote campaign. The MSSC has been garnering Michigan student support from across the state to support Prop 3. MPIRG has launched a voter education campaign calling on young voters to vote no on the anti-marriage and voter ID amendments to the state constitution. During the past four election cycles, WISPIRG’s New Voters Project has registered more than 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds.
Youth Mentorship and Professional Development
Grand Aspirations was successful in placing 5 of their participants from five summer of Solutions across the Midwest in paid positions across the region: YEA Corps, Minneapolis, Distributed Power, Detroit, A Just Harvest, Chicago, and MN350 in the Twin Cities. Positions for these emerging leaders were funding in part by the RE-AMP’S Strategic Initiative Fund, with matching funds from the host organization.
The Will Steger Foundation has paired 10 participants in an innovative mentorship program, matching youth leaders across the Midwest with veteran staff from environmental non-profits across the RE-AMP network. The mentor relationship is based on the premise that both participants have expertise to bring and aimed at foster mutual learning and growth that can benefit the entire RE-AMP network. Orientation will begin at the end of October with the mentorship contract running through May 2013.
Growing and Engaging the Youth Base
Energy Action Coalition is engaging youth voters across the US through their Power Vote campaign. Not only is the campaign aimed at getting youth registered for the November elections (with Michigan in the lead at 8,270+ registrations), it’s also aimed at ‘breaking the silence on climate change’ in the Presidential debates, and spotlighting the hand the fossil fuels industry is playing in both parties.
350.org will launch it’s ‘Do the Math’ tour across the US, Nov 7-Dec 1, with Midwest stops in Columbus OH, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and Omaha. The 350 youth outreach coordinator (Janina Klimas, former Director of the Ohio Student Environmental Coalition) is hard at work making sure youth know about the events (and free student/youth tickets!) and the opportunity to leverage it to benefit their own youth climate work in the city/state. In Minneapolis, MN350 has partnered with the MN Youth Environmental Network and Will Steger Foundation to host a daylong youth organizing retreat for students across the state on Dec 1.
The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program aims to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of climate leadership on a local, regional, national, and international scale.
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