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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.

Published in Local (Minnesota)

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.

Published in Midwest
Friday, 24 August 2012 14:30

Van Jones at Clean Car Rally

Green jobs activist, Van Jones, joined the Will Steger Foundation, MPIRG, MN Environmental Partnership and 200 Minnesota youth for a rally at the State Capitol in support of the Clean Cars Bill. March 2009.

Additional Info

  • Topic Solutions
  • Expert Van Jones, Co-Founder Rebuild the Dream
  • Resource Type Video
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 09:56

What happened to winter?

Letter from the Executive Director

Arctic Oscillation
Arctic Oscillation Diagram

It’s hard not to notice the lack of winter across most of the country, at least in the lower 48 states. Two weeks ago a January heat wave smashed records from North Dakota to California before spreading into the Northeast. At least 1,500 daily record high temperatures were set during the period from January 2-8, including Minnesota. Real winter weather is just around the corner though, thanks to the Arctic Oscillation. The Arctic Oscillation is a pattern of atmospheric pressure that helps steer the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere and is transitioning into a new phase. When it’s in a “positive phase” as it has been so far this winter, cold air tends to remain bottled up in the Arctic. In fact, the Arctic Oscillation has been extremely positive this winter, with the Arctic Oscillation index reaching its second-highest level on record, dating back to 1950. This is the opposite of how things were in December 2010 and January 2011, when the Arctic Oscillation was extremely negative and several major snowstorms slammed the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Scientists do not fully understand what influences the behavior of the Arctic Oscillation, but some studies show links between it and the loss of Arctic sea ice, which is due in large part to global warming, and other research suggests that solar activity can have an effect on it as well. Our friend and Minnesota weather guru Paul Douglas was on MPR’s Midmorning show recently discussing our weird weather and more. Listen here.

At a recent school visit in Proctor, Minnesota in early January, Will Steger explained the difference between weather and climate and talked about how he navigated his expedition teams without a GPS unit using wind, the sun, and weather as a guide. Students were surprised to learn how skills he learned as a young child enabled him to survive in the Arctic. Learn more about Will's early observations and journals in our online classroom.


Nicole Rom, Executive Director

Published in eNewsletter 2012
Friday, 02 December 2011 10:58

COP Negotiations: Information Overload

One half of the boards with side events, and that is only the listings for the next few days!
One half of the boards with side events, and that is only the listings for the next few days!

View down one of the many rows of booths.
View down one of the many rows of booths.

My view from the back of the main plenary session.
My view from the back of the main plenary session.
The COP negotiations are not quite as I expected. I guess I envisioned a group of like 20 people talking back and forth, kind of like a Presidential debate, but with more people and a narrower scope. What I’ve found is that a “President,” who is a UNFCCC official or South Africa “recognizing” a delegate, typically an “honorable” one, so that they can take the “floor.” They don’t actually get up and take the stage or floor, but speak from their seat, which is alphabetized by country. This whole set up is less dramatic than a debate, and you need to look at one of the many screens to see who actually is talking. I’ve tried many times to see who is talking from my seat in the back, and usually can’t find them by the time they are done speaking. In this way, those of you back home can get most of what I experience (without the 90 F with 90% humidity) via the miracle of the internet. The one type of thing you can’t experience is the smaller discussions of workgroups and committees that occur throughout the day and are not recorded or televised.

The main benefit of actually being here, thus far, is catching the many side conversations and the so-called side events. Hundreds of official side events will take place over the two weeks of the conference, by hundreds of different NGO organizations. There are so many that it is very hard to keep track of when and where they’ll be happening! The side events happen in a big building next door to the main meeting area in some 10 or so large rooms. If I’m lucky, the room will have a sign next to it saying what it will be, otherwise I end up wandering around. Additionally, some organizations such as the International Energy Agency have full day mini-conferences.

A third option of information diffusion is to visit the 200 or so booths hosted by NGOs and trade groups. Most have brochures or other informational pamphlets, and some even give out books and CD/DVDs. I’ve built a solid collection that has almost burst my back-pack. I could probably spend the next 6 months doing nothing else but reading the giveaway stuff from COP17! There are also daily periodicals put out by at least 5 different groups, including a magazine called Outreach that published articles by Paul and myself.

Maybe you’ve gotten the impression that there is an overwhelming amount of information, at least that is how I feel. I haven’t even described the four football field sized tents out by registration, which is a hodgepodge of booths promoting services offered by businesses and other South African groups.

Published in International
Page 3 of 7

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