Turning an Organization Into an Ecosystem to Engage Employees in Conservation
Though biomimicry is a field even seasoned environmentalists might be unfamiliar with, to Emily Sadigh, its approach is the key to a sustainable human relationship with our planet. Biomimicry – learning from and emulating nature’s remarkably efficient designs in order to solve human problems – has enabled breakthroughs in product and building design. Emily was so taken by the power of this approach that she is pursuing a certificate in the field from the Biomimicry Institute. Emily believes applying biomimicry to a new arena, organizational change, will provide insight into how to create an ecosystem of participation. Just as life’s strategies build on what works, are locally attuned, and rely on cooperative relationships, so too can organizations apply nature’s way of managing to create self-organizing networks of employees engaged in conservation.
From rehabilitating wildlife as a teenager, to becoming founding coordinator of Harvard University’s peer-to-peer Resource Efficiency Program, to a current position as Sustainability Project Manager for Alameda County, CA, Emily has focused on grassroots action in response to environmental challenges. Emily received her A.B. in anthropology and Ed.M. in adult education for sustainability from Harvard University, and both her studies and years advising budding entrepreneurs as a board member of Young Women Social Entrepreneurs-SF have equipped her to create personal transformations that have a ripple effect toward broader cultural change.
Emily plans to harness her TogetherGreen fellowship to integrate the areas of expertise she’s developed so far. Her project aims to make it easier for the 9,000 employees of Alameda County to take energy and habitat conservation actions that involve connecting with others, such as carpooling, turning off shared equipment when not in use, ordering produce from local farms, and ensuring their department buys green products. An already completed component of the project is a climate action plan setting conservation targets, which was developed by the county’s sustainability team through a participatory process with hundreds of suggestions from county employees.
Employee volunteer “green ambassadors” in the 20 county agencies will serve as hubs for local sustainability action teams, create channels for rapid feedback, and share stories from other participants. “A recent organization-wide survey demonstrated that thousands of county employees are eager to make more sustainable choices,” said Emily. “This project is responding to their call for engagement.”