How to Start
So, you know you want to take action, but you aren’t sure how to take the first step.
1. Hold A Meeting
Talk to neighbors, friends, members of your congregation, school, or homeowners association. What we have found is that energy self-reliance is a common belief and that there are most likely regular people around you that share this idea. Almost everyone wants to lower their power bills and clean energy. People don’t need to be convinced; they just need a practical way to move forward!
Use our FLYERS to reach out those around you.
2. Form a core group to lead the project
Anyone can be an asset to the group but utilizing skills that people already have can save time and energy for all. Some of the skills you might look for are writers, computer skills, economic analyst, knowledge of roofing, electrical, or plumbing, lawyers, and media skills, people with strong roots in the community or political connections and Kids are always an asset. Don’t let people leave the meeting without identifying volunteers and clear next steps.
You might want to assign someone to be in charge of the following areas:
A. Leading: This person will keep you on track and keep the momentum going
B. Membership: This person will keep track of members, make sure everyone is communicating, and help organize the group.
C. Research: Economic, technology, legal—this person will help you find local experts
D. Communications: This person should be a good writer or have some computer skills to make flyers, posters, website, notices or write press releases
3. VALUES: You need to start by getting to know one another. What kind of project do you want to develop? Why? Are you ok with large corporate partners or do you want to do it all yourself? What kind of technology and what kind of model makes the most sense for your community? Do you have time or money? Do you want to do a big project or a small project? Are there incentives in place to make a renewable energy project cost effective or do you first need to organize to get the incentives in place.
4. ASK FOR HELP: Never hesitate to ask for help. Ask your members, local government, companies, installers, lawyers, experts of any kind. People get excited by a good project and you should never underestimate people's willingness to help a good cause. Most people are tired of politics but a concrete project that will help others in the community will get broad support.
When we created the Mt Pleasant Solar Coop we got pro-bono legal assistance from two different law firms, we also got help with our website, with economic analysis, understanding our engineering issues, with organizing, providing photos, making our video. We had kids delivering flyers door to door and designing our t-shirts. Everyone can help!
5. LEARN BY DOING: Pick a project and get started. You can always re-think your model and move on. However, when starting a project it is impossible to plan for everything and many of the decisions you make will be made as you go.
Here are some questions that will help guide your decisions as your work continues: Is the project is scalable? Can others follow? Can your project be replicated? Is your project helping your whole community? Is it fair? Is there something you can reform that will make it easier for all those that follow? What is in the way of implementing your project?
6. Share your Experiences: Develop a media strategy. It is really simply. ALL media—newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and blogs love a happy story. Create a successful project and everyone will want to cover it. Reporters are looking for a story just as much as you are looking for coverage and a way to spread the message. Reach out to them!
Also, get to know the reporters. Be nice to them and spend some time with them. Send them announcements when you have a milestone in your project. Share the credit. This will help you build a relationship and help you get your message out there.
Empower your kids to be the spokespeople for the project. Perhaps most importantly, have a way to capture the names of the folks that find out about you and want to join your efforts when they hear about you in the news. Use the news coverage to grow and strengthen your organization. Check out some of the publicity our group has gained simply by reaching out to reporters!
7. Build Power! Political and Electrical (or whatever): Our current energy system is designed to have large centrally owned energy producing plants. People are supposed to be energy consumers not energy producers. It is going to take some work to stand this idea on its head. Don’t be afraid to take on the utilities and change the rules! Build your list, include regular people, community leaders, and communicate simply.
We can help connect you to technical assistance, or help you design and implement campaigns.