6 years ago, I began my journey with Our Climate as a member of our first Fellowship class. At the time, we were a budding state grassroots organization called Oregon Climate. Led by two recent college graduates, I  was immediately drawn to the passion and dedication of these two women and the focus on youth leadership development and tangible solutions to the climate crisis. Nearly 6 years to the day of my first video call with the team, it is bittersweet to share that I am transitioning out of my role as Deputy Director at Our Climate. My time with Our Climate has been transformational and it is with much excitement that I look ahead to what is to come for OC. I want to take some space, however, to look back and share how far we’ve come. But first, I grace you with this photo of my first day on the job. I had just graduated college, didn’t own a blazer, and had spent the last 10 days roadtripping through the American Southwest.

Before I was a staff member, I was a part of Our Climate’s first cohort of Fellows in the spring and summer of 2015. One of my favorite memories as a Fellow was a long road trip. We spent a weekend selling water bottles as a fundraiser at a music festival in a small college town in Eastern Washington. Mumford and Sons was the headliner and my 21 year old self was so jazzed to be spending the day fundraising and the nights rocking out. After the festival ended, Founder Camila Thorndike, Former Executive Director Page Atcheson, and I drove through the hills of Eastern Oregon to speak with as many elected officials as possible to build support for carbon pricing policy. One night, after a day full of meetings in La Grande, OR, we slept on the floor of a dojo. The next morning we realized a bear had strewn trash all over the yard as we slept. On this trip I got a glimpse into the hard work and hustling of grassroots organizing. It looked like taking phone calls on the road, dedicating time and energy to connect with people, and showed me the generous spirit of those who cared about the issue. While on the trip, we never paid for a night’s accommodation simply due to people wanting to host us and help us in our mission. If there was a movie about grassroots organizing, I can assure you a story like this would be a part of it.

In 2016, Our Climate grew up and went national. I joined staff in June 2016 as our Program Coordinator. It was my job to organize 20 students a semester to advocate for climate policy. I made a lot of mistakes in the first year  and was supported every step of the way, a rare gift (and one I am grateful for). I spent the Fall of that year traveling through Vermont and Massachusetts, and even went to the TV premier at the Natural History Museum in NYC. I made the mistake of confusing handing out swag with actual organizing — which led to me mailing hundreds of blank hats across the country for college students to decorate in support of climate policy. *face palm* I learned so much, and one of my favorite memories is undoubtedly the 2017 People’s Climate March in Washington, DC. Our team spent the week making art and organizing students to join us at the march. It was a time I felt a part of the community in the movement and learned vital facilitation skills as a member of one of the organizing tables. We finished the week in celebration with food, friends, and dancing. 

Later that year, we really sank our teeth into building out state programs. With the election of Donald Trump, we knew federal policy was out of the question but there was still no time to waste to pass science based and equitable policy. I began supervising our programmatic work in the Northeast and Northwest. I’ll never forget eating pizza in Philadelphia with Page in celebration of receiving our funding to hire a Northwest Organizer. Suddenly, I became a manager of staff when we hired the unstoppable Emily Martin in Washington State (above on the right at her first lobby day).

As Our Climate grew, I began to notice critical missing infrastructure. Like any young organization, we needed a way to hold our peers and colleagues accountable to building a resilient, compassionate culture that prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. This spurred the beginning of my own professional development journey toward organizational design and culture. We started with an “Organizational Culture Memorandum” that spelled out our values and what they looked like in the practicalities of our teams’ roles. Then, we built tools and systems around those values to truly build the workspace we envisioned.

In 2018 and 2019, we had some solid wins and some really tough losses. We partnered with Clif Bar and hosted an awesome competition focused on innovative climate solutions at the Global Climate Action Summit. We passed the CLCPA in New York, but we saw two years in a row that Oregon Senate Republicans walked out of session and the loss of I-1631 in Washington. More and more, I felt called to this idea behind cultivating leaders and teams who could have hard conversations and stay present in the complexities of our work. We’ve had such a failure of leadership in many key institutions in our country — as so many of us are aware. This led Our Climate to re-evaluating its policy principles and implementing a DEI Action Plan. We knew if we wanted to have a strong voice at the table, we needed to change as an organization. Facilitating this change at Our Climate is something I’ve written a bit more about and you can read more here.

As Our Climate grew and changed, so did its team. In 2020, we begin recruiting for a new Executive Director. Leading this search was one of the highlights in my time at Our Climate as I was able to put into practice my knowledge around equitable hiring and intentional design. I’m proud of the results of that search. Jasmine Sanders joined our team on July 1st last year, in the midst of a pandemic and and racial uprising. 

Under Jasmine’s leadership, Our Climate has continued to grow and become known for the amazing work its done all along. I am so proud of how we’ve evolved and where we are going. Working with Jasmine the last 8 months has built my self confidence in a way I deeply needed, and it is with her support that I feel comfortable and excited to make a new change. Due to her leadership and focus on amplifying the profile of the organization, I am confident Our Climate will attract top talent as it hires for the roles it needs to continue to maintain top notch operations (PS — we’re hiring!)

As for what is next for me? I am joining my dream organization to learn from the best of the best about organizational design and leadership develop at August, a new kind of consulting company designed for a world where constant change, complexity, and uncertainty are the new normal. I am so grateful for Our Climate’s support of my development and growth over the last 5 years, and wouldn’t be pursuing this dream if it weren’t for our supporters. 

I’ll leave you with my very favorite Our Climate memory: It’s August 2019. Our team has gathered in Washington State for its Annual Staff and Board Retreat. We are talking about things in our organization that we are stuck on and things we know work well. I lead our team through an exercise evaluating our organizational system. Suddenly, it becomes clear exactly how we need to grow and what to focus our time and energy on. We know what we’re good at and what we’re bad at. That sort of clarity is priceless. It was this exercise and moment that fueled me to lean into organizational design and culture and learn the skills our movements desperately need to solve the world’s biggest challenges. In my memory, we finish the exercise and gather around the table for dinner. I made vegan chili and cornbread in a cast iron pan. There were fires that summer, so the sky is hazy. Everyone is laughing and I am proud of the work we’ve done. I can’t wait for what is to come. 

With Gratitude,

 

Cassidy Jones

Outgoing Deputy Director

Our Climate