How to Build a Clean Economy in a Weekend

The third national Powershift conference was held last month in Washington D.C. It was also my third national Powershift conference. The conference overall was a big success, reports were that close to 10,000 people turned out to the Convention Center in Washington D.C.

The 2011 Powershift was framed by an Obama Administration wavering on its support of clean energy, the anniversary of the BP oil spill and the nuclear disaster in Japan.

Powershift conferences are the single most effective event in mobilizing young people around energy and climate issues in the past 5 years. National and Regional Powershift conferences have effectively mobilized 40,000 youth across the country during this time, with those 40,000 youth leaving the conferences and joining the efforts of the Energy Action Coalition partner organizations, including Global Exchange.

While the conferences have brought together young people from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, the general message coming out of Powershift conferences is to demand action from governments and corporations.

And rightfully so.

The Federal Government has stalled out on significant action to pass a comprehensive climate & energy bill, and fossil fuel energy corporations have recorded an unparalleled series of blunders that have threatened peoples lives and the very ecosystem from which we depend on.

For most Powershift attendees, the conference has been a relief to know that they are not alone in witnessing the insanity of humanity to not deal with climate change and to not unlock the revolutionary power of a transition from dirty fossil fuels to community wealth building renewable energy.

The 2011 conference had a significantly different feel to it than the conferences over the past four years. The collective experience of the young people at the conference brought forth a more diverse message and a movement that is now prepared to take deeper action.

Powershift Nation was less optimistic in President Obama’s ability to make the changes that many in the movement either campaigned directly for him to make or voted for him with the belief that this President would be different. The conference was a wake up call for the grassroots of Powershift that now is the time to start building a more radical and aggressive movement on the ground in communities across the country. Without or without the support of President Obama!

This sentiment even broke through to the national media. Global Exchange partner organization Grand Aspirations’ Matt Kazinka summed this up well in an article from the NY Times:

“I feel like in many ways, a big opportunity was missed to do climate legislation,” said Matt Kazinka, a junior environmental studies major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. “Right now it seems like there isn’t a lot of opportunity to push large-scale climate legislation through.

“But I also think it’s a good moment for the climate movement to step back and say, ‘Maybe right now the large-scale political approach isn’t going to work,’ just given what’s happening,” he said.

Kazinka volunteered for Obama’s campaign two years ago. Now he’s torn over what he sees as a lack of leadership from Obama on the issue and the reality of a political climate that’s limiting the president, he said. Kazinka isn’t alone.

Not only was the larger conference impacted by the political and economic realities of the past 4 years, our Global Exchange Powershift team from Detroit brought forth a unique strategy to the 2011 conference. In collaboration with Green For All and Grand Aspirations, we facilitated the Clean Economy Track, which presented information and strategies being used across the country to specifically build an economic engine that matches the political activism being created by Energy Action Coalition.

It offered a concurrent program to conference participants. While some participants were learning how to tell their story and build organizing teams through the training organized by the New Organizing Institute, the Clean Economy Track presented to people that opportunity to “be” the story and focused more specifically on what organizing teams can do once they are built.

The twin tracks complimented each other and gave a coordinated parting message from Powershift 2011 that young people are ready to start building the clean economy on the ground as opposed to just protest and organize for actions.

This new message was the most easily distinguishable quality of the 2011 conference compared to Powershifts from the past. Powershifters were effectively dismissing the political climate and the disappointment in Obama’s inaction by reorienting and diversifying the movement from lobbying nationally to action locally and from campaigning to business development. We all know we need both, Powershift 2011 was the manifestation of a movement’s collective epiphany.



Powershift 2011 is over. But there is a new opportunity to join the movement coming up. It’s called the Green Economy Leadership Training.

Today, you are being presented with a choice, an opportunity that could ultimately shape the rest of your life. Today, you are learning for the first time about the Green Economy Leadership Training.  Today, you are being invited to join the ranks of the most committed, well trained, impactful people of your generation.  If you choose to accept this invitation, you will shape the future of Highland Park and Detroit.

What you will be learning:

  • You will grow food, produce renewable energy & use energy more efficiently, transform infrastructure.
  • You will become a solution focused individual that recognizes opportunities to participate in improving communities, corporations, governments and institutions.
  • You will learn how to lead projects that will alter the course of the 21st century.
  • You will learn how Detroit and Highland Park are the silicon valley of the green economy.


Program Details:
Location: Highland Park, MI
Dates: June 6th – August 8th.

See you there?