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Encore Fellows in Sustainable Business Oregon

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Encore, Encore! Retired Intel Worker Leaves NWEI Wanting More

(October 2, 2013 By Mike Mercer, Northwest Earth Institute) Learn about becoming an Encore Fellow via SVP here.

When I see a great performance I want to celebrate and share it. That’s how I feel after bringing on a retired Intel employee as an Encore Fellow to help us at the Northwest Earth Institute.

Based on our experience, non-profits focused on the environment and other movements could benefit from the Encore Fellows program.

At NWEI, we believe the solution to many of earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change. By taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact.

To advance that philosophy, we offer discussion courses on pressing environmental issues that help people create their own community of change. More than 140,000 people worldwide have participated in the courses to date and discovered new ways to live, work, create and consume.

I learned about the Encore Fellows program in 2012 when I visited the Friends of the Children non-profit and was told an Encore Fellow was helping them with succession planning. Encore Fellows are seasoned private-sector professionals entering retirement who offer professional expertise and passion for a cause to visionary nonprofits, typically for about 12 months.

In Oregon the Encore Fellow program operates under the auspices of Social Venture Partners Portland, a non-profit that aims to build powerful relationships to tackle our community’s social challenges.

We had just launched a new strategic plan and needed some senior level leadership in the areas of business development. I though, why not get an Encore Fellow?

I called SVP and we arranged for Rod MacDow, who would retire from Intel in January 2012 after 12 years of working there principally on long-term strategic planning, to come on board. Rod was truly passionate about our work, had broad international experience, understood and would fit into our culture and had credibility.

He also possessed a variety of valuable skill sets, such as an ability to connect with senior level leadership in other organizations in a position to spur employee engagement in sustainability thought and practice.

Rod joined us officially on March 4, but before that he attended a staff off-site and a board meeting and asked us to load him up with information about NWEI so he could hit the ground running.

Rod thought our strategic plan was a good one, but it had a few blanks to fill in. He started by taking a look at the broad audience NWEI serves with our courses, including the higher education, faith and business communities. Then he considered how we could get into 10, 20, 30 and even thousands of organizations. He suggested we do a pilot at a couple of companies, analyze it, make needed changes and then roll it out.

We’re working on that now. We’ve encountered difficulties in identifying the key contacts and decision-makers within some companies and building relationships with them, but we’ll conquer that. We’ve also found that we need to balance this work between Rod and the small NWEI staff, and connect the staff to the key company contacts. That way there will be enthusiasm, time and competence to carry things on when Rod leaves.

Overall, we are making real progress and expect Rod’s work will lead to a larger, stronger, more influential NWEI. I know that resources at most non-profits are scarce (We employ just seven workers, with a $500,000 annual budget), so having a mature Fellow who’s devoted to a particular issue with clear objectives over a specific period of time can be a godsend.

I’ve heard from a lot of non-profit executive directors who have secured an Encore Fellow, and to a person, every one of them have spoken of the program in glowing terms. They not only got what they were expecting to get at the outset. Oftentimes they were surprised by the unexpected benefits that accrued to their organization as a result of their participation.