A history of Green Empowerment: The birth of strategy out of community.
Green Empowerment was born in 1997 from like-minded social justice activists, environmentalists, and internationalists in Portland, Oregon. Common interests led naturally to the mission of Green Empowerment: To partner with rural communities in the developing world to implement renewable energy and water systems that alleviate poverty and preserve the environment.
With the core values of justice and sustainability as the basis for our working model, Green Empowerment first funded the continuation of micro-hydro projects in Nicaragua that were started by Ben Linder, a young engineer from Portland who was killed tragically by the Contras. His work provided the blueprint for sustainable development in Nicaragua and around the globe.
In 1998, Green Empowerment founder Michael Royce traveled to Nicaragua to meet with the Association of Rural Development Workers-Ben Linder (ATDER-BL), the Nicaraguan non-governmental organization (NGO) formed by Ben Linder’s colleagues to continue sustainable development projects. After helping organize a 3-year strategic plan, Michael was inspired to help other NGOs implement similar measures. This was the first step in Green Empowerment’s growth from a funding organization to a service organization. Our relationship with ATDER-BL continues more than a decade later.
In October of 2000, Green Empowerment supported the technical design and construction of a micro-hydro project in Long Lawen, Borneo, Malaysia. This project was especially important because it underscored the importance of entrusting projects to local communities and in-country partner Non-Profits. The Borneo Project and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, our two partners on this project, understood the local languages, culture, and dynamics within the community. Their participation complemented our strengths and galvanized the project. From this successful partnership arose our third core value—local leadership.
Shortly afterward, Green Empowerment connected with YAMOG, our first partner in the Philippines, on another micro-hydro plant. More than ten years later, our relationship with YAMOG has diversified to include strategic planning, sustainable agriculture programs, and technical training in solar, micro-hydro, and water pumping technologies. By 2006, work in the Philippines matured to a partnership with the three principal field-level renewable energy NGOs in the Philippines: YAMOG, AIDFI, and SIBAT. Meanwhile, our work blossomed in as we connected to new partners in Ecuador, Indonesia, Peru, Guatemala, and on the Burma/Thailand border. Walt Ratterman, Program Director at Green Empowerment from 2003-2006, motivated many of these new initiatives. Tragically, Walt passed away in the Haiti earthquake in early 2010, but his inspiration continues.
At present, we are working with 13 partners globally. Due to the growing number of partners with unique demands, Green Empowerment’s services expanded to include fundraising assistance, strategic planning, networking, media exposure, technology transfers and design exchanges, along with technical trainings and technical assistance on the ground. We also branched out into new technologies. We have integrated solar photovoltaic panels, micro-hydro plants, small wind turbines, solar water pumps, hydraulic ram pumps, biogas digesters, and biosand filters into projects spanning nine countries.
As we refined our working model, we made a calculated decision to enhance the quality of our partnerships before the quantity. We continue to focus on regional and multi-year programs with existing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) for water delivery or rural electrification in order to promote systemic change. Still, we are open to expanding if we find the right relationship with a partner NGO. In 2009, we formed partnerships with NGO’s in Costa Rica and Mexico.
Green Empowerment formed because a group of like-minded people concluded that social justice and environmental sustainability were interdependent. Experience showed that leadership from within the communities receiving aid as well as collaboration with strong regional NGO partners greatly improved our services. From the core values of social justice, local leadership, and sustainability, Green Empowerment emerged.
We work every day to promote the ideal of an equitable and sustainable world where everyone has equal access to the basic necessities of water and electricity. Join us today.