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ICYMI: Celebrating Net Impact Climate Ambassadors during NYC Climate Week 2022

ICYMI: Celebrating Net Impact Climate Ambassadors during NYC Climate Week 2022

Climate Week

This September, during NYC Climate Week hosted by Climate Group, Net Impact and our fellow nonprofit partner, Climate Interactive, hosted an event to do one specific thing: tell the story of the inaugural year of the Net Impact Climate Ambassadors Program. 

Launched in the fall of 2021, this program combined Climate Interactive’s expert knowledge of system dynamics and climate policy with Net Impact’s audience of emerging impact professionals. During the program, selected participants embarked on an intensive 8-week online course using the En-ROADS Simulator (pictured below). They then spent two months implementing what they learned in the course by hosting climate workshops for their communities. 

Climate Interactive

To date, the program has engaged more than 2,000 people across 21 countries via climate workshops led by Net Impact Climate Ambassadors. 

Our success to date made this Climate Week celebration even more momentous! We welcomed about 100 attendees to the event and featured three recently certified Climate Ambassadors from the East Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and the Balkans. 

The event kicked off by centering the stories of our three featured Climate Ambassadors: 

  • Shivam Bhakta, an energy engineer at MIT with a passion for all things decarbonization
  • Blerinda Veliu, a Fulbright Scholar-turned entrepreneur of an organic tea and snack company based in Kosovo and a Colorado State Impact MBA alumna
  • Jenny Morgan, an ex-Microsoft Operations Manager who now works full-time in decarbonization space with the startup Tradewater, which specializes in the collection and disposal of highly potent greenhouse gasses like the ones found in refrigerants and abandoned coal mines 

Their backgrounds alone are impressive, but the story I found most compelling was of their personal climate journeys. 

None of the Climate Ambassadors mentioned above started out knowing they wanted to work in the climate space, let alone become a Net Impact Climate Ambassador to lead workshops in their community. 

I had the honor of getting to know each person’s story more deeply, and learned that while all three come from deeply different personal backgrounds and academic trajectories, they’re all using their respective skill sets to help decarbonize our economy and promote a regenerative economy in their own unique way. 

  • Shivam took his experience in the oil and gas industry to the decarbonization space.
  • Blerinda leveraged her Fulbright research on community resiliency and grassroots disaster response to build her own company that is introducing regenerative agriculture practices in her home country of Kosovo. 
  • Jenny used her project management and operations expertise to land herself working for a company dedicated fully to carbon emissions reduction. It was a powerful - and hopeful - reminder that all skill sets and academic backgrounds are needed in the climate space. 

So, what brought this group of individuals together to take the Climate Ambassador Program, and what were their key takeaways? 

A key theme amongst the three panelists was their realization that they all wanted to move from an “observer” to an “active participant” in the climate movement. 

While Shivam was working in the energy space with Exxon Mobil, he reflected on how he started to take notice of the extreme weather in his hometown of Houston, TX. After quitting his job at Exxon and transitioning to the Department of Energy to work on nuclear energy, he was ready to go beyond his own 9-5 and find something that would help him engage a larger audience. “People aren’t good at thinking in gigatons,” he explains. 

Jenny, the project manager, wanted to help people connect the dots. She explains her motivations for taking the course like this: “If you’re curious about what you can do, what your community can do, what policies you should be supporting, and how you can truly understand the holistic view of climate impact and climate solutions, it’s a tool to do that.”  

Blerinda, who resides in the Western Balkans, who is conducting climate workshops with children, talked about how she liked the usability of the course tools. ‘It’s a great model to bring people together who are not in climate science or the sustainability space to see how policy intersects with climate.” 

Net Impact and Climate Interactive are committed to continuing to accelerate climate literacy amongst our network. If you are interested in taking part in a future Climate Ambassadors Program, be sure to keep an eye out for the launch of a future cohort on our Net Impact Programs Page.