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Passing the torch to new Jackson ambassadors

One of the less obvious reasons for starting the Jackson Leadership Fellows Program was selfish on our part: we hoped to generate interest in a new generation of Puget Sound-based professionals in serving on the Jackson Foundation Board. This would be a way, we believed, we could continue the legacy of Senator Jackson once those on our Board, who knew him well, stepped down. Teaching others about Jackson’s principles and values ensured that the Foundation would always have eager, enthusiastic Board members willing to step up and hold up the Jackson banner.

Well, it worked. We are proud to be welcoming our first class of new Program Committee members to our ranks, in the form of three of our Fellows: Radha Friedman, Nora Ferm Nickum, and Alex Adams. The Program Committee is where the substantive work of the Foundation is housed: it is the committee that reviews the grants and programs put forward by staff, provides a mandate for strategies and tactics as to how to be most effective, and recommends to the Executive Committee proposals to be funded. In short, it is a perfect starting place for these three, highly professional and expert young leaders.

Radha is the Director of Programs at the World Justice Project, where she leads a portfolio of pilot programs in 60 countries to advance the rule of law. She is deeply committed to human rights and women’s rights. She is also active with the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and the Northwest Donor Exchange, so she will hit the ground running in her new role as a Program Committee member. About this opportunity, Radha says: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue my connection to the Foundation through the Program Committee, and to learn more about the projects and programs supported by the Foundation, which represent the legacy and spirit of Senator Jackson.”

Alex currently works for the King County Department of Transportation Director’s Office as Climate Change and Energy Program Manager, seeking to implement greenhouse gas reduction strategies identified in King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan. Alex is well-versed in climate issues as they relate to the Pacific Northwest, which will aid the Foundation in its work on climate and national security and in finding effective ways to use the Foundation’s resources on climate concerns in general. Alex has also worked extensively with students of all ages in his previous work as a boat captain, leading semester-long ocean education trips aboard tall sailing ships in the waters between Nova Scotia and Trinidad. Given the Foundation’s commitment to public service, he will contribute an important perspective.

Finally, Nora, who is a Senior Associate at Cascadia Consulting Group, also is fluent in climate change and natural resources planning issues. She works with cities, tribes and foundations, focusing on stakeholder engagement, evaluation and communications. Nora previously spent five years as a Senior Climate Adaptation Specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, so Nora is well-poised not only to provide guidance and expertise to the Program Committee on climate, but also brings an international perspective that will inform us in our work in international affairs education and human rights. Nora says: “I really value the opportunity to be part of the Program Committee. I see it as a way to deepen my engagement with the Foundation after a really rewarding fellowship experience, learn more about philanthropic decision-making, and contribute my own expertise in national and international climate change policy.”

We are delighted that these Jackson Leadership Fellows have joined the ranks of the Foundation’s governance on the Program Committee.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Key skills for an international affairs career in the 21st century

In late October, over 70 U.S. government, international affairs schools, students and alumni and other foreign policy and foreign language practitioners gathered in Washington D.C. for a conference on “International Affairs Careers in the 21st Century”. We worked with the Jackson School and the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) to produce this event.

Panelists included senior-level representatives from the U.S. State Department, Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Trade Representative, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, George Washington University Elliot School of Public Affairs, Chemonics International, University of Washington Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

A number of Jackson School alumni served on the panel, including Colonel Mark Barlow (M.A. International Studies, 2006) and Shauna Aron Caria (B.A. International Studies, 2007), along with Jackson School Professor Mary Callahan, Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba and Director of the M.A. in Applied International Studies Jennifer Butte-Dahl.

I enjoyed moderating a panel featuring policy and academic experts, all of whom had received an international affairs degree several years previously, and who have been able to use that degree in their government and public policy careers. Since I fit into that category myself (University of Washington B.A. Russian Studies, 1982), I also provided my two cents to the crowd, many of whom were just starting out in their fields.

Three panel discussions focused on the following topics:

1) U.S. government international affairs careers, which focused on how work expectations and preferred skills sets of U.S. government agencies may be changing in our times, gaps and opportunities for students to find a job in government, and what should Area Studies Schools should be teaching to prepare students for future careers, with each panelist also describing the classes that helped them the most and situational examples to describe the type of skills needed.

2) Private sector, foundation and nongovernmental organizations careers using area studies expertise examined the value of deep knowledge of area studies, especially “history and context,” what types of technical skills are useful in the field, and tips on entering international development and other global policy careers outside of a government job.

3) How international affairs schools are creating 21st century global leaders and experts highlighted what schools themselves are doing to marry the real world and academia, from soft skills courses to external client research projects to technology literacy and more, and views of what the next generation of area studies will look like and new disciplines to be incorporated into curriculum, such as science.

Top 10 takeaways of skill sets for international affairs careers in the 21st century:

  1. A multidisciplinary approach matters, to quickly find a niche on the team rather than specializing too narrowly. One example given: specializing only in Chinese studies will not help you when assigned to stamp visas in Mexico. You need to understand not just a country, but the regional and global perspectives to an issue and potential policy impacts.
  2. Ability to communicate effectively, including knowing your audience and conveying information to different kinds of people, such as framing what you want to say according to their level of knowledge, their policy objectives and their perspectives. “You need to think about how other people think about things, in a culturally appropriate way,” said one of the panelists, a senior-level career Foreign Service Officer.
  3. Clear and concise writing. Those in government roles particularly stressed the writing norm in their work as “1-2 pages maximum with key points that someone can quickly digest” while in intelligence analysis often the policy brief is only eight lines. All panelists emphasized that knowing how to write well is critical for a career in international affairs.
  4. Area studies and a foreign language combined with technical skills, such as resource management or public health, are viewed as highly useful, with history and context as key to developing policy or international development responses. They noted what they’re hearing from employers is that this combination of skills, with “foreign language a constant” are increasingly more valuable than a generic MBA.
  5. Program management, including strategic or operational planning, are integral to an international affairs career. While such planning tactics are embedded into military training, non-military personnel often lack strategic planning skills, such as defining starting goals, developing milestones, and creating targeted activities to reach those goals.
  6. Be proficient in technology and IT, from Excel mastery to social media, and be ready to apply these to program work.
  7. Become science literate. With climate change projected to be the biggest factor for U.S. foreign policy, as well as issues like cybersecurity, geoscience and artificial intelligence, expand undergraduate and graduate international affairs classes to include STEM-related classes.
  8. At some point, work in international affairs in D.C. or another major hub of international affairs activities to better understand how policy is made, with many agencies and organizations offering on-the-job training, such as contracts management.
  9. Negotiation and consensus-building tactical skills. As Department of Defense Panelist Colonel Mark Barlow said “You are always in negotiation, whether with OSCE member states (i.e., other governments), partners or other organizations.”
  10. Embed in a culture. All the panelists encouraged international affairs students to get first-hand experience in another culture. One of the panelists currently working for Chemonics International emphasized she discovered her passion for restorative justice and human rights — an area she had not considered before — thanks to studying in South Africa for six months while as an undergraduate student.

Thanks to Monique Thormann, Director of Communication at the Jackson School of International Studies, for her observations of the event.  As you can see, there was a lot of practical advice for new grads, as well as plenty of food for thought for the deans and directors of the schools of international affairs in the room. Kudos to the Jackson School for pulling together an impressive and useful day.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Putting Human Rights First

The Foundation was fortunate to host a dynamic speaker straight from the turmoil of Washington, DC this week, with several events featuring Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy at Human Rights First, one of the Foundation’s grantees. Rob was most recently serving in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He previously served under Ambassador Samantha Power at the UN.

Current and alumni Fellows Engage with Rob Berschinski

Rob spoke with our Jackson Fellows about his unusual career path, which began as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and subsequently an Iraq War veteran. He came to understand the U.S. role in human rights as integral to America’s national security and fundamental values, a position close to the heart of the Jackson legacy. He spoke to the Fellows of wanting to make a difference in that arena and finding policy making in Washington as the outlet for his convictions. The young professionals were particularly interested as to how Rob tries to be effective in a polarized political environment. In Human Rights First he found an organization – and a role – where he can champion a bipartisan, reasonably centrist viewpoint, crossing both sides of the aisle, “working with folks on a quiet basis.” He acknowledged the challenges: “This is the most fractured U.S. foreign policy in recent memory,” he said.

The Traditional Group Shot with the Fellows

Rob and I also had a discussion in partnership with the World Affairs Council, to a packed room of interested community members, students and retired military leaders. Russia came up a lot — both with the current focus on Russia’s role in Europe and the United States, stirring up trouble and meddling in elections, but also with the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin on other right-wing leaning states in Europe and elsewhere. “He is empowering and supporting other strongmen who are modeling themselves after him,” Rob said.

The Jackson Foundation and Human Rights First have been working together for several years to bring attention to Russia’s negative influence on a democratic Europe and its efforts to rile up social and political divisions in our own country, something of which we are now well aware. “Russia’s weaponized info-war – disinformation and hate speech – is undercutting values that we thought were well-established in post-War Europe,” he warned.

The Trump Administration, the enfeebled and demoralized State Department, and the lack of American political leadership also came up often, particularly in the questions Rob fielded throughout his two days in Seattle. “This administration doesn’t place a premium on diplomacy,” he lamented.

Rob speaks with students and faculty at the Jackson School

We are grateful that Rob could also meet with students and faculty at the University’s Jackson School, where despite being the first week of classes, the audience was eager to get an overview of pressing human rights concerns such as the Rohingya Muslims killings in Burma and the ensuing refugee crisis, the Saudi bombing in Yemen, and the many other hotspots and humanitarian flashpoints that crowd today’s front pages. In all his appearances, the question of human rights at home came up again and again.

Rob acknowledged a growing activism at the state and local level and urged his audiences, young and old, to stay engaged and committed to American democratic values. “The world has always looked to us for leadership,” he concluded. Let us hope that will continue in these challenging times.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Climate Leadership on the Water

On an unusually hot summer day on the Seattle waterfront, 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow Alex Adams welcomed 13 high-schoolers from the Woodland Park Zoo’s Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (Seattle Youth CAN) program to step aboard the Sally Fox, one of King County’s Water Taxis, and learn about climate change and careers in the maritime industry. This event marked the kick-off of a new County program, called The Floating Classroom, which Alex started to broaden outreach to students of all ages and backgrounds and inspire strong leadership at all levels to confront climate change. The program also introduces students to internship and job opportunities in both King County and the region’s maritime industry. This event marked the culmination of Alex’s Jackson Leadership Fellows project.

Seattle Youth CAN students were greeted by Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, who praised the group for their commitment to climate action, and advised them to be thoughtful in how they pursued their future careers, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparedness,” he said. “Always work hard, learn as much as possible, and be ready when an opportunity comes your way.”

Students then learned about King County’s climate actions from Alex and other county staff who highlighted some of the actions and steps we can all take, such as taking public transit, conserving resources like electricity and water, and preparing now for the changes we’re already seeing in our region, such as warmer, rainier winters, longer heat waves, and stronger storms and flooding.

“Climate change is a problem that isn’t going away soon and we need smart young leaders like you to help develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt,” Alex told the group.

After a tour of the Water Taxi’s state-of-the-art navigation system, the Seattle Youth CAN students had a group discussion about the qualities of leadership and how each of them, while still young, could be climate change leaders in their communities and among their peers. Students were given copies of The Nature of Leadership book, which was written to commemorate the life and work of Senator Henry M. Jackson and to remind prospective leaders to be inquisitive, visionary, open, honest, diligent, pragmatic, and determined when pursuing their interests. Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, joined the group for the discussion.

Students then took a roundtrip ferry ride to West Seattle, where they cooled down on the upper deck and enjoyed lunch on the open water.

King County will continue The Floating Classroom program and use the Water Taxi as a versatile educational platform to add new community value, introduce or advance career pathways, and increase climate literacy in the next generation of leaders. We are pleased that Alex’s Fellows project will endure beyond his program year.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Overcoming Uncertainty to Take Climate Adaptation Action

The Jackson Foundation has been supporting the Climate Conversations series since 2015. The series brings together diverse stakeholders from local government, utilities, consulting and engineering firms, and academia, and provides a space to discuss research, needs, lessons, and opportunities around climate change resilience in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. We are pleased to share this post written by Emily Wright and Nora Nickum from Cascadia Consulting Group.  Nora is a 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow.

Many communities know that climate change is going to bring impacts; depending on where they are, those could include more heat waves, droughts, or rising sea levels. Yet those planning for climate change inevitably face a common predicament: uncertainty about exactly what’s to come and the effectiveness of different adaptation actions. While scientists have improved modeling techniques to better project how precipitation, temperature, and other climate drivers will change in the coming decades, the accuracy of projections diminishes as we look further into the future or at a finer geographic scale. We just don’t know exactly what will happen with policy and with human behavior down the road, and how that will translate into emissions—and then into climate change impacts. For some, this uncertainty can seem like a major roadblock to making decisions about what to do.

Enter Jennie Hoffman, a climate change adaptation specialist who helps agencies and organizations overcome this kind of analysis paralysis. Jennie, the Founder and Principal of Adaptation Insight, gave a presentation on August 16 as part of Cascadia Consulting’s Climate Conversations series. This series, now in its third year, is co-sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and Seattle Public Utilities.

Jennie Hoffman

Jennie says that even before you can deal with uncertainty, the first challenge is to carefully frame your problem. As singer-songwriter Ani DeFranco put it, “If you don’t ask the right question, every answer feels wrong.” Framing the problem should include, among other things, identifying what’s wrong with the current situation, what triggered the desire to make a decision, and the place and time frame over which the decision-maker wants to achieve a specified goal. Explicitly considering the time frame at this stage helps create the space to factor in how future changes in climate would affect the outcome, and the costs and benefits of different courses of action over time.

The second challenge, then, is understanding the uncertainty you’re facing. What information are you uncertain about, and does it actually affect the decision you need to make? Sensitivity analysis tools like Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART) can help decision-makers consider how much reducing scientific uncertainty would actually improve their pending decision and where to prioritize investing in obtaining better information. Similarly, value-of-Information analysis can help to determine how much is worth spending.

Climate change considerations can arise in many points in the decision-making process, from framing the problem to determining objectives, alternatives, consequences, tradeoffs, and uncertainty. Jennie demonstrated that the science is important, but it is more critical to some decisions than it is to others. When analyses around decision sensitivity or the value of information demonstrate that additional information could really change the decision, organizations can point to that to justify investing in specific, targeted research to reduce the uncertainty. In many cases, decision-makers can move ahead with efforts to build resilience—which grow more important by the day—with the information that is available.

Emily Wright and Nora Nickum, Cascadia Consulting Group

Uniting Global Funders to Support Women’s Rights and the Rule of Law

On July 10,  2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow Radha Friedman convened funders from around the world in The Hague, The Netherlands, on the eve of the fifth World Justice Forum. It was a historic convening that brought together funders to explore how new Trump administration foreign policy may affect issues including the rights of women and girls, and how funders from other parts of the world can respond. The convening also counted as Radha’s project for the Jackson Leadership Fellows program.

The transition from the Obama era to the Trump administration has brought a host of questions, potential challenges, and many unknowns. In the last few months, as budget priorities have shifted, many bipartisan programs to protect the rights of women and girls and keep them healthy and safe have been defunded.  As gender inequality is highly correlated with military conflict, human rights abuses, and economic stability, several countries are now concerned that the US can no longer be relied upon to champion democracy and fundamental rights.

Radha Friedman at World Justice Forum

Radha co-led the discussion with Julie Broome, Director of ARIADNE, a network of European funders, to explore the challenges that new US foreign policies pose for civil society organizations working to protect human rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, environmental rights, etc., and opportunities for public and private donors in other nations to step forward. Julie is also an alum of the Jackson Foundation staff!

Saskia Brechenmacher, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, shared her research on the global trend of closing space for civil society. She explained how the US fits into the larger context of governments cracking down on civil society organizations working to protect the rights of women and disadvantaged groups, often by arguing that funds should be spent fighting terrorism instead. Since 2014, more than 60 countries have restricted civil society’s ability to access funding via expansive anti-terrorism laws.

Paige Alexander, a former senior official from the US State Department, provided additional context, including that the current US Cabinet has the fewest women of any administration in 40 years, and funding for women’s rights has been cut sharply since the new administration began. One of the most prominent examples was the US administration’s recent decision to defund the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s primary supporter of safe childbirth, gender-based violence response, and advocacy against abusive practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

US funding to protect the rights of women and girls has historically been bipartisan, because promoting women’s rights has demonstrated increased global stability, reduced poverty in developing nations and fuels economic growth. Global research confirms that the best predictor of a state’s stability is how it treats women.

The roundtable discussion provided an opportunity for funders to not only share their concerns, but ideas for action. A funder in Hungary shared that shortly after Trump’s election, the Open Society Foundations announced a $10 million rapid response fund to support those targeted by hateful rhetoric, designed to support “human rights, the rule of law, and an inclusive society.”

A funder from The Netherlands noted the creation of a global fund to reduce the funding gap of $600 million left when the US defunded the UNFPA and pledged $10 million, followed by several other countries, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While there is still much to do in the months and years to come, this collaborative spirit among funders—despite different funding mandates, laws, and cultures—is a strong step forward. This collaboration embodies the spirit of the late Senator Jackson and his ability to reach across the aisle to gain support for shared goals, and shows both resilience and optimism about our future.

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Radha Friedman

The meeting concluded and was followed by remarks from US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who beautifully encapsulated the sentiment in the room by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

We are proud of Radha and impressed with her project and the quality of the convening that she pulled together.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

 

2017 Jackson Fellows Go to Washington, D.C.

I’ve just had the privilege to spend three days with our cohort of Jackson Leadership Fellows as they attended meetings in Washington, DC, as part of the culmination of their program.  What an experience!  As Board President John Hempelmann and Board member Susan Wickwire, who accompanied the group, agreed, this was a much-needed antidote to the political blues and skepticism that have infected many of us in this gridlocked and polarized time. The optimism, engagement, and commitment of this extraordinary cadre of young leaders – from 26 – 40 years old – provide a reason to embrace the future of our communities and our nation with a degree of hope.

Roger-Mark De Souza of the Wilson Center introducing Jackson Fellows Connor Birkeland, Radha Friedman, and Amarpreet Sethi

The Fellows, who have been meeting monthly and receiving professional guidance and leadership training from an array of experts here in the Northwest, went to Washington to showcase their talents, introduce the program to other young people – in this case a packed room full of Washington DC interns – and meet the Washington Congressional Delegation, among other meetings.

The Fellows, with Board members John Hempelmann, far left, and Susan Wickwire, (3rd from right) meeting with Senator Patty Murray
The Fellows meeting with Senator Maria Cantwell

The jam-packed agenda included a private discussion with four Members of the House of Representatives from Washington State, who candidly shared their thoughts of current political developments with the Fellows and took their questions, and both of Washington’s powerful senators, who took the time to get to know our Fellows and the work they are doing back here in Puget Sound.

Congressmen Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer with Fellow Hans Zeiger, center
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene talks with Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott and Alyssa Patrick

The Fellows were also exposed to two panels featuring long-time public servants discussing their work in Washington, DC, their ability to work across changing political administrations, and their reasons for choosing public service as a career.

Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott (speaking), Hans Zeiger (l)  and Nora Ferm Nickum (r)  were featured on a panel about public service

Along the lines of discussing public service, one of the highlights of the trip was a half-day at the Wilson Center which featured two different dialogues about the challenge of careers in government and public service that shone a spotlight on the Fellows and the insights that they shared.

A full house of Washington, D.C. interns with questions for the panel

Overall the trip was a substantive way to bring the 2017 Fellows Program to a close — and a wonderful way for us to bond with our extraordinary young ambassadors for the Jackson legacy.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Jackson Fellows March Forward As Changemakers

As part of our commitment to the Jackson Leadership Fellows program, we remain engaged with the alumni of the program and we intend to keep up that engagement in the years ahead.  All of our Fellows — past and present — are in a particularly vibrant moment of their careers.  They are changing jobs, they are trying new directions, they are getting promoted, and they are seeking new challenges and ways to make an impact in our communities.  As part of a continuing series of guest blogs, we asked Tamara Power-Drutis, a 2016 Fellow, if she could reflect on her own recent journey from Executive Director at Crosscut Public Media to her new position as Chief of Staff at Amplifier.  We’re excited to learn from Tamara what she has taken from the Fellowship year that helps her in this challenging new job.  She shares her personal reflections on this career shift below.
Tamara Power-Drutis

After being immersed in grassroots organizing for most of my life, several years ago I took a step away to approach change from a different angle. While activism gave me a sense of community and connection to like-minded individuals, it was the different-minded individuals I lacked a connection to.

I rarely saw the peace and justice movement cross ideological or political lines to engage in dialogue. That meant that when we did cross lines, the discussions often devolved into regurgitation of party lines and lofty platitudes rather than an open consideration of a different point of view. Difference of opinion was something to fear or fix rather than an opportunity to build a more informed solution. For my part, I became aware that I lacked the fundamental skills to engage in civil dialogue, and set out to have what became some of the most uncomfortable and necessary conversations of my life.

Tamara worked as Executive Director at Crosscut Public Media

While serving as the Executive Director of Crosscut Public Media — a Seattle nonprofit newsroom that aims to inform a public capable of solving the challenges of our time — I gained access to countless perspectives different from my own. They challenged my world-view, forced me to question my assumptions, and ultimately improved any solutions I became a part of. It was through this role that I became an inaugural Henry M. Jackson Foundation Fellow, an opportunity that continues to have a profoundly positive impact on my life.

Wilson Center event in Washington D.C. featuring 2016 Jackson Leadership Fellows

Beyond providing tangible tools and strategies to engage in dialogue and enact change, this fellowship connected me to a deeply-rooted network of leaders across sectors that I will collaborate with for the rest of my career. After the 2016 election, it was this cohort that I turned to for processing, problem-solving, and hope.

Like countless others, when I woke up on November 9, 2016, the path laid before my feet had shifted overnight. The system was finally changing. But rather than a shift toward equity, livable wages, reparations, or aggressive climate security, this shift was a plausible prologue to every dystopian novel I’ve read.

Resistance was, and remains, necessary. But I worried that traditional activism wasn’t open or pragmatic enough to pave the way. Luckily for me, quite a few people were ahead of me on the road to reinventing it. It didn’t take long for the skepticism to be wiped from my face when I showed up to the Women’s March in Seattle. This was something new. This was a movement with open doors.

Tamara, Chief of Staff, with her Amplifier Team

The way I found myself working at Amplifier — an experiment that provides visual tools to help movements reach beyond their core audiences to engage the broader mainstream — is the same story I’ve heard echoed from others on the team: I felt drawn in, as though a magnet were pulling me. While messages of bigotry and hate were being shouted from the highest office in our land, around every corner I saw images of hope. They called for us to be greater than fear, to defend dignity, to protect each other and be resilient and indivisible. I didn’t know the people behind this barrage of positive propaganda, but I carried them with me as I marched through the streets once again, and shortly thereafter signed on as their Chief of Staff.

I’m grateful to have an excuse to spend my days with a team attempting to reshape the American narrative and to refill the reserve of ideas and inspiration that fuel action. Every day at Amplifier I have opportunities to apply the skills, methods, and perspective I gained at Crosscut and as a Jackson Fellow.

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation is currently accepting applications for its third cohort, all of whom I look forward to partnering with in the coming years. While the program only accepts a handful of fellows each year, the Foundation continues to expand its programming and trainings to enable the kind of inquisitive, open, and honest conversations that are so necessary today.

A Business Case for Climate Action

We’re very pleased to highlight a guest blog today from Nora Ferm Nickum, a 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow, about her project this year.  Her work emphasizes the importance of climate action in the Pacific Northwest and what businesses can do to seize the initiative. -Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Nora Ferm Nickum

Climate change is a massive challenge that requires public policy answers at all levels of government, but also widespread action by the private sector and within our communities. For my Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellow project, I sought to learn about how businesses here in the Seattle area are helping to tackle this challenge. I interviewed ten businesses across a range of industries, from retail and recreation to construction and health care. Throughout, there was a common thread that climate change action is not only a necessity, but also an opportunity. Steps that reduce emissions can save costs, attract customers, and demonstrate leadership.

I heard stories from businesses that are leading change in their industries. For example, Fremont Brewing pilot-tested a biodigester that turns its spent grain into methane and then electricity. There are systems like that available for very large established breweries, but not small ones. Fremont’s goal is to show that it is feasible—and that there is demand—so that manufacturers will recognize the market opportunity and create systems that can work for smaller breweries.

Srirup Kumar of Impact Bioenergy explains how the biodigester works. Photo credit: Impact Bioenergy.
Concrete pour. Credit: Sellen Construction.

Meanwhile, Sellen Construction worked with a local concrete supplier to figure out the carbon content of more than 80 types of concrete, so that they could choose lower-carbon options in their projects. They made this information freely available so that other companies can also make informed choices and lower their impact.

Virginia Mason learned that the use of just one kind of inhaled anesthesia—desflurane gas—was alone responsible for nearly 5% of the hospital system’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Using desflurane for one hour of surgery has been estimated to have the same climate change impact as driving a car for as much as 470 miles. The anesthesiology team determined last year that outside of a few neurological cases, alternatives could be used that cost the same, provided the same benefits for patients, and had a lower environmental impact. Now, this kind of anesthesia is used 90% less often at Virginia Mason than it was before.

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort’s new lot is free for cars with four or more people. Photo credit: Stevens Pass.

I also heard stories about actions that are replicable and easy—both for other businesses and for us as individuals. For example, Stevens Pass Mountain Resort incentivizes skiers to carpool, and bus drivers to not leave their buses idling all day. Rick Steves’ Europe teaches classes about how to travel light, and doesn’t sell large suitcases. Less weight on the plane means less fuel is burned.

Tom Douglas Restaurants uses seasonal produce, including from their own farm in Washington State. Buying local produce cuts down on emissions from transportation.

Staff bring local produce from Prosser Farm to one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants. Credit: Sarah Flotard.

Additional stories—about innovative steps being taken by companies like Boeing, NBBJ, and Microsoft—can be found in the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Bright Green in an Emerald City report released last fall.

Senator Jackson was a pragmatist and a problem-solver. He cared about the environment—he played a leading role in the conservation and energy legislation in the 1960s and 1970s—and he also sought to promote economic development in our state. He recognized that those goals need not be contradictory. Washington businesses can learn from his vision and legacy, and from the actions being taken by businesses—like those highlighted here—who recognize that there is a business case for climate change action, and plenty of room for innovation to expand the solution set. I appreciate having had the opportunity through this leadership fellowship to explore this issue more deeply.

Nora Ferm Nickum is a 2017 Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellow and a Senior Associate at Cascadia Consulting Group.

Farewell to Jelena

Life in a nonprofit can be challenging. Resources are usually stretched thin and the work is generally more than people can handle in a normal working day. People who devote themselves to the nonprofit sector have to believe that the work they are doing matters – to themselves, their colleagues, the community, and to the other nonprofits with whom they work.

Such is the case at our Foundation with its small staff. And no one has exemplified that dedication to the greater good more than our office and finance manager, Jelena Jurkovic, who retires this month after 18 years of service to the Jackson legacy. Jelena is one of those unsung heroes who make organizations work well. When sifting through photos in advance of honoring her, I couldn’t help but be struck by how few photos there were of her – instead, others are at the podium, giving the talks, leading the crowd. Yet Jelena’s quiet and critical role resulted in full lecture halls; well-prepped and organized board meetings; and thoughtful, accurate briefing materials. While this does not always make for headlines or glory, in the nearly two decades that I have worked with Jelena, her spirit, warmth, dedication to mission, commitment to her colleagues, and professionalism have meant the world to all of us. When I sent out emails to former colleagues about Jelena’s decision to retire, responses were quick and heartfelt. Board members have been equally effusive about Jelena and the role that she has played here at the Foundation. While we will hire other staff, her shoes will be hard to fill.

Jelena’s first week at the Foundation celebrating Scoop’s Troops at Helen Jackson’s home in Everett
Jelena and Anna Marie Laurence at the party in Jelena’s honor

At a farewell event for Jelena last night, Anna Marie Laurence, Board member and daughter of Senator Jackson, praised Jelena and said, “My father liked to say, ‘Whatever you do in life, always do it with excellence.’ This is what Jelena did.” Board member Joel Merkel expressed that he was honored to call Jelena a friend and emphasized, as did other speakers, the genuine and heartfelt nature of Jelena’s relationships with others. He concluded, “Thank you, Jelena, for your friendship and your service to the Jackson Foundation. We will miss your daily presence but we will never forget you and we all hope to maintain the relationship.”

Jelena and Joel Merkel

When you work together, day after day, you come to be a family. Such it has been, to our great good fortune, to work together with Jelena at the Jackson Foundation. With Jelena’s retirement to sunnier climes and the pull of her loved ones, we lose an essential part of our extended Jackson Foundation family. As Foundation President John Hempelmann said last night, “while we will miss her, whenever we think of Jelena, we will smile.”

Jelena and John Hempelmann

We wish Jelena the best of luck in her retirement and we will retain fond memories of our many laughs and shared concerns over the years together.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director