The theme of our September 26th meetup is the value of connecting with disadvantaged communities. We picked this theme because the clean tech community is bigger than most people realize. Typically people focus on communities that have significant excess capital that can afford to be early adopters with economically dubious technology. For Sacramento to become a global clean tech leader, we need to look beyond the usual and include and connect with regional disadvantaged communities.
Adoption in all communities is key. If you were to go and look at regional air districts pollution inventories you can see most of California’s emissions come from transportation, specifically on road vehicles. You will also find disadvantaged communities are harmed more by these emissions. Startups run on a shoestring and cannot ignore the economic challenges of building a company. Additionally, underserved communities do not have excess capital to support entrepreneurs. Selecting early adopters with excess capital can be enticing, but they represent a small portion of the market.
Working with developing areas presents a unique challenge but can also have bigger payoffs, opening additional opportunities. Building a high impact project with a community provides a blueprint for growth in a larger population. Additionally, there are more organizations willing to help with a company’s growth if they are returning part of that to communities. There are still economic problems, but there are many programs to reduce these barriers and enable all Californians to benefit from clean tech. SMUD has Sustainable Communities, the California Energy Commission has the 350 Barriers Study which has produced actual changes, and Sacramento is home to DiverseCity Ventures Inc.
It is important when working or delivering clean technology, entrepreneurs look at how they can reach as many communities as possible. Making an earnest outreach to local communities can see a return in customer discovery, finding employees, and solving large issues in adoption.
This is why I call on clean tech companies to work to engage more communities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.