by Michael Karp, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer
A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (A W.I.S.H) was founded in the Spring of 1995 as a launch pad and support system for people incubating new sustainability initiatives.
It started with a thought, manifested into activity, and then grew by circumstance, relationship, intention . . . but also created a life of its own, once put into play. It is a work in progress. A “place” where those who have a passion for sustainability, no matter the geographic area, size and breadth of the project or initiative, can find incubation support, networking, eligibility for grants and donations, technical assistance . . . .without having to start a full blown organization and all that goes with it. A “space” where they can act independently, take responsibility for those actions, without going through others risk filters and screens.
We now have had the experience of hosting over 100 projects representing 40 countries on an extremely diverse array of compelling topics of sustainability. Our model of organization has always been to lean toward an open source approach, a vehicle for the commons: Not staff based by design, in order to keep us “organization-lite”, streamlined, which provides ability to make quick decisions to take advantage of opportunities, take risks, be entrepreneurial.
A W.I.S.H has a domestic board of directors, an international ex-officio board, and has separate legal affiliate corporations in a number of other states and countries. We consider our model to be a vehicle for the “commons”, an open source option for leaders and their projects
A W.I.S.H adds value for people who have a passion about a sustainability related topic, in any field and any geographic area, by allowing them to focus their time and energy on the ground. Our work helps their work by minimizing the amount of time and energy they have to invest in starting and maintaining a full-blown organization. Each project is a separate legal entity, but because of A W.I.S.H’s services they are able to devote time and energy to the needs of the project, gaining results and therefore become fundable much sooner.
For example, the projects often elect to have A W.I.S.H as their fiscal agent for a particular grant proposal; or have A W.I.S.H provide strategic advice in whatever stage of development they are in; or can network with other A W.I.S.H projects; and get instant credibility with donors and funders due to their affiliation with A W.I.S.H and its history of success, breadth and scope of work.
So, what have we accomplished? Some highlights:
A W.I.S.H Board of Director driven initiatives include:
People for Salmon – A statewide Washington State initiative that promoted and supported community based volunteer efforts for salmon habitat restoration. Partners included the Washington State Legislature, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, local Conservation Districts, Associated General Contractors of Washington, Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups. A W.I.S.H had a few million dollars from the legislature and federal grants to provide training and technical assistance and pay for local volunteer coordinators, amongst other similar activities. Key A W.I.S.H participants were board members Michael Karp and Chuck Eberdt.
REACH I – An A W.I.S.H led initiative that was a partnership with the State of Washington Department of Commerce and the Washington State Community Action Partnership. These two separate federally funded three year cycles allowed us to successfully advocate for and design a rate based electricity and gas energy subsidy program for low-income households in Puget Sound Energy’s service area in eleven Counties. Funding currently is at 15 million dollars a year. The cumulative amount that we have generated to date is over 100 million dollars of benefit to those in poverty in the state. A W.I.S.H lead was Michael Karp.
REACH II – This was the second competitive three year round of funding, each for a million dollars, that allowed us to advocate for and be successful in establishing a model for community based wind power that benefited low-income households. The big success story that came out of this initiative is Coastal Community Action Agency’s 13 million dollar wind turbines. The four 1.5 megawatt turbines may generate as much as a million dollars a year of value for the agency and subsidize their mission of poverty remediation and provide direct energy assistance to their clients from this project, over the next @ 25 year life of the turbines. A W.I.S.H lead was Michael Karp.
IASBO – The acronym for the International Association of Sustainability Businesses and Organizations, founded and implemented by A W.I.S.H circa 1997, was a very successful networking initiative. IASBO met twice a year throughout the Pacific Northwest area of the United States and Western Canada to bring together leaders in sustainability from the private and public sectors, Non-Governmental Organizations, and University representatives, in a retreat setting to share information and build relationships. There was spectacular success that grew out of these relationships and networking including a path that led to the Office of Sustainability in the Governor’s Office in Washington State; A farm to restaurant initiative in Oregon; Washington State’s first Governor’s hosted Sustainability Leadership Summit; and many other successes. Led by A W.I.S.H board member Michael Karp.
California Public Utilities Commission – A W.I.S.H was a formal intervenor in CPUC proceedings regarding low-income home energy efficiency programs and solar hot water policies and programs. A W.I.S.H was awarded with substantial intervenor funding, through the CPUC, for the value added to the proceedings by its expertise. Many of these outcomes were precedent setting nationally in scope and scale. Michael Karp and Chuck Eberdt served as energy experts and Susan Brown, a colleague from Northern California, partnered as our attorney.
Solar Hot Water Training – A W.I.S.H partnered with the Building Performance Center of the Opportunity Council for a Washington statewide demonstration of solar hot water installations for the low-income weatherization network. The goal was to improve capacity for some of the leading agencies in the weatherization network and to test the effectiveness of the measure as an allowable cost for future federal, state and utility funded programs. Michael Karp served as lead for the project.
Sustainable Community Homes – A Lopez Island, Washington initiative to demonstrate a model for affordable housing. A W.I.S.H partnered with the Lopez Community Land Trust (LCLT) and served as a catalyst for the concept, and was involved with the early design and community charrette for the project, including helping to interview and choose the project architect. A W.I.S.H was able to erect a wind metering tower on the site to gather important information as to the feasibility of wind as part of the zero net energy planning for the project. LCLT went on to win numerous national awards for this 11 unit straw baled solar design, which included an LCLT office and two single room occupancy rental units. Michael Karp was the A W.I.S.H leader on this initiative.
Bamboo Construction in Vergiate, Italy – At the invitation and in collaboration with Italy based Emissionizero, A W.I.S.H provided the lead bamboo construction supervision via Leimana Pelton from the A W.I.S.H partner Bamboo Village Hawaii to re-construct a large community center using bamboo construction design and best practices for the initial three week training and construction workshop for international participants. Vergiate is part of the Parks area north of Milan. A W.I.S.H also provided the key sustainability lecture to the community. View photos.
International Affordable Housing – A W.I.S.H was the initial formal partner in trying to assist the World Green Building Council and Mexican Green Building Council with sustainability based affordable housing strategies and models. As a Strategic Partner, A W.I.S.H hosted the WGBC Executive Committee in Washington State, and attended strategic meetings and conferences in Monterrey, Mexico and Chicago, Illinois. Key A W.I.S.H representatives were Chris Allen, Jorge Kanahuati, and Michael Karp.
Mexico Sustainability Tour – Led by A W.I.S.H Ex-Officio board member Jorge Kanahuati, in collaboration with A W.I.S.H board member Chris Allen. A dozen Pacific Northwest USA sustainability representatives toured best practices in and around Mexico City and Vera Cruz.
New World Media – A collaboration between A W.I.S.H and Canadian activist and journalist Rex Weyler and Canadian film maker Leigh Badgley. The goal of this initiative is to create a new media platform that integrates the full spectrum of new media to report the news that goes unreported by the mainstream media and to make public interest film without the filters of the sponsors. A W.I.S.H is represented in this initiative by board members Michael Karp and Lorraine McGregor.
A W.I.S.H also serves or has served as an incubator or fiscal agent for an eclectic array of projects past and present which include or have included:
Peoples Waterfront Coalition, Seattle, Washington, USA is a pedestrian friendly alternative to the Viaduct that parallels Seattle’s waterfront and prone to earthquake damage. The PWC vision is a legacy of public access carbon friendly waterfront parks and reduced automobile traffic. PWC has had a most influential impact on the direction of new alternatives and opportunities and solutions to the troubled Viaduct.
Palang Thai, collaborated with A W.I.S.H to create an energy exchange of regulators, elected officials, media, advocates between Thailand and Oregon and Washington States, USA. Palang Thai has been a very successful Bangkok based energy policy advocacy group impacting utility and regulatory direction, as well as being a grassroots trainer and installer of de-centralized renewable energy installations in rural Thailand.
Anansi Educational NGO, Ghana provides support for high school students for tuition and room and board whom otherwise would not get that education.
Sustainable Connections (this initially was a small Bellingham, Washington Eco-Guild who’s next generation staff and board re-invented it and is now considered the “poster child” for local living economies in the United States) is a membership organization of now over 600 businesses in Whatcom County that are committed to “buying locally” and pursuing sustainability practices.
Northwest SEED (a grassroots regional renewable energy advocacy and resource organization in the Pacific Northwest United States). A W.I.S.H served as the incubator fiscal agent for this organization that has been successful on a number of different fronts in this geographic area.
Ba Futuru, East Timor is a non-profit development organization established in Timor-Leste in 2004. The vision of Ba Futuru is to transform mistrust and violence into peace and self-directed growth by supporting the people of Timor-Leste to engage in creating a positive future for themselves, their families and their communities. This vision is reflected in the name “Ba Futuru,” which in Tetun means “For the Future.” Ba Futuru’s activities are founded on the principles of mutual learning, capacity development, artistic self-expression and human rights based programming.
Community Energy Challenge, Bellingham, Washington, USA , is a partnership of Bellingham-based nonprofits Opportunity Council and Sustainable Connections that aims to reduce the amount of electricity and natural gas used by Whatcom County households and small businesses by making energy-efficiency efforts easier from beginning to end, and affordable. It was launched in the spring of 2010 with $4 million, the majority of it from federal Recovery Act funding. A W.I.S.H was the original convenor of these partners and facilitated the early strategic planning and concept development. Other partners involved in the initiative are the local Cities and County governments; energy utilities; lending institutions; Community College, and others.
ReUse Works, Bellingham, Washington State, USA operates a training business under the name of Appliance Depot.The business provides worker training and jobs by collecting, recycling, repairing, and selling used appliances and parts. The project partners with local social service agencies and educational institutions to provide work experience for needy clients in a program that is self-sustaining from sales & service revenues. Worker trainees, most of whom do not have recent work histories, are supervised by a job coach and receive a job reference at the end of their placement at the training business.
Pictures Without Borders, Lopez Island, Washington State, uses documentary photography to bear witness and connect across borders. The project’s primary goal is to promote peace and mutual understanding. The project’s initial focus and successes have been in Bosnia. Steve Horn, a photographer, traveled to what was then Yugoslavia forty years ago and took numerous pictures. He returned in 2003 to take pictures of some of the same locations (where they still existed) and meet people who were in the original pictures but were now much older. In many cases these pictures are the only records for those people of buildings and relatives as they were. Steve has gone on to publish a related book and does speaking/slide show tours around the United States and Eastern Europe.
Samples of A W.I.S.H international speaking engagements by Michael Karp, A W.I.S.H President/CEO include:
Rome, Italy – Presentation at the Plenary Session on Sustainability Partnerships at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This was a follow-up conference to the Johannesburg, South Africa United Nations hosted Sustainability gathering.
Vergiate, Italy – Community Guest lecturer for the three week bamboo construction course.
The Crags, South Africa – Guest speaker at a gathering hosted by Jenny Lawrence, A W.I.S.H board member.
Kefalonia, Greece – Co-host and panelist at the A W.I.S.H Hellas sustainability conference . . . a partnership between A W.I.S.H Hellas and A W.I.S.H International.
A Sample of A W.I.S.H affiliate organizations worldwide whose work can be found on our web-site include:
- A W.I.S.H Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone, West Africa
- A W.I.S.H Hellas, Greece
- A W.I.S.H, Liberia, West Africa