RMI Alumni Help Spread the Vision

RMI turned 30 years old last month. In that time, the Institute has enjoyed the talents of countless employees and interns. I mean that literally—we can’t count them all because we can’t find them all. In the early days, there was a fine line between volunteer and employee. Our second longest-serving employee (after Amory Lovins), Michael Kinsley, began as a volunteer in July 1983 and as a full-fledged RMIte in May 1985. Since we don’t have a completely accurate count of our spider web of alumni, let’s just say it’s in the many hundreds, at least.

At RMI we always try to think of creative ways to measure our impact in the world. One way to do that is to look to these alumni and see what they have done since leaving us. These people have RMI’s approach to design and problem solving in their professional arsenal when they move on to a new employer or start an enterprise. You could say that they are taking RMI with them when they go.

We took advantage of our 30th anniversary to get back in touch with our old friends. A generous RMI supporter helped us send a copy of Reinventing Fire to as many alums as we could find. We received a great response. It turns out that people like it when you call them up to say, “Hi, remember us? We have been thinking about you.”

And since we were in touch with these bright, successful individuals, it seemed appropriate to ask them a few questions about what they have been up to since they left. This would give us one more way of measuring our impact.

The results were heart-warming. Of the 150 alums who answered our questions:

  • 73 percent have worked in energy efficiency since they left RMI.
  • 49 percent have worked in renewable energy.
  • 64 percent have worked for for-profit companies.
  • 49 percent have worked for non-profit organizations.
  • They are geographically scattered, though somewhat clustered in Colorado, California, and Washington D.C.

The most interesting statistic is that:

  • 95 percent continue to work toward RMI’s mission professionally or personally.

If we extrapolate those results to the hundreds of alums out there, we can be confident that many hundreds of people with education and training in RMI’s methods and approach are working toward our mission. That is a significant impact.

The best part of this project has been getting in touch with the many RMI alums who are doing powerful and important work all over the world and in many different industries. Danny Kermode, for example, was RMI’s comptroller in the mid-1990s and is now a senior policy advisor at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. Drew Sloan, formerly an intern in Amory Lovins’ office, is now a client solutions executive at Opower and the author of Let There Be Light: Electrifying the Developing World With Markets and Distributed Energy. Alice Laird was in RMI’s Sustainable Communities Practice from 1990-96 and went on to establish the non-profit, CLEER, Clean Energy Economy for the Region, in Colorado.

We want to honor the work of our former employees and current friends and so we will periodically feature interviews with individuals such as these on this blog. They have a lot of great stories to tell.

Are you an RMI alumni: We want your great stories! E-mail Betsy