Today we say, “Until next time,” to Lillie Benowitz and Greg Bohrer as they move into new roles. Their impact on each of us, our organization, and business, community, government and non-profit collaborators leaves a powerful mark on the programs and projects under their leadership. We asked them to share their next steps, reflections, and advice to us.
Lillie is taking her experience with convening and engagement at Environmental Initiative and pairing that with her commitment to and involvement in faith communities to The On Being Project as their Pastoral Engagement Associate. A move to Bentonville, AR, leads Greg to his new role as Director of Natural Capital with the Walmart Foundation. Greg will be a member of the team seeking solutions to uphold Walmart’s significant commitments to sustainability by bridging gaps in natural systems around the globe which are the first source of material in every supply chain.
Greg and Lillie have welcomed four coworkers during the pandemic and acknowledge that the little moments in an office at the beginning of a meeting, grabbing a conversation over coffee, and bouncing ideas off a colleague don’t happen organically in a virtual world. Moments like those are recognized as a significant input when developing working relationships. Being the newcomer during a pandemic will challenge both to explore new ways to create trust with coworkers.
Reflecting back on her time and positive impact on Environmental Initiative, Lillie is proud that the Awards program is now highly focused on building relationships and more closely aligns with our values of equity and impact. She enjoyed creating interesting content for the Policy Forum Series and leading the transition to holding 2020 events online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lillie facilitated many internal learning sessions which encouraged colleagues to openly explore the questions related to equity, power and justice. Greg’s work in the agriculture program has established a significant foundation of trust and a reputation of collaboration between disparate groups. His creativity and vision led to the connection between the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative and Environmental Initiative. That connection expanded our work beyond political borders to instead focus on regional impacts in agricultural systems.
Looking ahead for Environmental Initiative, Greg hopes to see a sophistication in and experience of welcoming leaders from most-impacted communities to the table where outcomes are decided while acknowledging the power structures needed to deliver the outcomes. Further, he encourages all of us to remember that convening and partnership are not the goal, they are a means to an end. Working together to define the goal and using convening and partnership as tools working into achieving the goal is a more sustainable choice for relationships and outcomes. Looking ahead five years, Lillie would like Environmental Initiative to be in deep relationship with and center the expertise of those who have been historically left out of environmental work and build solutions to overcoming the barriers faced in achieving environmental equity and social justice.
With gratitude to Lillie and Greg for their unique talents and creative spirits.