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This is a guest blog from Nicole Sturzenberger, the Fundraising Director at Work on Climate, a nonprofit building the workforce humanity needs to solve climate change equitably and justly. She has led development efforts within national and global nonprofits, the University of California, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. After focusing the majority of her career on food systems and food waste, she made a slight pivot in 2021 to center on climate solutions in general, understanding that diversification is the best strategy for addressing our climate crisis. Nicole believes in the power of collective action and the relationships we build to create systemic change. She loves spending time outside with her sons, skiing, climbing, surfing, and gardening.
Rooted to the Earth
Growing up in rural Maine, I spent much of my childhood exploring the outdoors with my family — scrambling on rocks and exploring tidal pools on the coast, skiing, hiking, and swimming in the mountains. Being outside with friends and family was an integral part of how I grew up. These experiences instilled in me a true love for our Earth and the people on it, which is why I chose to focus my work on sustainability and climate solutions.
My passion for philanthropy was greatly influenced by my parents, both of whom worked in hospitals mainly helping underserved communities. They were my role models in turning to nonprofit work. I remember a specific moment when I was 12 years old and did “take your daughter to work day” with my dad, who was a physician at a hospital for military veterans. I was in awe of how he went above and beyond to help people. While I didn’t follow his path into medicine, I chose the nonprofit path, which is in line with the type of work that he did to help people and causes that don’t normally get prioritized.
I have focused the majority of my career on sustainable food systems and in recent years the power of food waste as a climate solution. While researching, I discovered the book Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken, which identifies 93 technologies and practices that dramatically reduce concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Instead of getting depressed, I became inspired and excited for what humans could do with technology. I felt I had to pivot my career to focus on climate solutions in general. With the power of technology and community, we can come together to make a difference and solve the most pressing problem of our time.
Hope for the Future
This is why I still feel hope even after the release of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I see transitioning the global workforce into climate-related careers as the most impactful method to deploying a myriad of solutions to drastically cut greenhouse gasses.
Work on Climate, where I am the Director of Fundraising, is a nonprofit organization building the workforce needed to solve climate change equitably and justly. Our vision is one where climate work is no longer siloed among enthusiasts but becomes mainstream, with the entire global talent pipeline (schools, job boards, conferences etc.) giving hundreds of millions of workers the skills and direction to participate in building the new green economy. As a member of this network, I am part of a movement of professionals creating a talent ecosystem poised to address the urgent need for climate solutions, and this brings me hope.
Our mission began when our co-founders, Eugene and Cass, left their dream jobs at Google to pursue work that aligned with their values and concerns about the climate crisis. To guide their journey, they built a Slack community of similarly minded climate jobseekers and founders. After Eugene’s farewell message went viral, the community exploded. Clearly their experience resonated with others and suddenly, they were talking to hundreds of people saying, “I want to work on climate, but I don’t know where to start, or if I’m even needed.”
Building a Community to Address the Climate Crisis
We are now 20,000+ members strong, with people from all walks of life: from students to executives and artists to chemical engineers, spread all over the globe. Member experience is curated based on jobs, roles, topics, and geographies so users find the right information for their climate job needs. We also coordinate community events and mentorship programs, ensuring we are effective in helping members find climate work. We estimate that we have aided over 2,000 people find climate jobs and employees, start climate companies, meet mentors, investors, LPs, advisors, customers, and more. We have also helped countless others feel positively connected to peers experiencing similar climate anxiety.
However, helping a few thousand people will not deploy solutions at the scale we need. We need to make the entire talent ecosystem climate-ready, and our research shows that the current system is ill-equipped to prepare individuals for climate work at the necessary scale. We need a movement to make this happen.
The Work on Climate community represents the foundation of our movement. Through these relationships, we are building partnerships with organizations best fit to make large changes across industries: schools, job boards, government bodies, conferences, industry associations, and so on. These initial partnerships will create blueprints for ways in which other organizations can support the climate workforce. Our efforts also aim to eliminate silos by making the transition top of mind to both climate and mainstream workforce organizations.
And we have been successful!
- With the help of our community members in our #topic-ai community, we partnered with Predictive Analytics World (PAW), a major machine learning conference, to run PAW Climate — a conference on the commercial applications of machine learning for climate solutions, thus bringing climate solutions to the attention of the mainstream machine learning workforce.
- With the help of our #role-student community, we are bringing a series of seminars with climate founders explaining their business models to UPenn business school students in partnership with Penn Climate Ventures.
- We completed a research project to understand the barriers for active climate jobseekers and are now conducting the next project, focused on understanding the barriers stopping the general population from becoming climate jobseekers, in partnership with Terra.do and PureSpectrum.
Work on Climate’s impact is not just measured by the number of individuals we have helped find climate work, but in the millions of people who will need to transition into climate-related careers to solve the climate crisis. By building a movement in the talent ecosystem, we aim to enlist the help of organizations that have the ability to reach more people. With this collective action, we can bring hundreds of millions of people into careers focused on inventing and deploying climate solutions in every industry.
I am inspired by the boundless potential of human ingenuity and the belief that we can solve the most pressing problems of our time. We are looking to make an impact that will help ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. If you share the passion for climate solutions and want to join Work on Climate in building a climate-ready talent ecosystem, we invite you to learn more about our work and to get involved. Together, we can make a difference.