Blog: Our Common Purpose

Our Common Purpose

By: Dana Harmon, Executive Director

The holiday season brings about many different emotions. For some it is a time of thankfulness, family and celebration. For others this season brings about heartache and struggle. My hope is that those of you reading these words will take some moments to pause, show gratitude for the many blessings in life, and show some kindness and compassion for those less fortunate. And I believe you will because your partnership, membership or friendship with TEPRI indicates to me that you care about the world and people around you. The mission of helping those less fortunate is in the fabric of TEPRI. Our collective work is focused on informing and inspiring energy solutions for low-income communities. But our vision is to make an impact on the individuals in those communities. And we know this vision requires our collective efforts – none of us can achieve the goal alone. Through a common purpose, groups are inspired to come together and work collaboratively. And I believe helping people is our common purpose.

One lesson from the past two years I’ve served as TEPRI’s ED is that of the importance of community and connected networks. Through my work at TEPRI, I’ve been fortunate to be introduced to folks doing amazing work across the state and throughout the country in areas directly and indirectly connected to energy. Our focus is energy solutions for low-income communities but ultimately, like you, we care about the people we are impacting. This is a common ground that we’ve found with many partners and other organizations. It has become clear to me that part of my job at TEPRI is to bring together groups of people, to find commonalities and work together on what overlaps for a more wholistic impact.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Together at the Table Hunger and Poverty Summit in Waco, TX. This convening, hosted by the Texas Hunger Initiative brings together 400-500 people from across the country and from different sectors to discuss the latest developments in public policy, effective community organizing strategies, and cutting-edge research in anti-hunger efforts. Why is an energy poverty organization focusing on hunger?, you may ask. The answer is that I believe there are important similarities in our efforts. My talk, Addressing Energy Poverty in Texas, was met with thoughtful questions, lively discussion, and excitement about finding ways to work together. This group of representatives from food banks, faith-based organizations, and community and workforce developers, may not have had the latest knowledge on DER technologies or the recent LIHEAP allocation, but they knew what it meant to help people in their communities who were struggling, and they knew energy had an important role to play.

This experience was similar to the one I had in conversations with housing providers leading up to the Empowering Texas Communities conference earlier this year. We weren’t sure exactly where all of the opportunities were, but we knew one thing for certain – we could help more people if we work working together, rather than in silos. Along the same lines, I recently had the pleasure of sitting with the CEO of United Way of Austin, a premier poverty fighting organization, who informed me that consistently one of the top 2 reasons for calls to their call center, year over year, is for assistance with utility bills. It was immediately clear that by working together we could improve the lives of more people.

By acting as a connector, bringing the right change agents together and encouraging robust dialogue about opportunities, challenges, and solutions, we believe that we can not only fight energy poverty, but fight the root causes of poverty in Texas.

We thank you for your support of this effort and look forward to making meaningful progress together with you in 2019!