Authors: Uduak Ntuk, Green For All Fellow, Class 4 I felt a sense of anxiety and excitement leading up to our first official meeting after coordinating with dozens of groups for the past two months to make the evening happen. The Engagement Meeting was my opportunity to bring together the key stakeholders of a multi-ethnic environmental coalition based in Bakersfield in order to work towards making positive environmental change. My goal was to reach across sectors, think in an interdisciplinary way and advocate for local municipal policies that will advance an inclusive green economy. As a Green for All Fellow, my role was to introduce the organization's work and provide structure for the group. There were three focal areas I prioritized: connecting existing members of the environmental community, educating each of our constituents, and advocating for policy changes from our local government officials in Bakersfield to create good local jobs.
We met at the California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) in the Dezember Leadership Center. Approximately 15 people attended the meeting, including members of the CSUB Student Government, Sierra Club, Bakersfield City Council, a Small Business Owner, a Congressional Intern, a State Senator Field Representative, a Bakersfield City School District Board Member, a Dolores Huerta Foundation representative and Bakersfield College students. After introductions, I shared a presentation on the environmental challenges facing the Bakersfield area, and held breakout sessions to flesh out ideas for solutions and allow the group to get to know each other better. The meeting produced not only an energized coalition of like-minded Bakersfield residents but also laid the groundwork for our continued work together, including a listing of projects going on in the community, areas of focus for the coalition, and increased commitment levels of attendees to participate in the future. Building this coalition allowed me to reach the key groups I have been targeting through my term of service, collect actionable information, and establish credibility with key community stakeholders.
I felt a great sense of relief as the evening ended. You never know how an initial meeting of a very diverse set of organizations is going to go, especially when the participants hardly know each other. The meeting generated a new list of events and items to plan for as our next steps. There was interest in setting up a "Green Drinks" Networking Event to bring in more people, an invitation to the CSUB Associated Students, Incorporated executive meeting to engage the student body as the get ready for their Green Week, and several interested volunteers for the upcoming Great American Cleanup & Green Expo. We all left with a very positive attitude and resolve that through working together we can find ways to build the coalition and select local public policy changes that will create real demand for local green jobs in Kern County.