IDEAS at SunCommon
Beginning in August 2020, IDEAS Generation began a multi-year partnership with SunCommon, a solar energy organization based in Vermont. IG’s team included Dan Egol, Shilpa Alimchandani, Desi Carson, Brian Nwachukwu, Kelly Wyche, and Juan Osuna.
SunCommon is a mission-led benefit corporation (B Corp) that installs solar panels to expand access to sustainable energy in Vermont and New York.
A combination of COVID-induced layoffs and the racial reckoning in the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, SunCommon was prompted to expand upon the company’s gender inclusivity focused practices and launch into an organization wide initiative to address IDEAS-related considerations in its culture and processes. In addition to contending with issues of demographic diversity amongst staff, SunCommon found itself trying to navigate how best to build an inclusive and equitable culture amidst a changing work landscape (because of the pandemic) across two locations.
The IDEAS Generation team conducted an extensive IDEAS baseline assessment for SunCommon that included a review of institutional materials (for example, strategic plan, exit interviews, and learning and development plans) as well as interviews, focus groups, and surveys with SunCommon staff, customers, and partners. Concurrent with the assessment, IG facilitated a series of learning engagements to create the ‘container’ (or context for IDEAS work) through a series of interactive sessions designed to help learners practice being in group spaces while developing the skills and comfort needed to sustain this work. The development of a strategic plan followed the assessment process; IG supported SunCommon with a year of additional implementation support that included:
additional training on IDEAS-centered leadership practices and mitigating biases in performance management for leaders, launching a monthly lunch and learn series on various IDEAS topics; creating a bi-monthly ‘Ask Me Anything’ speaker series to build familiarity and community amongst SunCommon teams, designing a brand new mentorship program, and embedding IDEAS into the onboarding process. To address lingering concerns about the layoffs, IG worked with the leadership team to help managers and executives create a shared understanding of the decisions that led to the company’s downsizing and identified proactive measures for the future.
Approach & Solutions
As a result of this partnership, SunCommon has created a new role (Director of Sustainability and Values) who now spearheads the organization’s IDEAS efforts. During the course of our partnership, SunCommon was acquired by iSun, a publicly traded company with designs on being the leading provider of solar energy nationwide. While SunCommon admits it has a lot more to do in terms of IDEAS, the foundation it set in its partnership with IG has inspired iSun to consider its own IDEAS initiative.
“SunCommon chose IDEAS Generation to guide our organization as we deepen our commitment to social justice inside our organization and how we show up in the world beyond. While well-intentioned -- we lacked the training and experience to do this important work at the level it deserves. So we engaged the expertise of IG and have really benefited from their thoughtful and caring but forthright guidance for our executives, managers and employees. I enthusiastically recommend the good folks at IG for any organization yearning for betterment in the needed fields of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice”. -- Duane Peterson, SunCommon Co-Founder
*Please note that SunCommon uses DEIJ: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice as its organizational framing for this work. We have substituted our framework in the description of this case study for consistency.