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Clean Grid Alliance provides technical and engineering expertise to enhance grid transmission of clean energy. Photo taken pre-pandemic. Photo Credit: Dennis Schwartz
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McKnight Advances Climate Leadership in the Midwest

Within the United States, the Midwest is one of the largest emitters of carbon pollution. To reduce carbon pollution at scale at the speed necessary, we must act collectively. For that reason, the McKnight Foundation supports bold action on the climate crisis, recognizing that economy-wide decarbonization requires transforming our energy system. It also calls for maintaining a healthy democracy and achieving racial and economic justice for our communities.

“This is a transformational moment at a pivotal time in human history,” said McKnight board chair Noa Staryk. “We are proud of our grantees, who are leading powerful work to advance ambitious climate goals.”

McKnight’s Midwest Climate & Energy (MC&E) program works to preserve and improve the quality of life in the Midwest through sustained investment in climate and energy leadership in this region. In its 4th-quarter 2020 grantmaking, McKnight awarded 84 grants totaling $6.5 million. Of that sum, $2.9 million went to grantee partners supported by the MC&E program.

“This is a transformational moment at a pivotal time in human history. We are proud of our grantees, who are leading powerful work to advance ambitious climate goals.”—NOA STARYK, McKNIGHT BOARD CHAIR

The partners featured below engage their communities in climate solutions, working to dramatically cut carbon pollution by 2030. The full list of approved grants is available in our grants database.

Clean Grid Alliance, established in 2001, works to overcome the barriers to bringing renewable energy to market in the Midwest. It received a $550,000 grant over 24 months to continue to position the Midwest as a carbon reduction and renewable energy leader. McKnight’s support will advance the Alliance’s expansion of the electric transmission grid to accelerate the adoption of wind, solar, and energy storage. This effort will help utilities in Minnesota and other states retire uneconomic coal plants, avoid new fossil gas development, and add wind, solar, and storage to their resource mix.

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy received $400,000 over 24 months. Climate Generation recently merged with iMatter to expand its support of youth climate action by including environmental, justice-centered local campaigns and Black, Indigenous, and people of color youth mentorship. It will also strengthen its existing Youth Environmental Activists Network. By supporting intersectional organizations that empower youth and communities of diverse races, classes, and urban and rural backgrounds, Climate Generation brings a nimble and strategic approach to achieving ambitious climate goals.

The Center for Rural Affairs emphasizes grassroots organizing—listening to communities’ concerns and needs and focusing outreach accordingly. Photo taken in 2019, pre-pandemic. Photo credit: Center for Rural Affairs

The Center for Rural Affairs, founded in 1973, is deeply rooted in rural communities and brings a hands-on, multi-issue approach to rural community empowerment. It received $300,000 over 24 months to build long-term community organizing capacity through multi-issue advocacy and engagement in rural Minnesota and Iowa.

Finally, the Iowa Environmental Council received $200,000 over 24 months. Iowa is a clean energy leader, with unique bipartisan support for wind energy. The council plays a key leadership and coordination role among clean energy advocates in Iowa, engaging across multiple venues in the pursuit of clean energy policy.

Welcoming a New Board Chair and Staff Members

We continue to celebrate the recent announcement that Tonya Allen will be McKnight’s next president, effective March 1, 2021. We are also thrilled that longtime board member Noa Staryk has been elected as our new board chair. She previously served as board chair from 1999 to 2004. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to Debby Landesman, board chair since 2018, who stepped off the board this year after nine years of dedicated service, in keeping with McKnight’s policy on term limits.

New McKnight Staff Members

From left to right: Sarah Christiansen, Jenna Dahlberg, Tony Lusiba, Amanda Williams

Earlier this month we welcomed several new staff members. Sarah Christiansen joined McKnight as MC&E program director. With a career that spans more than 30 years, Christiansen is a seasoned philanthropic leader dedicated to finding multiple pathways toward achieving an equitable and carbon-neutral economy. Previously, she served as program director for the Solidago Foundation and was a funder delegate for the Conference of the Parties, the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Tony Lusiba is our new information technology director. He specializes in advancing data security, building customized tools, and optimizing connectivity. Amanda Williams joined McKnight as human resources director. Williams brings extensive experience in change management, talent acquisition, and leadership coaching and is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory. Jenna Dahlberg is our new finance manager. A certified public accountant, she is skilled in financial accounting, compliance, and reporting.

Topic: Midwest Climate & Energy

January 2021