• Ben Finzel

The Common Sense Colloquy Year Four in Review – My Favorite Comments from our Participants

The Common Sense Colloquy requires a good deal of effort, but the opportunity to share the insight and perspective of the smart people we work and collaborate with is worth it. In this, the third post in our Year Four in Review series, we share my favorite comments from our twelve participants over the past year.


In addition to being smart and insightful, the comments below share a few things in common: they address the value of authenticity, the importance of equity and the significance of, well, common sense. As it is every year, it was hard to choose a “favorite” comment out of all of the terrific content our participants shared with us, so I encourage you to go back and read the Q&As in their entirety (you can click on the name of the participant to be taken back to their full Q&A).


And whether your read one or all of them again, I hope you’ll find the wit and wisdom of these leaders to be as inspiring to you as it is to me.


  • Annise Parker, LGBTQ Victory Fund: Don’t ignore attacks or the spread of negative information, but be strategic in how you respond.

  • Hugh Welsh, DSM North America: We live in an age of virtue signaling and greenwashing. Companies need to be authentic, sincere and factual in their communications concerning climate matters, sustainability and social issues. It cannot be just rhetoric; it also needs to be about remuneration and reporting.

  • Judi Greenwald, Nuclear Innovation Alliance: I like campaigns that appeal to what’s best in us, including our sense of humor, our intelligence, and our desire to be part of the solution. So much incoming communication I see is designed to make me angry, which I admit can inspire action, but I don’t really want to add more anger to the world; I want to go straight to inspiration.

  • Stacey Stevenson, Family Equality: Leaders in companies and organizations must shout their support from the rooftops and follow up with action in their community, in their workplaces, and in their field. And when I say “action,” I mean real action, not performative action, not action taken only because it’s Pride month. The first step is to look inward: We need vocal, explicit support at the executive level and corporate initiatives that elevate LGBTQ+ employees. This includes inclusive policies, diversity training, diversity metrics, and more. If companies are going to lend their support to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month, they must demonstrate their commitment to LGBTQ+ employees all year.

  • Torey Carter-Conneen, American Society of Landscape Architects: For most of my career, I've lived intersectionality -- presenting myself to the world as both a Black man and a gay man. It's often been a challenge in some workplaces. But nonetheless, I've succeeded in large part because I've brought my whole self to work, not despite it. And I will forever be grateful to the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute for opening my eyes more than a decade ago to what a safe, and inclusive workplace could look like.

  • Armond Cohen, Clean Air Task Force: My personal experience is that the more the climate solutions discussion can appeal to common sense, the more likely you will have a constructive conversation. One approach I have found useful is to cut through all the modeling studies and just engage people in the question of whether, in their personal or financial life, they would prefer only one option or several, to achieve their life goals – using an analogy like college applications, or managing your stock portfolio, or getting bids on a house renovation. That gets across the point that single-pathway bets tend to be unnecessarily risky, so it may be best to diversify and combine multiple options where possible. The analogy to energy and climate is obvious – are you willing to bet the planet that wind and solar will solve all of our problems? You might be right, but you might not be – and it may be too late when we do find out.

  • Sheila Hollis, USEA: The world is moving to decarbonize the energy sector by 2050, and it takes all of us – every corner of the energy industry – to help meet that goal, juxtaposed with the harsh reality that thirty percent of the world’s population does not have any energy supply. Energy demand is expected to double by 2050, as millions and millions are lifted out of poverty and seek to gain access to energy. So, the challenges ahead of us are daunting, and it will take all hands on deck to meet these challenges. But it can be done, and, quite frankly, it must be done.

  • Arvind Manocha, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts: We are drawn at a very primordial level to shared experiences. We are social animals. We have been gathering to hear the human voice in song, or to watch dance or look at cave paintings for thousands of years. And, in a similar vein, we are also hardwired to respond to the natural world. Feeling the breeze on our skin; watching the waves of the ocean; looking out over the expanse of a forest. We have a deep rooted desire to be outside. Outdoor concerts are popular all over the world for this very reason; this marriage between the communal artistic experience coupled with the immersive nature of the natural setting. What’s unique in my mind about the setting at Wolf Trap is that we’re not just in a park; we’re in a National Park, and it’s not just music in a National Park, it’s the National Park for the Performing Arts. National Parks are created and protected because they are recognized as part of the fabric of our shared culture. They have meaning and status to help teach Americans about who we are. At Wolf Trap, artistry and the act of creativity are celebrated as part of what makes Americans American, and that’s a wonderful notion to pass on to all who visit.

  • Richard Kiy, Institute of the Americas: In the end, I think it all boils down to the authenticity of one’s brand or cause; the overall value proposition of your product, service or idea; and a deep understanding of the human emotions, motivations and psychology that is going to compel your target audience to act. Yet, for all of these elements to come together into alignment, great story telling is also essential. That, in my opinion, is the value of effective communications.

  • Candace Hamana, IPPRA: Surprisingly, a lot of businesses aren’t aware or don’t understand that tribes have tribal sovereignty, which at its very basic premise means each tribal nation has their own system of self-governance, their own tribal laws and ordinances, and they operate very much like independent state and federal governments. One of the many challenges Indigenous practitioners face are being able to integrate awareness and knowledge around tribal ordinances into stakeholder communications and campaigns. These laws in addition to the cultural complexities around each sovereign nation require temperance, reverence, and patience in their approach. The ability to build trust and develop authentic relationships with meaningful dialogue can’t be emphasized enough. IPPRA is going to provide a community where practitioners can share resources, case studies, training, webinars and career opportunities.

  • Bob Keefe, E2: But this must be about more than just numbers. We need to make sure the policies that we work also are designed to advance equity and diversity. That’s why our team reviews every policy we choose to support to make sure they explicitly address equity and diversity; and if they don’t we push to make sure they do. After all, we can’t change the world and we can’t save the planet if people of color aren’t part of the solution - and if they don’t equally experience the benefits of clean energy and climate action.

  • Jessica Lovering, Good Energy Collective: The nuclear industry (and nuclear energy more broadly) has a bad reputation, much of which is justified! When people, especially progressives, hear “nuclear,” they think of weapons, contamination, and mining on Indigenous lands. We’re working to get the industry to really grapple with those problems, rather than dismiss them as historical issues not relevant to today’s nuclear. We’re also focused on expanding who benefits from future nuclear projects and empowering communities to make their own choices about their energy future; these concepts seem to resonate with folks who maybe wouldn’t have supported nuclear before.

I’m so very thankful to Annise, Hugh, Judi, Stacey, Torey, Armond, Sheila, Arvind, Richard, Candace, Bob and Jessica for making the fourth year of the Common Sense Colloquy not just a success, but a strong set of answers to the question of how best to persevere and succeed in challenging times.


Later this month, we’ll start the fifth year of The Common Sense Colloquy with Erin Burns, the executive director of Carbon180. As always, thanks for reading these posts and sharing your thoughts on our social media channels and in emails and calls. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and like us Facebook and Instagram.





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