Access & Equity: Learning from our Partners
The progress Vote Solar would like to see across the US cannot be achieved alone. For years we have effectively worked alongside advocates and concerned citizens alike towards increasing access to solar. We recognize the importance of sustained, equitable partnerships with organizations working at all levels of government with different approaches to the work. Working in collaboration with a diverse set of stakeholders as part of our campaign and regulatory work allows us to see new paths forward towards achieving a 100% clean energy future for all communities. Organizationally, we are better off because of the work we have done with other groups.
You can learn more about our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey here. Just as Vote Solar is reflecting and evaluating our progress in embodying the equity and inclusion values we promote we are looking critically at our engagement with partner organizations. We want to establish a sense of our current progress and find areas where we could be doing more to create meaningful relationships with our partners. To kick-off our evaluation process, the Access and Equity team developed a survey for distribution to our partners across the U.S. We wanted to hear what groups were working on this year, what policies they feel Vote Solar should be prioritizing, and lastly how well Vote Solar is doing in responding to their needs as partners.
The survey was circulated from the beginning of March until the first week of April. During this time, we carried out individual follow-ups over email and phone to get as many responses as possible. In the end we had a response rate of ~35%. This was a lower response rate than we were hoping for but understand that advocates are engaged in many important issues at a time and may have limited availability to respond to requests such as these. Thank you to all those that were able to respond. We appreciate your time greatly. Read on for a deep dive into the results of the survey.
Around 60% of responding organizations had a national scope and among respondents we had the most representation from groups that self-identified as advocacy, policy, community based, and environmental organizations.
As we move forward with our efforts to strengthen partnerships we are committed to creating additional opportunities for connection and feedback with community-based organizations that were underrepresented in the survey results.
Familiarity with Vote Solar
As part of the survey, we wanted to gauge how well our partners knew our our organization and our work. Respondents were asked to rate their familiarity with our work on a scale of zero to five with a value of 5 indicating they were ‘Very Familiar’. The cumulative average for this question was a 4.1.
Additionally, respondents were asked whether they were aware of Vote Solar’s commitment to equity and solar access after reading a short statement on our work. 95% of respondents said that they were indeed aware of our commitment!
The next section of the survey sought to capture a snapshot of the solar policies our partners were working on. We were also curious to see how increasing equity and access to solar for underserved communities intersected with the other work organizations were undertaking. Respondents were asked to place themselves along a scale of 0 to 5 with a value of 5 indicating that increasing equity and access to solar intersected fully with their organizational priorities. The average for this question was a 4.5. Another high average that indicates that there is some strong alignment on the relevance of solar in supporting long-terms organizational goals. For instance, in a follow-up question we heard that groups were interested in solar as a tool for reducing energy burden, ensuring climate and economic justice, and creating healthy resilient communities.
When asked to identify the solar policies and programs groups were working on there was a strong showing for programs and policies we as an organization are currently prioritizing indicating another area of alignment.
In this section we also included some questions around workshops and community education efforts organizations had hosted in the past. We are very interested in learning from other organizations what education efforts have taken place in the past around solar and topics of energy justice to inform our future workshops efforts.
Recommendations for Vote Solar
Respondents suggested that Vote Solar work on the following policy areas:
We were happy to see support for our work on community solar and ‘Solar for All’ programs. A few organizations that selected the ‘Other’ option and wrote in that they would like to see us devote more attention to bringing solar to multi-family buildings and affordable housing properties were of particular interest to a number of our partners. As our work develops we will be thinking about how to integrate these ideas into our policy work.
When asked how Vote Solar could be a better partner to their organizations, we received a range of answers but some common themes that arose were continuing to share best practices with continued communication and engagement which is something we are eager to delve into. Additionally we heard from partners that they would like for us to create more connections between groups we work with. As Vote Solar continues its engagement across the U.S. we will be make more of those connections and ensure that groups feel like we are leveraging our resources to support their work wherever possible.
Moving forward the Vote Solar regional teams will be reaching out to individual groups for follow up conversations. As noted above, we will also continue working to find additional ways for groups to provide input and feedback on our work, with a particular focus on creating opportunities for connection and feedback with community-based organizations. These conversations will give us a wider range of perspectives and will inform our annual planning process. Thank you again to all who responded and be on the lookout for more opportunities to inform our work.
Interested in connecting with our Access & Equity Program at Vote Solar? Contact Us