One by one, Virginia Organizing connects people to solar

By Sam Polino on May 4, 2016

We previously looked at how Virginia Organizing, a multi-issue organizing group, was able to put solar where its mouth is with the addition of solar to its office. The organization has also been instrumental in connecting individuals to solar co-ops and by engaging in face-to face community organizing.

“Virginia Organizing’s work is valuable in helping engage people with solar,” said Aaron Sutch, VA SUN Program Director. “We have found the best way to engage people is by meeting them where they are. Virginia Organizing does that.”

Virginia Organizing has spent decades working on a variety of projects in Virginia. The group has about a dozen organizers across the state. Their goal is to interact with community members on a one to one basis to learn from community members the issues that impact their quality of life and then empower communities to act. Virginia Organizing is able to build personal connections and support local action through these connections.

These peer-to-peer relationships have been valuable in the group’s work to drive interest in solar. The organization’s South Hampton Roads Chapter used personal relationships to find community members who were interested in solar and help organize and turn out attendees to a co-op information session.

“When people hear about solar on the news or from advertisement a lot of them feel that it is out of their reach,” said Amanda Pohl, Virginia Organizing’s Communications Coordinator. “Getting people connected to the co-op is a way to show the people who thought they couldn’t do it -that they can.”

The group has built a network with the faith community in the Hampton Roads area. It is comprised of people who care about the community, environmental, and social justice. Having this network in place made it easier to recruit members for the co-op when the opportunity presented itself. Virginia Organizing’s network of volunteers reached out to people in the community about the co-op.

“We talk about big systems change,” Pohl said. “But this is something you an do personally.”

Virginia Organizing plans on branching out from its work with the solar co-op. It is committed to working with low-income families to help them make their homes more energy efficient. Energy costs are a critical concern for these families. The group is also working with VA SUN to develop a project model that will help these families afford solar.