The work of Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) remains crucial to increasing energy efficiency in multifamily affordable housing. The structure moving forward must be anchored in EEFA’s mission while amplifying the voices and leadership of state and local partners. EEFA partners described a vision for aspects of the future of the initiative, including pivotal values, what they need to accomplish this vision, and a description of a strong funding partner. The described vision for the future - community-driven solutions, communication, trust, removing energy burden from affordable housing, a broader connection to advocacy, and data showing progress in BIPOC communities - is different from EEFA as it is currently constituted. Many EEFA partners are primed to make this shift during the Reset, Restart, and Reimagine (RRR) process.
Background and Impetus for Reset
The EEFA initiative is composed of partner organizations in 12 states and 4 national partner organizations. Partners include organizations focused on utility policy, energy efficiency, housing, coalition building, and environmental and housing justice. Since the 2013 launch, EEFA has increased available funding from utility companies and state energy offices by $769 million to provide funding to retrofit housing and contribute to making it more comfortable, healthy, efficient, and affordable for hundreds of thousands of people.
However, prior structural reviews, and partner input provided between November 2020 and February 2021 reveal that issues persist across the initiative related to power imbalances, coalition management, and lack of transparency. Even though EEFA has been evolving to address some of these issues, the revelation in September 2020 that a Black-led organization was mistreated and harmed by the way EEFA was operating drove The JPB Foundation (JPB), as primary funder of EEFA, to press pause and engage all partners in a process beginning in October 2020 to reimagine EEFA.
JPB hired Keecha Harris and Associates, Inc. (KHA) to shepherd the RRR process. KHA’s facilitation role is anchored in a set of experiential and strategic objectives. Experiential objectives are those intended to engage participants in direct experience and focused reflection to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop participant capacity to contribute to their communities – what should result from a person’s full participation. Strategic objectives are those operational shifts intended to improve the initiative’s abilities to reach its end goal of ensuring that existing multifamily affordable housing receives its fair share of utility dollars to implement energy efficiency retrofits.
Listening sessions were held to provide space for key stakeholders to define what is and is not working well in EEFA’s governance structure; to assess how racial equity was operationalized in EEFA; and to identify EEFA assets that can contribute to solving long-standing problems, including power dynamics. Twelve sessions were held over the course of two weeks.
Interviews were held to hear each EEFA partner’s perspective on the initiative’s governance, racial dynamics, and potential ways forward. After a set of opening questions, interviewees were asked about EEFA governance and structure, racial equity in the initiative, and a vision for the future of this body of work. Thirty-six interviews were conducted in December 2020 and January 2021.
Individual EEFA participants were surveyed to 1) obtain individual feedback about how racial equity is operationalized; 2) glean insight into whether the initiative behaves as a coalition; and 3) gain further input on individual visions for EEFA’s future. The survey was available for response from January 5, 2021, to January 29, 2021. Fifty-one people responded to the survey.