As we prepare to celebrate NWEI’s 20th Anniversary and launch our new website and EcoForum, NWEI’s Executive Director, Mike Mercer, offers the following reflections on 20 years of shared story and shared action. Here’s a visual of how one aspect of NWEI, our logo, has changed over the years:
Its hard to believe NWEI is standing at this great threshold: 20 years of change for good. 20 years of shared story, shared reflection and shared action. 20 years of discovering change, together. Since Dick and Jeanne Roy founded NWEI with a $45,000 start up grant and 13 volunteers in 1993, we’ve come a long way. NWEI’s first discussion course, Exploring Deep Ecology (now Reconnecting With Earth), took off throughout Portland businesses, setting the stage for two foundational courses to follow: Discovering A Sense of Place and Voluntary Simplicity. In 1997 the organization had grown so much that NWEI launched the National Earth Institute Network, with NWEI’s first partner organization forming in Wichita, Kansas and NWEI hiring its first National Outreach Coordinator. Today, we work with nearly 30 organizational partners, two of them based in Canada. In 1998 Choices for Sustainable Living was published, now in its sixth edition! Fast forward to the year 2000: we hosted one of our first ‘regional trainings’ to support 105 communities in 35 states using our courses. By 2003 (for our 10th Anniversary), Rhode Island became the 48th state to host our courses and over 50,000 people had participated in NWEI courses.
A new mission statement was unveiled in 2006: Inspiring people to take responsibility for Earth, and in 2009 we launched a new effort to reach colleges and universities (incidentally, this initiative would take off and by 2013 college campuses account for 52% of our course locations!) 2008 ushered in Menu for the Future, our most popular course to date (with a new edition unveiled this Spring). As of today, over 140,000 people have taken NWEI courses in all 50 states as well as internationally and we are closing in on our goal of reaching 145,000 people by June!
NWEI has been empowering citizens to act in alignment with their convictions for healthy air, water and food – encouraging people to consume less while at the same time living a life that is richer for both people and planet. Together, we are proving that change is necessary, fun and possible – at both the individual and collective levels. In partnership with higher education, business, NGOs and faith communities, NWEI stands out as a unique player. Face-to-face interaction is the foundation of our work, but through emerging online tools, participants will now have multimedia options for information sharing and community building.
As we celebrate the start of our 20th year, NWEI’s focus is decidedly looking forward, while also paying homage to our remarkable past.