Southeast Sustainability Directors Network

Leading Networks 

SSDN is building a network that supports its members and promotes sustainability in the Southeast. Many SSDN members are also building networks in their own communities.

But what does it mean to lead a network? ICL's newest article, “The Less Visible Leader: Emerging Leadership Models for Environmental Networks, Coalitions and Collaboratives", seeks to answer that question.

Among the unique attributes of "net-centric" leaders identified in the article:
  • Comfort with complexity and ambiguity, including emerging membership models, partly defined leadership roles, uncertain funding, power shifts among network participants, individuals and organizations that come and go.
  • "The leadership of taking on the logistics," in the words of one leader.“Many of our partners are regular people with day jobs, not professional conservationists. Nobody has time to do this, but you do it anyway. These details hold the group together.”
  • Leading from beside: Embracing the idea that effective network leaders step back and create opportunities for others to step up and become more visible.
  • Investing time and energy in relationship-building, even when those conversations are not about shared program goals.

Interview with: David Jones

This month, we interview David Jones, Environmental Program Administrator in Orange County, Florida.  

What are you working on right now that you are most excited about?
I am most excited about the community sustainability plan that we are in the process of developing. Orange County currently has 1.2 million residents and we are projected to grow by 55% by 2040, so this is an especially important and needed project.

We are also launching Pete Street, a neighbor-to-neighbor energy efficiency training program developed by Clean Energy Durham.

What do you want to know from others in SSDN? What provocative questions do you have for your colleagues around the Southeast?
  • What are the most effective ways we can support each other and build relationships that make a difference? Answer here
  • How do you work with your office of economic development to support sustainability? Answer here
  • What are your most effective ways to make time to keep up with new sustainability developments and learn from others when we are all so busy? Answer here.
What led you to this work?
I came to this work through my experiences as an Army officer working in the Pentagon. From 1999 through 2002, I worked as the compliance team leader for the Army's worldwide environmental compliance program. Over time, the Army recognized a need to shift to a more proactive stance and  began to move from compliance to sustainability. I was able to help articulate the vision that was embraced by our senior leadership and is continuing to be implemented in a variety of ways at Army installations.

After retiring from the Army in 2004, I went to work for Orange County in their Environmental Protection Division. When the person working on climate change mitigation retired, I transitioned into their position and began to work on broader sustainability issues, including providing overall oversight of projects implemented with the $7.5 million in funding that the County received through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.

Useful Resources: Network Thinking

Building a network requires a different way of thinking from building an organization. For a quick explanation of the differences, we've created a simple one-page PDF, which you can download here

Question of the Month

How do you work with your office of economic development to support sustainability? Click here to visit the USDN website and share your thoughts.


SSDN Annual Conference

About SSDN

SSDN is an unaffiliated peer to peer network that is inclusive of municipal professionals working in the field of sustainability, and effective at networking, best practice sharing, and eventually collaborating together on larger priorities for the region.

We seek to become a network whose priorities are set by network members for network members. The Southeast Network strives to effectively support one another to successfully capture funding opportunities, influence sustainable policies and programs at the local and state levels, and lead the advancement of national sustainability.

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