Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Levin

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Levin

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Levin

Katie Zakrzewski

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight focuses on Steve Levin. With 30 years’ experience in organizational consulting and executive coaching, Steve supports CCL volunteers to strengthen their communication skills, project planning, and personal resilience. Steve lives near San Francisco, and his many CCL contributions cut across regions, action teams, and initiatives.

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Levin

How did you first get involved with climate action?

My first wake-up call was Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” It rattled my cage of complacency, but I figured others would take care of it, right? Instead I saw all kinds of smart people ignoring the problem and doing “business as usual” — including me! So in 2012 I trained with Gore’s organization, The Climate Reality Project, to make in-depth presentations. Most people were interested but still not moved to action. Our extensive presentations couldn’t get through to them. That really bothered me, and I felt helpless. I wanted to build bridges of understanding but ran into emotional walls. What would it take to change hearts as well as minds? 

How did you find CCL?

CCL got my attention in 2015 when I met some inspiring volunteers on the Business Climate Leaders (BCL) Action Team. They were so committed to breaking through complacency! CCL’s pragmatic focus on Carbon Fee and Dividend was clear and compelling to me, and I loved the CCL values of respect and appreciation. We treat everyone as a potential ally and meet people with empathy, not criticism. That’s what I wanted to do and it’s also who I wanted to be! I felt that I had finally found my tribe. 

What are some of your projects within CCL?

On the BCL Action Team I helped communicate with business leaders and designed and facilitated a regional conference event, and I learned a lot about CCL. I watched a lot of well-informed volunteers make presentations, and I saw they were mostly explaining to a polite audience instead of exploring with engaged participants. There is a world of difference! So I worked with Dave Cain of the Presenters & Schedulers Action Team to redesign the CCL introductory presentation to include techniques to get people actively thinking and sharing instead of passively listening. I led a training workshop on the new design at the June 2019 national conference and on a Citizens’ Climate University training.  

At the same June conference, I also worked with CCL Group Leaders to use reframing techniques to move people from resistance to support. In less than an hour, over 100 CCL leaders worked in groups of 2-3 to invent creative ways to meet people where they are and to melt their resistance through empathy, reframing, and finding common ground. It was great fun!  

How do you help CCLers plan projects?

Our volunteers have LOTS of good ideas, but they can fall flat without a good plan. So I assisted Elli Sparks as she conducted some of her awesome workshops on the Five Levers of Political Will. Many participants wanted to pursue promising initiatives, so I designed a follow-up Project Charter Workshop to support their planning. We give people a worksheet and a sample to think through key questions, e.g., What is your purpose and vision of success? Who are the stakeholders, and how can you best engage them? What are your personal barriers and pitfalls, and how will you deal with them? People arrive with their first-pass project ideas and, after coaching and peer support, they leave two hours later with a well-developed plan to refine with their colleagues. It’s a great example of how CCLers can empower themselves and each other by working together.

How do you help climate advocates stay energized and build resilience?

With the 2016 election, climate politics got ugly. Then COVID hit us right between the eyes, and everyone had to work in Zoom isolation chambers. Climate grief was high, and stress and burnout were looming threats to our momentum. I was familiar with a powerful workshop, Active Hope, developed by Joanna Macy, a much-respected social activist. In early 2021, I adapted the workshop for CCL and offered it through our Resilience Building Action Team. It reconnects people with their deepest values and their yearning for a better future through a series of exercises and honest conversations. Our small Active Hope workshop team has already given this 2-hour Zoom workshop to over 200 CCL volunteers in small groups of 16-20 each. Their feedback is that Active Hope satisfies a heartfelt need to feel more connected with each other. I love leading this workshop, because I get to combine my passion for personal development with renewing the resilience of our volunteers. Nothing could be sweeter than that. 

What motivates you to continue when times are hard?

Two things keep me going: companionship and connection. I thrive when I join with CCL colleagues to pursue our goals together. Companionship bolsters my confidence and commitment, and I want to make things happen. And I’m re-energized by connecting with others from the heart as well as the head. I’m grateful to CCL and all of our volunteers who comprise this amazing community of climate advocates. Thank you, all of you, for inspiring me again and again.

Katie Zakrzewski, CCL Communications Coordinator, is an avid reader, writer and policy wonk. With published pieces, as well as podcast and radio appearances spanning the country, Zakrzewski looks forward to using her talents to create a healthier planet of tomorrow.