I’m honored and excited to be Miller Center’s newest Executive Fellow. Executive Fellows strive to contribute to Miller Center’s mission in ways that go beyond typical mentor engagements. I am currently working with Andy Lieberman on the Energy Access Affinity Group, one of a number of experimental affinity groups we are piloting in 2019.

My journey to Miller Center began about 2 years ago. After a 30-year career in technology, I decided to take a break in 2014. I joined Encore.org, an organization that seeks to pair executives with local non-profit organizations for a one-year part time fellowship. I worked at Breakthrough Silicon Valley (BSV) where I partnered with the Executive Director (ED) to help refine strategy. I became interim ED when she moved on; overall I was involved with BSV for about 2 years. Upon leaving, I realized that one of the biggest contributions I had made was in mentoring and coaching the various members of the organization; this had a far more positive and long-lasting impact than most of the specific initiatives I worked on.

I now knew that coaching organizations who were making a positive difference in the world was where I wanted to focus. But in what sector? Several long and hard-hitting conversations with my 2 daughters about climate change and climate justice, coupled with my own interest in that space, made me realize that this was the area where I wanted to engage. Miller Center’s focus on helping those who are most at risk from the effects of climate change, and its mentor-driven model was a perfect fit.

The goal for the Energy Access Affinity Group is to provide a clearing house and forum for both social entrepreneurs and mentors working in this space. “Energy Access” is a very broad term, covering everything from supplying end customer products like solar lamps and cell phone chargers (for example Solar Sister), installing single building solar systems (Village Energy in Uganda), installing micro-grids designed to provide power to entire villages (like Mlinda or Husk Power Systems), providing other forms of energy generation such as biomass, and non-electric products like clean cookstoves (Potential Energy). It also covers technology platforms like Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) systems, offered by companies like Angaza. Given the breadth of this space, it’s important that we structure outputs from the affinity group in ways that allow entrepreneurs and mentors to easily find information that’s relevant to them.

Solar Sister sales agents with a solar-powered lamp and cell phone charger.

Solar Sister sales agents with a solar-powered lamp and cell phone charger.

PAYGO solar panel from Angaza.

PAYGO solar panel from Angaza.

Using the same philosophy that underpins the various Replication Playbooks that Miller Center has generated (such as the Last Mile Distribution playbook), we aim to speed time-to-success by distilling key learnings, insights, and potential gotchas in easily accessible and digestible formals. The first product we’ve come up with is an Energy Access Mentor Background manual which attempts to help mentors understand the general space and to engage more effectively with SE’s by understanding some of the common challenges and pitfalls in each of the sectors. We are currently polling SE’s and mentors to understand the kinds of information that would be helpful to them, and the most effective ways of disseminating such information.

Interested in becoming a mentor with Miler Center?

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About the Author

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Peter O’Riordan was born and raised in Ireland. He has 30 years experience in the technology sector, most recently at Cisco where he held a variety of VP/GM positions in the Data Center Switching space. Peter is an Encore Foundation Fellow, and has 5 years experience working, volunteering, and coaching in the nonprofit sector. He is married with 2 daughters and is looking forward to being an empty nester.