Learning to talk about environmental issues across the political/ideological/economic/philosophical divide, with help from the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership

Posted on June 1, 2017 by Patricia Barmeyer

There is an organization in Georgia dedicated to the goal of building a network of leaders in the environmental area who can collaborate to work on solutions to important issues, instead of defaulting always to debate and often litigation.  The Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership was created in 2001, and I am currently participating as a member of the seventeenth IGEL class, the fifth lawyer from my firm to go through the program. It is similar in some ways to leadership programs throughout the country, but there is no other leadership program focused entirely on environmental issues.

IGEL is an experiential program, working on both substantive environmental issues and leadership development, as well as conflict management strategies.  The program has 30-35 participants every year, chosen from almost 200 applicants. Each class is chosen to represent a broad diversity of environmental leaders from business, government, academia and NGOs. Several Georgia members of ACOEL are IGEL alumni. The program consists of four 3-day sessions, held in areas to represent Georgia’s environmental diversity—metro Atlanta, the coast, the southwest agricultural area, and the north Georgia mountains. The sessions include outside speakers, group discussion, and field trips.  Every step of the way includes participation from folks with differing views, including scientists, planners, developers, permittees, regulators, environmental activists, and community leaders. The program requires, and secures, a commitment from all class members to be at every session.  It is very time-consuming—and it is hard to be out of the office for three days at a time.  But it is also lots of fun, both the sessions and the field trips.

IGEL is a non-profit organization, governed by a volunteer board composed of alumni of the program.  IGEL operates out of Georgia State University College of Business, in the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility, which has developed the curriculum for the program.

IGEL seeks to provide environmental leaders the knowledge, advanced skills and network necessary to help resolve Georgia’s environmental challenges now and in the future. It’s hard to quantify outcomes, but IGEL has created, and continues to grow, a network of committed environmental leaders who share the IGEL experience, have a broader perspective because of that experience, and do, as a result, have improved channels for communication and a deeper appreciation of opposing environmental concerns.  Our world today is highly polarized; IGEL provides a valuable service in creating a safe space for honest dialogue and respectful disagreement about important environmental issues.  If you are interested you can learn more by checking out the website. http://www.igeleaders.org/  



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