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Published on March 28th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


UN Foundation Executives Talk Media Today & The Clean Energy Transformation (Exclusive Video Interview)

March 28th, 2015 by  

During Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kathy Calvin and Richenda van Leeuwen of the United Nations Foundation. Kathy Calvin is the foundation’s CEO & President. Richenda van Leeuwen is its Executive Director for Energy and Climate as well as Energy Access. (She’s also a CleanTechnica subscriber!)

We started off by talking about the media world today, and especially online media. Kathy Calvin, as Wikipedia summarizes, started out her media career “as director of editorial administration for U.S. News and World Report, where she worked for twelve years, during which time the magazine went from third to first among the ‘big three’ American news magazines…. In 1997 Calvin joined America Online as senior vice president and chief communications officer. In 2001, following the AOL–Time Warner merger, she became the president of the newly created AOL Time Warner Foundation.” So, yeah, she knows a thing or two about the media world and how it has transformed in recent years. Her words emphasizing the importance of niche blogs (like CleanTechnica, Solar Love, EV Obsession, and other niche sites in the Important Media network) are, thus, particularly worth noting, in my humble opinion.

She also had some interesting comments on the need for various sectors of society (business, government, philanthropy…) to work together in order to solve the major challenges of today.

Furthermore, she highlighted the need for good “translators” who can connect people in these different segments of society and have them more effectively working together. She pointed out that is something she has done in all of her professional roles, and I think many other executives in various companies and organizations can take note of that, but the thing that was coming to mind for me was how much CleanTechnica gets praised for its “translation” services. Many readers have told me that one thing they love about the site is how we put these technical topics in common language and present them in a clear and useful way. Also, according to recent CleanTechnica reader surveys, about a third of our readership comes from the cleantech industry, indicating that we are communicating things useful to industry professionals while also communicating in such a way that interested people outside of the industry can easily follow along, enjoy the content, and even add to the discussion. So, again, I was thrilled to hear such a successful lady discussing the importance of us “translators.”

I also asked Kathy about whether or not she, as a motorcycle fan, had ridden any electric motorcycles yet. Unfortunately, she had not….

I interviewed Richenda after an event at which she was a key panelist, so I spent less time talking with her in this joint interview. Still, it was great to hear more from her. She talked about the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative and bringing clean electricity to those who entered the 21st century without it. She also highlighted one of the things I love about Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: while it does focus on the big business side of clean energy, and the clean energy transformation in the developed world, it also puts a lot of emphasis on this developing world side of things.

Richenda & Kathy also talked a bit about the cleantech leadership that is coming from entrepreneurs and startups around the world, and far beyond the realm of CSR.

Lastly, Kathy, who is on the Zayed Future Energy Prize selection committee, talked a little bit about the role of prizes in advancing the clean energy transformation.

Fun stuff. Have a watch if you haven’t yet.

Related: Solar Power Empowers The Poor (Video Interview)

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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