Will Byrne

Ashoka Fellow
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Will Byrne was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Communities have a powerful mechanism for driving the clean energy economy, one that requires no sacrifice but instead aligns with their own economic interests as consumers: collective purchasing power. Pooled purchasing power is an untapped social impact geyser because communities are a) often unaware of their collective economic power; and b) currently have no way to leverage this power toward tangible local benefits. Will is organizing community organizations and citizens into collective purchasing networks, bundling demand for products and services in clean energy sectors. By aggregating a previously fragmented market for the first time, the model delivers deep value for clean energy businesses and service providers, who often struggle to find customers on the community level.

This new value for service providers creates powerful leverage for participating communities to see direct local benefits from purchasing decisions. In addition to decreased costs for clean energy services and deep environmental benefits, they can ensure that that new economic opportunities and revenues that result from their projects are retained locally and equitably. Will and his team began their work weatherizing homes in the Washington, DC area and have since built implementing partnership around this model in four other states. Since 2009, the organization has mobilized $2 million of investment in clean energy projects—resulting in over 5,000 metric tons of carbon emissions abated, over 40 new jobs created, and nearly $700,000 in energy bill savings for community members and nonprofits.

Will calls this model Civic Consumption—by purchasing goods and services that they need together, communities can not only save but also shift business practices toward local wealth building and environmental sustainability. His vision is for this model to be applied by citizen sector organizations working across a wide spectrum of market sectors, helping communities to build and apply their purchasing power to achieve sustainable and inclusive local economies.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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