The Global Renewal Renewal Energy Education Network (GREEN) is an innovative program that exposes students and young professionals to renewable energy technologies in Costa Rica. It was created in 2009 by three Rutgers University students, Mikhail Naumov, Melissa Lee and Ben Lapidus, together with a visionary sustainable architecture engineer from that country.
Concerned with the lack of adequate educational training for the clean energy industry, the group developed this total immersion experience designed to accelerate the careers of students and young professionals through experiential learning. I had the opportunity to learn more about GREEN in a recent conversation with Co-founder and Director of Development Mikhail Naumov.
In a concentrated 12-day program, participants have the opportunity to learn about five different forms of renewable energy at their base of operations in the unique cultural setting of Costa Rica. It is a singular experience, complete with hands-on training and the opportunity to develop significant relationships with a diverse group of highly motivated individuals from around the world.
So far, the program has been quite successful. From its inception as a pilot project for a small group of Rutgers University students, GREEN is now working with over 80 schools worldwide. To date, a few hundred students have come through the program, with several universities now sponsoring their students to attend.
GREEN’s goal of creating a well trained work force has been greeted with interest from the clean tech industry. Companies like General Electric have accessed the organization’s alumni database to fill positions in their renewables department, as the GREEN alumni network continues to expand in strength and influence.
Launched with a modest initial investment to enable founding team members to make the first trip to Costa Rica, the program is now self-sustaining. Naumov says they are working hard to insure that the organization remains sustainable into the long term. He credits the commitment of its alumni and the “passion of the team behind it” with being the driving engine of GREEN’s success – it has regularly doubled in size each year since it’s inception.
The need to delegate can often be a difficult thing for entrepreneurs, but letting go of the reins and bringing in the right people has been the key to the growth and development of GREEN’s dedicated management team. In fact, one of the most rewarding parts of the process for Mikhail has been the discovery of hidden strengths and talents of colleagues who were given the opportunity to explore new roles within the team. This flexible style of management has served GREEN well in adapting to the changes brought about by its rapid growth.
The themes of passion and commitment are central to the story of GREEN’s creation and growth. However, equally significant is a sense of adventure and exploration. After all, the organization is operating on the forefront of progressive global technologies. I think Mikhail summed it up well when I asked him what advice he had for new or would-be entrepreneurs. He replied, “Every day is a new experience.” He suggested beginning as early in life as possible, prior to other types of commitments such as starting a new family, and attending as many meetups and networking events as you can. “You never know who you’re going to meet, and some of those people are going to change the course of your life and your business.”
Listen to the full interview here:
Deborah Oster Pannell, a Smith College graduate, is a writer who specializes in the arts, media, holistic health, advocacy and events. As Director of Communications for the tech start-up eventwist, she also manages their blog. Some of her favorite work is featured on modernlifeblogs.com, lizkingevents.com, and her own blog,She Says Yes. Currently she is launching Project Mavens, a literary, editorial design collective, with partner & writer Lillian Ann Slugocki. On Twitter @projectmaven.