Sometimes, I get the privilege of working with the most inspiring, hard-working people making good changes in the world. That couldn’t be more true than with Jamie Swezey and Will Heegaard of Footprint Project. I worked with them through my marketing for New Use Energy and Rent Solar and knew these were two people I wanted to join forces with. As a powerhouse team supported by numerous, passionate volunteers, they bring clean, solar energy to disaster areas desperately in need of power.
A few months back, we met to talk about how I could help with pro-bono graphic design. As I digressed in the conversation (typical for me), I ended up sharing some of my recently commissioned maps. Something started to click. Jamie shared how they were struggling with sharing their organization’s full process. People knew they were coming to disaster zones to provide portable, solar power with trailers, generators and more. But, they didn’t know the full extent of their amazing work. They were doing so much more, including community involvement, training and resilience preparation. The conversation shifted to one about a map from the “solar nuns.”
Otherwise known as the “Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ,” the “solar nuns” look like they are conquering the world with their sustainable vision. They have this incredible flow chart map sharing their vision and work in the community. Wouldn’t it be great, Jamie thought, to have something that shared the “ecosystem” of Footprint Project’s work?
A Footprint Project Map Was Born
We realized that the best way I could help was by creating a comprehensive map about their non-profit work. First, I needed to get in their heads. I needed to understand what they literally do on a day-to-day basis. I already knew that Jamie and Will were almost perpetually on the road, living in an RV that Jamie painstakingly restored. But how did it all work? How did they know where to go? Who was in charge? How do you coordinate providing power to a community? An hour or so of furious note-taking later, I had what I needed to get started.
Explain What You Actually “DO” Here
Get ready to be amazed. Not only does Footprint Project show up at locations most people are trying to leave, but they also have a full, overarching plan on how to make communities more resilient to power outages.
Preparation during “Blue Sky Season”
Also known as “Cleaning Your Chainsaw” season by emergency response organizations, this is the “calmest” time of the year. Footprint Project is reaching out to other like-minded non-profits, making sure all of their equipment is in working order, letting communities know they exist and showing up at fun events like music festivals, sustainability events and more. This is the time of year they can breathe a little!
“Grey Sky Season” = ACTION
First, they’re alerted a potential disaster is in the making: heavy forecasted storms, a wildfire is sparked or a hurricane is on its way. Then, they get on the road! While en route, a lot of coordination is going on between community response partners and groups who need help. Just imagine lots of furious texting and phone-calling. They start reaching out to their supporting network for donations of equipment, gift cards, cash, tools and more. Once they arrive on-site, they move SLOWLY to assess the proper approach. They unload equipment, find a safe storage space and secure lodging.
After assessing the site, Footprint Project starts to set up equipment. This includes charging stations for the community, solar trailers to charge and power equipment and setting up racking for solar panels. They orient volunteers and community members on equipment use, run a ton of extension cords and refer requests they can’t handle to other organizations.
Power is Back On!
Yay, the grid is back up. So what now? Most people think that this is where Footprint Project’s work ends. But this process map shows that it’s only halfway through their mission. A huge part of their work is about building community resilience. This is the time for conversations to gauge interest in training, needed equipment and the big one: creating a new, solar trailer “build.” It’s also time to assess all of the donations they’ve received of discontinued, decommissioned or open-box solar and electrical equipment. (P.S. Did you know that when solar panels are replaced after a storm, they are often still in perfectly-good working condition?)
A Footprint Project “Build”
Once it’s determined that a solar trailer build is needed, the collaborating organization sets up trainings. They set a schedule and Footprint Project leads the way by working with the community to execute the build. Training is ongoing as a safety officer oversees the work and a licensed electrician gives their final blessing. In the end, they cut the ribbon and a new solar trailer is born! The community can now use their trailer to supply clean, solar energy, without the grid. The next time disaster strikes, they’ll be better prepared.
Putting the Footprint Project Map into Action
While Jamie, Will, the staff and volunteers at Footprint put their hearts and souls into the work, this new map will help share what they do. Maps like this one uncover the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into SO MANY non-profit organizations. Whether shown in-part or as a whole, it can help share their vision on social media, their website, in grant applications and presentations. We even discussed animating it for a film!
Supporting Good Stuff
I had such a great time creating this fun map. Plus, I get that warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that my scribbling and doodling is helping this organization get more well-deserved recognition. I can’t wait to see where they’re headed! Speaking of, if you’d like to support Footprint Project, they accept cash and in-kind donations, as well as sponsors or institutional support! Check out their website or at least give them a follow on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.