Jeremy joined Ecotrust on April 15, bringing with him twenty years of social change experience at the global scale. Most recently at Mercy Corps, he helped guide the organization’s global strategy and positioned the Portland-based nonprofit as one of the most respected humanitarian organizations in the world. Here, he will bring that experience to bear on challenges we face in our bioregion, leading Ecotrust into our next era of conservation-based development initiatives.
Jeremy recently sat down with us to answer a few of our questions.
You’ve lived in the Northwest for several years after growing up on the East Coast. Does this feel like home?
I grew up in the Boston and Washington, D.C. metro areas, and I moved to Seattle — never having been there — right after graduating from college in 1994. I’ll never forget seeing Mt. Rainier on that first taxi ride from Sea-Tac to West Seattle — I had never seen anything like it, and I was awestruck. I hiked and mountain biked like crazy that first year and I have spent the better part of the last 20 years in Oregon and Washington. The Pacific Northwest is home, no doubt about it: I got married here, my kids were born here, I love it. I do, however, remain a Red Sox fan.
Joining Ecotrust is an exciting move for you — what caught your attention about our work?
Ecotrust works on the most important issues of the 21st century: How do we manage our natural capital — farmland, forests, fish, water — in a way that preserves these life-giving resources for future generations, while also increasing economic opportunity in an equitable way? It’s not just about conservation, or creating jobs, or about integrating marginalized people — it’s all of that, focused in a region with the natural abundance, the values, and the openness to make this work.
I’d heard about Spencer Beebe for years, and when I met with him and talked about his work, I was immediately drawn to be part of it somehow. That I get to work with him and the incredible team he’s built to take Ecotrust forward is truly an honor.
You’ve spent much of your career working on global humanitarian issues. How will that translate to the work you’ll be leading for Ecotrust in the Pacific Northwest?
Mercy Corps’ work focuses very much on how you help make markets work better for marginalized people, in many cases related to managing natural resources, adapting to climate change, and improving food security. There is a ton of alignment between that and Ecotrust’s work, though Ecotrust weighs the ecological aspect more heavily than Mercy Corps does. Both organizations are known as innovators. Both organizations have been pioneers in the use of investment capital to advance social impact goals.
In the more functional sense, my jobs at Mercy Corps were about building and managing teams, developing partnerships and funding sources, raising profile, telling stories, engaging with our board of directors, representing the agency — that’s all part of my new scope of work here at Ecotrust.
What was your first job?
My first steady gig was as a paper boy delivering the Boston Globe. I was terrible at it. I’ve always been an early riser, so that wasn’t a problem, but in those long, snowy winter months, I was miserable slogging through the drifts to drop off 30 newspapers on doorsteps. Our neighborhood was pretty spread out, and we were paid per customer, so it was not a great deal. I only lasted a year.
What are you reading right now?
I was reading Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings — great historical fiction built around the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976 — until I got this job and realized how much I need to learn. So, right now, I am reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which frankly I should have read years ago, and next up will be something by Jane Jacobs, the famed systems thinker who served on Ecotrust’s board of directors. I get the New Yorker and the Economist, which live, mostly unread, in a stack on my nightstand.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Cheap beer. Ice cream.
What do your six-year-old twins think of your new job?
I’ll let this picture do the talking: one interpretation of my job at Mercy Corps vs my job at Ecotrust.