Project of the Day: Groundswell

= an organization that helps communities gain access to affordable clean energy by pooling their purchasing power.



Will Byrne:

‘We founded our organization, Groundswell, to answer one question: How can we jumpstart a new, clean economy that truly lifts up those who need it most? Before Groundswell, I, like others on our team, had just been transformed by the experience of working in communities across the country on President Obama’s 2008 campaign. As a part of the grassroots, peer-to-peer engagement effort that brought an estimated one million new people into the voting process across the United States, we saw the sweeping change that could be achieved through empowered community leadership. Our founding team was convinced that this same bottom-up approach, so effective in the political sphere, could be used to help grow the market power of communities as well.

Over our first year–working first out of a homeless shelter and then packing ourselves into the attic loft of another, very patient, organization–we honed our model for community driven economic transformation. We started with energy efficiency, tapping into community networks to grow demand for home efficiency projects, creating energy savings, growing local small businesses and creating accessible new jobs.

Soon we were working with membership groups on larger projects, not just in energy efficiency, but also in clean power, building our impact across the mid-Atlantic region. We’re now on route to scaling our impacts across the country, all by channeling the latent purchasing power of communities. Most recently, working with Metro-IAF, a community organizing group, and other grassroots partners, we brought together over 100 nonprofits across the mid-Atlantic around a $5 million clean electricity project. By helping these groups to collectively seek electricity, we created the leverage they needed to reduce their energy costs and shift to clean electricity, while also cycling new savings back into community programs.

A closer look at this project reveals how everyone gains from civic consumption: customers, the broader community, and business:

  • Purchasing organizations reduce their energy costs, gain stronger consumer protections, and switch to cleaner power.
  • The community benefits from more resilient social impact organizations, more sustainable energy consumption, and re-investment of savings in local programs.
  • Energy providers gain access to a new community-level market for clean power, as well as recognition for delivery of community benefits through their business.

While new energy sectors have been at the center of Groundswell’s focus, Civic Consumption has the potential for transformative change across a wide range of market sectors.” (



Will Byrne, CEO, interviewed by Sara Horowitz:

“Sara: Tell me now about what you guys are doing, and how you see the role of markets in social change.

Will: Building on this idea of Civic Consumption, we’re working to bring communities together by aggregating their demand as consumers, and we’re finding that by doing so, you can actually drive newfound access for the things people really need. Like clean energy.

A lot of people want access to clean energy, but they are priced out by the cost premium. What we’re doing at Groundswell is surprisingly simple: we bring together lots of community institutions and residents—with a focus on including low-income residents and the organizations that serve them—and pool them together in a collective bid to clean energy suppliers.

We recently did a $5 million energy project for over 100 institutions, including the NAACP in Philadelphia, lots of churches and faith-based organizations and nonprofits. Because we’ve created so much demand, we can negotiate a lower rate for energy. That’s huge.

At the same time, we’ve also creating a market for the suppliers who want access to new customers. And, we’re actually switching all these institutions and residents over to cleaner power.” (


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