Mentorship Spotlight: The Frontlines of Resilience Storytelling

Alex Basaraba works at the interstice of environmental conservation, climate change, and human well-being using visual story-telling, research, and planning. Currently, he works as a climate resilience specialist with Adaptation International, a consulting firm focused on helping communities and organizations prepare for the impacts of climate change. Adaptation International specializes in bridging the gap between climate science and community action and invests in developing tools and strategies necessary to support climate change preparedness. In addition to pursuing his own climate and environmentally-focused storytelling projects, Alex works in Nepal as an educator with National Geographic Expeditions. He holds a Master’s in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and a Bachelor’s in Biology, both from Colorado State University.

Sherry Stout is an engineer in the Integrated Applications Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Much of Sherry’s work at NREL focuses on energy development with American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, including energy and resilience planning, resource assessment, microgrid assessment, and energy development for economic development. Sherry also works on international programs where she focuses on grid integration of distributed renewable energy, energy and water nexus issues, energy system resilience, and interconnection processes. Sherry also works on resilience issues, including microgrids for energy system resilience and development of resilience frameworks and best practices.

Some topics Alex and Sherry have been exploring are the responsibilities and challenges of doing climate change resilience work internationally. Alex shared what he’s learned about the process Sherry uses to find success in this work: the importance of doing work by invitation only, investing time to develop meaningful relationships, acknowledging and working within the complex history and cultural norms of a place, and the importance of being able to translate technical information into a broader understanding that informs actionable next-steps. They discussed Sherry’s experiences working in parts of central and southeast Asia, as well as her technical training and approach to communication that she uses to be successful. They also explored the challenges and the rewards of working on the front-lines of climate resilience abroad, and what it takes to be successful.

“Insights I have gained about resilience and adaptation through our interactions include the importance of investing in process,” Alex shared, “This includes ensuring diversity across silos in work teams, doing work by invite only, empowering people through communication and knowledge, and approaching this work through humility. By taking the approach of ‘I am a student and an expert’, we can best position ourselves to continue to learn from an individual or organization’s culture, goals, beliefs, and values, while helping provide technical capacity, insight, and training from our own area expertise. Our discussions have helped me reflect on my own approach to process and to think about ways in which I can continue to improve in setting up my projects for the best possible success.”

A fun fact that Alex learned about Sherry is that she speaks Arabic and English, and can also get by in Spanish and French. This really aids in her ability to do work in numerous parts of the world and showcases how her preparation in a skill-set helped set her up to fill a specific niche in adaptation and energy-focused work.

A fun fact that Sherry learned about Alex is his interest in communication, especially through photographs. Alex  “brings a unique combination of technical background with the ability to communicate complex topics to stakeholders,” said Sherry.

Thanks to both for sharing what you’ve learned!