Cool City Challenge – Team

Project Leadership

David Gershon 

David has overall leadership responsibility for Cool City Challenge. He is co-founder and CEO of Empowerment Institute and directs its Center for Reinventing the Planet. David has spent the past forty years designing and implementing second order change solutions round many critical planetary issues. He has spent the past three decades applying this expertise to climate change worldwide and the past ten years in California. He is author of twelve books, including the award-winning Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World and the best-selling Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life as You Want It. Based on his four decades of transformative social change experience, he has architected a global grand strategy called “Reinventing the Planet.” Cool City Challenge is a part of this larger strategy. 

Miranda Clendening

 Miranda is Director of Operations for Empowerment Institute’s Center for Reinventing the Planet. She is in charge of operations for the Cool City Challenge. Her skillset incudes non-profit leadership, whole system community design, partnership development, technology integration, and large-scale event management. As former Executive Director for Unify she brought tens of millions of people together around the world in multiple unitive events. She is passionate about second order change climate and regeneration initiatives.

Project Leadership

Jim Keene 

Jim is helping design the outreach strategy to cities and local government and providing guidance on capital infrastructure financing for Cool City Challenge. As Palo Alto City Manager, he helped it become the world’s first city to achieve 100 percent carbon neutral electricity and carbon neutral natural gas earning it the Platinum Level Beacon Award for climate change leadership. Jim is a national leader in open government and innovation and served as President of the Alliance for Innovation. He has also served as Western Director for International City/County Management Association and as a Board Member of Institute for Local Government.

Stacey Lawson

Stacey is helping design the financing and scaling strategies for Cool City Challenge. She is Vice Chair of Ygrene Energy Fund, an innovative clean energy finance company which has partnered with over 500 cities and counties to deploy over $2 billion in financing to home and business owners for renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate resiliency projects. In her various board, leadership and philanthropic roles, Stacey has been an advocate for climate solutions, the clean energy economy and climate justice across California and the nation. She lives in San Rafael, California.

Kerim Baran

Kerim is helping design the financing, clean tech and social media strategies for Cool City Challenge. Kerim is the founder of SolarAcademy, a social learning platform for the solar industry. Prior to SolarAcademy, Kerim was the Co-founder and VP of Strategy at CivicSolar, a leading national solar equipment distributor. He has also founded and ran the leading Turkish social network. Kerim serves as an investor, advisor, and strategist to various early-stage clean energy and tech companies. He lives in San Diego, California.

Cool Block Program Engagement and Delivery

Sandra Slater

Sandra, as Cool Block Northern California Director, is responsible for recruiting, training and coaching cities participating in Cool City Challenge in this region. She is also Program Manager for Cool Block in Palo Alto, responsible for recruiting, training and coaching Cool Block leaders and developing strategic partnerships with local community-based organizations. She serves on the City of Palo Alto’s Sustainability/Carbon Action Plan Advisory Committee and is actively engaged in many sustainability initiatives in the City and beyond. Prior to this Sandra founded a design consulting firm specializing in green building techniques. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

Robin Elander

Robin, as Cool Block Southern California Director, is responsible for recruiting, training and coaching cities participating in Cool City Challenge in this region. She is also Program Manager for Cool Block in Isla Vista, CA responsible for recruiting, training and coaching Cool Block leaders and developing strategic partnerships with local community-based organizations. Robin is the Director of Global Good Impact, a Santa Barbara-based company dedicated to empowering individuals and building stronger communities. She has over 15 years of experience organizing initiatives to foster a more connected community. She lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Sue Lebeck

Sue is the Cool Block Platform Director responsible for design and management of the Cool Block platform through which individuals engage in the program. She is responsible for onboarding and supporting Cool City Challenge cities in use of the platform including customization around local resources. A smart city innovation specialist, Sue integrates technology, sustainability, psychology, media and collaboration to create high performance solutions. Formerly, Sue founded InnovatingSMART, a media initiative which celebrates and supports sustainability-driven innovators. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Mo Lovegreen

Mo is responsible for recruiting university partners to support Cool City Challenge cities through engaging students in outreach and faculty in research. Mo is Director of Campus Sustainability at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and has an extensive network of colleagues throughout California universities and colleges. She is on the Society of College and University Planning taskforce for institutionalizing sustainability and multiple statewide sustainability initiatives. Mo leads UCSB’s initiative to be carbon neutral by 2025 and is a member of the Carbon Neutral Isla Vista team. She lives in Goleta, California.

Technology Support

Carlen Young

Carlen is Chief Technology Officer for Empowerment Institute Center for Reinventing the Planet. He is responsible for designing and managing the technology to support the scaling and knowledge exchange for Cool City Challenge. Carlen is passionate about community psychology, empowerment and second order change solutions. He applies these passions to increase personal agency and planetary well-being through designing social impact web and app platforms. As a psychology researcher with the University of California, Santa Cruz, Carlen spent a decade researching community building strategies and tools. 

Joel Mills

Joel will bring city simulation and visualizing technology, called “Digital Twins,” to help cities and citizens pragmatically envision the environmental, economic and social impacts of the Cool Block program at various levels of scale. As CEO of Augment City, he utilizes simulation and complex data visualization tools to help cities create more effective solutions based on seeing how the whole system interacts. Trained as an industrial designer, Joel is passionate about using elegant technology and human centered design to improve quality of life for people. He has worked with the UN smart cities program to disseminate these tools worldwide.