Meet Josh Freed, CELI Board Member & Senior Vice President for Third Way's Clean Energy Program
As the founder and leader of Third Way’s Clean Energy Program, Josh promotes policies to use every tool possible to combat climate change—including scaled-up innovation, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture technologies in addition to the increased use of renewables and efficient storage. Josh has been involved with CELI since the very beginning and we are thrilled to officially welcome him to our Board of Directors.
Tell us a little about your background and career path.
I took a non-traditional path to get here. I’ve been at Third Way running the clean energy program for about a decade, but the 15 years of my career before this were spent at the intersection of policy, campaigns, and communications. I worked with campaigns and elected officials to identify what problem they were trying to solve, and how to communicate the problem and solution to a different audience. That included everything from addressing privacy issues on the internet, to a whole bunch of political campaigns including the Obama campaign, to working with members of Congress on eliminating the ban on stem cell research.
That work really gave me some unique insights, which I used to stand up the climate campaign at Third Way. I specialized in taking a complicated issue, one that’s really important but sometimes only speaks to a narrow audience, and identifying what we need to do to have impact and implement a solution. I was able to leverage those skills and then really ramp up on the clean energy side.
How did you become involved with CELI?
I knew Adam when he was at the Center for American Progress a long time ago. Adam is amazingly entrepreneurial, and he and I started talking about his idea to create an organization for educating people who wanted to get into the clean energy space. I thought it was such a creative and interesting idea, and I encouraged him to run with it.
I was fortunate to be an early advisor as Adam was creating CELI, and I’ve always followed it and encouraged people that I know to become involved. When there was an opportunity for me to join the board, I was really thrilled to re-engage in what is now a dynamic and impactful organization. It’s been really cool to see it from basically pre-birth to where it is now and be involved in two different stages of it.
What are you most looking forward to as a CELI Board Member?
One of the things that CELI does so well is it opens the door for people to get involved in clean energy. In my work in the policy world, I’ve been surprised how difficult it can be for people who are interested in getting involved in clean energy to enter the space. The language can be opaque and jargony, and the network can be hard to figure out. CELI does a really good job of providing an open door and a key to get into this world.
Another thing I’m really excited about as a CELI board member is working on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusivity. How can we make the clean energy and climate world more diverse, more welcoming and inclusive, and more equitable? This is a question that really fits perfectly within what CELI does.
Finally, CELI is such a dynamic organization. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that people talk to me about without knowing that I’m on the board. It’s really cool. I’m humbled and excited to become a part of something that has so quickly built such a reputation and is seen by a lot of people in the clean energy space to have such an impact. You can’t ask for much more than that.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for CELI to make an impact in the clean energy industry?
It’s about influencing the conversation. CELI has an opportunity to bring people together, whether they are CELI fellows or experienced professionals in the clean energy world. When you bring different communities together, even within the same space, the conversation changes and perspectives change. There’s an opportunity for CELI to have even more of an impact on the conversation, not only within the growing CELI community, but within the broader industry. I know that even more experienced professionals see CELI as a place where they can get different ideas than they would get from other institutions they interact with.
Based on your success in the clean energy space to date, what advice do you have for young leaders as they navigate this industry?
It’s so important to keep an open mind and remain flexible. I came into the energy and climate world from a different background than most people with whom I interact; my undergrad and graduate degrees are in American History. When I was 25 or 26, I had no idea that my career would be focused on climate change and clean energy.
As you are figuring out your career path and what you want to do next, you sometimes get lost in the immediate decisions you’re making. But stay anchored in your values. Be willing to take risks, try something different, get out of your comfort zone, and keep a sense of humor and sense of wonder about what you’re doing. This applies to your day-to-day work, but also to what you’re doing outside of work. It’s really important for your sanity, and it also makes your ability to achieve whatever professional goals you have that much more likely. In a space like clean energy that is often driven by more quantitative analysis, these more human, “softer” components can get lost, and it’s really important to remain grounded in them.