The Environmental Protection Network

The Environmental Protection Network (EPN) was launched in January 2017 to harness the expertise of former EPA career staff and political appointees to protect human health and the environment. Over the last six years, EPN has built a volunteer network of almost 600 EPA alumni focused on the mission of building the capacity of environmental agencies and the communities they serve to address the most urgent health and environmental crises.

OpenGrants is honored to host this incredible team for a compelling fireside chat about EPN and how you can get involved with their work and mission.This event is perfect for anyone working on technology or community-led efforts that improve clean air, water, land and climate protection.

In This 1-Hour Session, We Covered:

  • The important work of the EPN
  • How you can work with the EPN
  • What makes communities successful when collaborating with the EPN
  • What kind of services are available for communities, NGOs, and under-resourced state/local/Tribal government agencies

About the Speakers

Sedale Turbovsky, CEO & Co-Founder, OpenGrants

Sedale Turbovsky is the CEO and co-founder of OpenGrants, his fourth venture-backed startup and second in the public sector, which aims to transform the grant funding landscape by making it more accessible, equitable, and transparent. Sedale firmly believes that technology can be used as a powerful tool to democratize access to resources and opportunities, and is passionate about improving government and the citizen experience.

Kya Williams, Community Outreach Manager, Environmental Protection Network

Kya Williams is the Community Outreach Manager with EPN’s pro bono capacity-building technical assistance program. Kya trains and mentors other EPN associates across the country and coordinates their work, creating new and deeper connections between communities of color and low-income communities in the 10 EPA regions, EPA alumni with decades of expertise, and other allies to assist with community-identified projects. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mitchelle Mukeli, Senior Community Outreach Associate for South Central, Mountains, and Plains, Environmental Protection Network

Mitchelle Mukeli is a Senior Community Outreach Associate with EPN’s pro bono capacity-building technical assistance program. She works to train and mentor associates in EPA regions 9 & 10. Additionally, she concentrates on creating new and deeper connections between communities of color and low-income communities in EPA Regions 6 & 8. Mitchelle graduated from The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.

Sierra Taliaferro, Community Outreach Associate for the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, Environmental Protection Network

Sierra Taliaferro is a Community Outreach Associate with EPN’s pro bono capacity-building technical assistance program. Sierra concentrates on creating new and deeper connections between communities of color and low-income communities in EPA Regions 3 and 4. Sierra has nine years of strategic planning experience with various Milwaukee and South Florida community organizations.

Read the Transcription

Please note, this transcription is automatically generated and may contain some spelling and contextual errors.

Sedale Turbovsky: All right, everyone. Welcome. So excited to have you all here as folks trickle in. I’m super excited. My name is Sedale Turbovsky. I’m the CEO and co founder here at OpenGrants, and we are the easy way to win grant funding. Super excited to have this awesome crew from the environmental protection network here today.

Before we do any introductions just a little bit of housekeeping items and this is also just to let people in the room here for those who are just joining the webinar. So just a few housekeeping items. We do have the the q a open So if you do have questions during the session today Please use the Q and a tool.

We don’t have the chat available for everyone’s comfort and so that we can all focus on the content. We will have the Q and a options open throughout the webinar. And this is the OpenGrants webinar with the environmental protection network. So we’re super excited to have you all here.

And just Thank you. This will be available afterwards. It’s one of the most popular questions that we always get. So we’re going to record this. It will be available afterwards and we will be sending out emails with everyone’s contact info, all of the links, anything that anyone wants to share will also be made available to everyone who has registered for this event.

So we’re super excited to have you all here. And as I mentioned, my name is Sedale Turbovsky. I am the CEO and co founder here at OpenGrants, and I am super excited to be joined by Sierra and Kya and Mitchelle from the Environmental Protection Network. I’m going to go ahead and let them introduce themselves.

And then we’ll get into the meat of the discussion today.

Kya Williams: Thank you sedale, we are so excited to be here. I am Kya Williams. Again, we’re with the Environmental Protection Network, a value provider, providing capacity building, technical assistance, support pro bono. I’m the community outreach manager, and I physically live in Virginia Beach.

And then just thank you, Sedale, for having us. I think, you are a tremendous partner to all the work we’re doing, and yeah, thank you for joining. I can pass it over to Mitchelle.

Mitchelle Mukeli: You want to go next? Yes. Hello, everyone. Hope you’re having a lovely evening. I’m not evening a lovely morning or afternoon, depending on your time zone or evening, honestly.

But I’m Mitchelle Mukeli. I’m a senior outreach associate with the Environmental Protection Network. And I work to support our communities in EPA Region six and EPA Region eight. I’ll pass it on to Sierra.

Sierra Taliaferro: Greetings and salutations. My name is Sierra Taliaferro, and I am part of the community.

And I help to serve communities within regions three and four. So that is the southeast atlantic and I am based in fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. So excited to have you all here. I think, I didn’t, I did not know that the environmental protection network existed before I launched OpenGrants, which was in like in 2020.

And once I was able to connect with y’all, I was super excited. I was like, oh, my goodness, this cool organization exists and they’re doing such cool work. So we wanted to host a session to dive into yeah. Who is the environmental protection network? What do y’all do? And so I want to start with that.

I’d love to hear y’all’s takes on what’s the environmental protection network? Why do you exist thing?

Mitchelle Mukeli: Yeah, I can start us off if you guys are okay with that. So what I like to tell people are origins. really interesting story is we were formed as a reaction to the Trump administration.

So a lot of the former EPA people quit under Trump, and they formed our organization in terms of protecting the integrity of the environment protect still educating Congress on facts and making sure everything that’s coming out is still rooted in science. So that’s how we were formed. So the a lot of our initial work was around policy, and it was around fact checking and those kind of things.

But about 2. 5 years ago, We started doing our pro bono technical assistance work. And that’s when me and when Kya was hired and the rest of associates were hired to help work directly with communities on different on different projects related to the EPA. So what we do Our work is communities come to us with different questions.

That are under the umbrella of the EPA, which is a very vast umbrella. And we have almost 600 former EPA alumni that work to answer and to support communities as they navigate different environmental injustices. I can also pass it to my colleagues to add on anything that I potentially have missed.

Kya Williams: Yes. No, I think that was great. Mitchelle. I think only 1 other thing I would add in is just what a tremendous support Mitchelle and Sierra and our other associates are to the team working, as value providers, providing capacity building, technical assistance with. Former bureaucrats, it can be a little difficult for these community based organizations to work with just because, bureaucrats and community history doesn’t always align.

So to make both entities feel complimented Mitchelle Sierra and other associates of our organization do work as almost liaisons to bridge that gap and make sure that both sides do feel comfortable. Yeah, I just wanted to highlight. That is something we definitely acknowledge. And yeah we like to meet groups where they are.

So yeah, we are happy to talk a little bit more about maybe how we get connected with some of the communities and what that looks like.

Sedale Turbovsky: Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead. We’d love to go into that more. I wanted to double click on something you said that I think is really cool, which is, you mentioned specifically like bridging, that relationship between the communities and some of the bureaucracies that exist and I do think this is 1 of the things that, I think it’s really important because the government around Has traditionally been this really incredible resource, but problematic from time to time.

And it is really important that communities learn how to work with government and vice versa, that government can learn how to work with communities. And so I really applaud like the work that you do in that space. And yeah, would love to dive in more about, how you connect with folks and maybe even if you could talk to maybe some of the specifics are.

Share some kind of like case studies of how you engage and work with people would be great.

Kya Williams: Yeah, I can speak to some of the broader questions and then maybe Sierra and Mitchelle go a little bit more in depth about the work you do in your region. Since kind of does vary based on location. So in terms of that bridging part. I think it’s definitely important to take that unique perspective of a bureaucrat when it comes to something like grant writing. These are the people who have, created a lot of these programs or pulled a lot of applications. They know what makes a strong application. At EPN, we just really acknowledge that unique perspective and want to harness that knowledge to uplift and empower communities, almost taking that that government that’s a little bit harder to navigate and making it a little bit more digestible for these communities in a way that they can feel complemented and empowered and overall confident when Not only applying, but just navigating funding opportunities offered by government entities and whatnot, just because, again, it is very hard to digest and can be confusing to just, the lay eyes.

I have been working in this EJ space for a little while and I still get stumped at acronyms and certain words. I find myself googling so I can’t imagine how community based organizations are supposed to take these like 20 page long documents and read them as a rubric and turn it into a application.

Yeah, just looking at ways to bridge that, that gap in that navigation and just that technical language and acknowledging these community leaders and community based organizations as the expert and their community. Because again. A lot of times they were the ones to see the historical timeline of how these issues came into, manifestation, and also understand the most complex parts of the issue in terms of its intersections, and I think that’s really important when thinking of.

Solutions that will actually move things forward as these are all complex issues. And if there was one or any solutions, we wouldn’t be doing, the work we do. So yeah, definitely taking a very active listening approach in this work. Again, Mitchelle Mukeli and Sierra and I are working as these like liaisons between these communities and needs.

Agency workers to make sure that there’s a relationship and also trust building involved, but I’m going to pass it over to Mitchelle Mukeli and Sierra to maybe talk about examples and also the work they do in the regions and what a connection with a request might look like.

Sierra Taliaferro: I’m happy to jump in if that’s okay. Me in particular, I am based in the southeast. So I am based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the southeast. And so for my

communities within this region, they really

emphasize and stress in various facets. And so for a lot of the communities that I work with, it’s really been. Opportunities, but also in addition to water quality and reaching out our network that can assist with certain qualifications or data analysis necessarily understand and how to perhaps even bring that information to a case that they’re fighting in the court as well, too. So it can vary from time to time.

What those cases look like what those requests look like. But it’s really been about connecting communities that reach out to us in particular or me for in my region and connecting experts who may have also been in the office at one point who dealt a lot with the water quality or pollutants in the water of some kind.

So those are some of the commonalities I request in my region, but I’ll certainly pass it off to Mitchelle as well.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Yes. Thank you, Sierra. Yeah. So I think for me, I’m based in Houston, Texas, and I’m the region six associate. So I do a lot of our work around petrochemicals and and I do a lot of work around lead and superfund sites.

And for example, on petrochemicals, what that looks like is okay, we’re doing research on this stuff. Thank you. For permit for this facility, this proposed facility. What does commenting period look like for that? I’m working on a different project around figuring out gaps in plants and what does that look like and how can we give that information to communities for them to leverage in terms of of advocating for themselves in terms of either, either more stringent air standards in that area, the plants being held accountable, the plants compensating the communities more for the damages that are in their community the worst health outcomes that are in their communities.

So it can look like a lot of different things in terms of lead, for example I’m based in Houston. I have a project here in one of our communities that is around this lead throughout the whole entire neighborhood. This administration has about 240 million dedicated to lead replacements.

So how can we get communities who have lead pipes to access that money? So a lot of it right now is like we’re actively, we need data. Because we need to prove okay, there’s lead there is that data data that like EPA or like that can help you access this money? Is this the correct way to access data?

And then our volunteers are looking at the data and okay, what does this mean based on this data? What money can you access? So this is just some two examples of what that can look like. But what I like to tell people is just reach out if it’s not under umbrella, we’ll try to find somebody else, but.

The EPA umbrella is very vast, very huge. I’m also working on a Superfund project. And we have Jim Wolford. He’s the former Superfund director. He has a very vast knowledge of the different Superfund sites and how you can You know, meet with him and he you can like, okay, this is where you can apply pressure to the agency to add to maybe look at this in terms of the Superfund site.

Those are some different.

Sedale Turbovsky: Oh, do you want to just explain real fast for folks listening? Yes. Superfund site is?

Mitchelle Mukeli: I apologize. A Superfund site is essentially. A EPA regulated hazardous waste site, and it is so that what it’s that means so a lot of former army former military sites are super fun sites, any type of area that is very hazardous has is going to cause cancer is going to cause harm has.

Direct health impacts the communities living near it. And it’s actively being trying to clean up by EPA. But sometimes that process looks different depending on what state you’re in, what regulations are in place. And different health organizations usually work to to apply pressure to EPA to help clean up those sites.

So I hope, yes, my knowledge is also very limited, but yeah, that’s a quick synopsis.

Sedale Turbovsky: I love it. No, that’s a great description. I think, those are great overviews. I’d love to hear about what it looks like from the community standpoint working with you on these projects. How did they get connected to you?

How, how does that process go? Does it cost money? What is it? What does it look like to work with y’all? I’d love to, just dive into that a little bit.

Kya Williams: Yeah first I will clarify that The Environmental Protection Network is not the Environmental Protection Agency. We are mistaken sometimes also that yeah, from the community standpoint, I will say don’t be scared to reach out, even if you don’t have a specific request or issue at hand, if you just want to connect with us and be on the conversation.

Say a listserv or hear emails or hear emails, hear updates about some of the work we’re doing. And most importantly, some of the work that the community leaders or volunteers we work with are doing feel free to just send any of us an email. We are happy to, connect with you. There isn’t anything you can be a part of.

We don’t have community member coalition yet. It is one of our long term goals to create a space for communities to come together and, learn lessons. But if you want to be a volunteer, you can also just email us. I think in terms of requesting assistance, we are very much we pride ourselves in taking a very organic, holistic and nonlinear approach.

This just means that we can basically assist anyone no matter what their Capacity is sometimes we are approached by, someone who would consider themselves a regular mom neighbor who has a full time job and they noticed, something in their drinking water is making them sick, but they have no idea what they just know that they’re having these harmful effects and they don’t.

They don’t know what to do or where to start. We can assist you and navigating the issues at hand and trying to assess what the issue is and then also work together to brainstorm collaboratively solutions. And we never work off behalf of our communities. Everything we do is on behalf of the community because they have asked us to do it or have approved it.

We are happy to brainstorm solutions for various issues. I think most relevant recently, we’ve been doing a lot of grant writing support. Something like sam. gov or grants. gov in order to obtain that UEID entity number, which is required to apply for any federal funding. That’s. It’s pretty easy if you know how to do it, but it’s just so many words, and it’s so much to navigate.

So sometimes just having someone hold your hand and walk you through. So again, just taking a very broad approach so that we can genuinely be able to help anyone. We do target our audience towards, underserved and EJ communities who have been impacted by negative impacts of environmental justice, but we do take a very, intersectional approach or perspective when working with these groups.

So it doesn’t have to be, it can be climb. It can correlate in the way that if it overlaps with EJ or if it rhymes with the EPA or Related agencies will basically try to help you. And Mitchelle Mukeli mentioned earlier, if we are not able to help you, we do work in this network of resources with other value providers who we personally trust and have vetted and also have referred communities to in the past and gotten feedback from.

So again, trusted entities that we can connect you with to provide resources. And again you mentioned. How much does it cost? It is all free. We do not believe in charging anyone for this work. If anyone from EPN contacts you asking for money, block them. It is fake. They are scamming phishing, whatever you want to call it.

So yeah, we don’t charge. I think right now, it’s definitely relevant that, Community based organizations or smaller NGOs have pro bono resources so that when they are applying for opportunities and funds, they can make sure they’re paying for resources that are a lot harder to obtain, such as a grant writer when, folks like us are at capacity.

Michelle and Sierra, I would maybe love to hear about some of your connections and what that looks like and how you’ve been contacted, whether, the webinar and email, because it happens all over the place. Thank you. Yeah.

Sierra Taliaferro: Oh, I would definitely have to echo some of the things that Kya has said when it comes to us or who reach out to us.

And it’s mostly a lot of the individuals. Those are the uncles, truly those who see an injustice happening in their area or in their neighborhood to do next.

I get, I personally get a lot of those, especially as it relates to water or it relates to air quality. And our water pollution. I get a lot of those requests as well, but it’s truly it’s people where they are and at Brown level and making sure that we have this holistic approach of sure that everyone is welcome to reach out to us for assistance, no matter what status you are.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Yeah, absolutely. I think people will reach out to us. Either we present on this and then they get our email and then they’re in our inbox. We attend conferences regularly. So I think we meet communities at some of those spaces. We also have a kind of an intake form on our website. Sometimes they come through there where, somebody would just put their email in a quick synopsis of their request, and that will will arrive at the appropriate associates inbox. So I think there’s all these different ways. It’s very informal. Just send us an email. We’ll usually get on a call, have an initial call to try and understand Transcribed by https: otter.

ai Kind of what you’re trying to figure out what you’re what the issue is. And then from there, the associate will start doing outreach to our network. And, we’ll try to let you know early if it’s not something that is within our like that we do, but if it is, then we’ll be like, Oh, what times can we meet?

Or here’s some information around that, whatever that needs to look like.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. So reach out, go do it. No that’s really great. And I just want to remind folks on the, who are listening that, feel free to drop any any questions you might have in the Q and a but there’s a lot of discussion like going on right now around IRA, bipartisan infrastructure all of this, all this money that is just pouring out of the government.

And one of the conversations we have frequently is they’re like there seems to be all this money everywhere, but we’re not getting any of it. And so this is this is a struggle that folks face. And I wonder if you could talk a bit about, how y’all are supporting any of those processes.

And any of the thoughts you might have about ways folks can. Take some actionable, non overwhelming steps to advance some of their projects and support their community in tapping into some of these opportunities that are out there right now.

Kya Williams: Okay, I wasn’t sure if you guys wanted me to jump in or not. Yeah I, that’s a very good question. I think I have to approach it from a few different angles. Like you said, there’s so much rolling out right now in terms of funding and resources and Yeah it’s important that we do meet this moment because at the end of the day, this money is going to go somewhere.

And at EPN, we are most focused on that. This funding and these resources are going to these communities are these places that really truly need it. Most these underserved and a lot of the times ignored communities and community based organizations. But again, taking a very. Service learning and almost active listening approach to this.

Something like approaching funding. It’s our grant writing. You have to have a relationship with the group to write a grant. So again, even if you aren’t currently looking at applying to federal funding or funding right now, please reach out and. Get connected with us. I think building relationships is really important to this work, especially when applying to something like writing an application, because you do need to know who you’re writing about and goals and objectives.

So please build relationships with NGOs and us and. Rely on these resources for support because it is really helpful. And at EPN, having these former EPA alum, a lot of these volunteers we have or experts were the people who either created, managed. These programs and they have reviewed applications and they know what makes a strong versus a weak application.

So we try to approach this in a myriad of ways 1st that registration with the U. E. I. D. assistance. 1 of the 1st steps I think is just making sure you have that U. E. I. D. entity number because it is required to apply for federal funding. And then from there strategic planning, figuring out what is.

The goal. What kind of funding do we need to be looking for? Because it’s too often that we are reached out by a group about a specific opportunity, they might not get it, or they do get it, or there’s not an opportunity available right now, but as the Dale mentioned, these funding opportunities are rolling out every day so fast, because they’re just trying to get them out there.

Yeah, just get ready, build partnerships. Now we help a lot of our community organizations find and identify partners who are not only trusted, but align with the work they’re doing, because a lot of these application call for partners. So building them ahead of time or last minute. In some cases, we have also provided checklist templates and other related resources to work as almost again, a checklist kind of.

Thank you. When you’re applying for these funds, basically go through and say, oh, I did this for the budget. Oh, cost benefit analysis. Everything that the or request for application called for is within your application. So that just means, 1 of us, or our volunteer will go through and read this extremely long application and put it out in a bullet point format and make a proposed timeline for it.

The proposed timeline is completely informal. We help. We hope that all of our groups can apply a little bit early. That way, if there is any technical issues, we’re able to, remedy them sooner rather than later. But we are again willing to do last minute. We just try to avoid it because it’s so stressful.

Yeah, just it’s a many solutions. And we’re happy to send these out after this call. But workshops Q and A’s. Office hours, we try to definitely prioritize our phase or opportunities that we know a lot of groups are applying for. I’m not sure if anyone was familiar with the EPA’s environmental justice collaborative problem solving grant or the government to government grant.

But that did happen. I want to say maybe April don’t. Quote me I was some months back, but they’re all blending together at this point. But we had 150 requests for applications, which is being most or request for applications request for assistance on applications and 150 is a big number for us as a smaller organization.

This was a eye opening moment that we needed to prepare that this funding is coming out and that people really do need help when applying for it. So in that moment, we triage and Begin to survey ways that we can uplift and empower these communities. The tech checklist template. Those resources have been extremely tremendously helpful in terms of feedback.

We’ve gotten from community organizations and if there is a specific opportunity that you are interested in applying for and we have not. Already created a proposed process with those templates. Please feel free to email us. I think one of the major issues we’re finding is trying to figure out what people are interested in.

We don’t want to create templates and resources that no one’s going to use. So we tried to prioritize those resources that a lot of people are applying for, like those 150 applications. So yeah, we are, yeah. Happy to hear if you know that this is a big opportunity coming up and you know that you and a few other of your partners are going to be applying.

Give us an email. So we can try to get a template out there as soon as possible because if you’re applying, I’m sure there’s others who are interested as well. Yeah, I think that was a very big question, but I feel like I covered it. If anything was confusing or all over the place, Michelle’s here.

Feel free to clarify.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Yeah, I’ll just jump in and say for the current template that we have that is for current grant is a solar for all grant. So if any of you are applying for that please reach out, I think the deadline for that is the end of this month. We have a template and we have a filled out template that you can look at like a sample application of what that can look like within our templates is project narratives.

There’s a budget template. There’s a lot of commitments. What does all that need to look like? So please reach out in terms of accessing some of those resources. That’s the only thing I was going to emphasize.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. I love it. No, and those were, that was a fun project. We were we had a good time collaborating a bit with y’all on the on that project, and yeah, it’s a great service.

I can’t stress enough for communities and folks that are out there, it is so nice to be able to access a resource that has been vetted, some templates, like when you’re looking at these big RFPs, it goes from being this like 80 page thing that you have to read to some very clear language of like, all right, this is what we need.

Thank you. And it does give you that kind of here’s some real next steps you can take without getting overwhelmed. There are a lot of cool programs forthcoming, Solar for All being one of them. And yeah, definitely make use of this great resource here. I’d love to if you have some success stories that you want to share, I think that’d be really cool.

There’s some There’s some cool questions here in the Q& A, too, that we can dive into a bit, but maybe we maybe we hit favorite success story or something from your region that you just want to share, and then we can get into these Q& As if that sounds good, unless there’s anything else.

Kya Williams: Yeah, one thing I will mention is first. Thank you. Sedale, he’s saying thank you to us for providing these resources, but he was a tremendous help and getting them up. I think we probably couldn’t have done it without you. And, that piloted to be able to be duplicated and done for, other opportunities, future opportunities in terms of success stories.

I think.

There’s so much I think there’s a lot that has moved me back in this work But a lot has also moved me forward. I think for me one of the most Success stories might have been when we got that 150 requests, just because up until that point, it seemed like a lot of these community based organizations, or at least these groups that really needed, they weren’t interested in applying.

And I understand it was probably really scary and they probably felt overwhelmed, but once these resources, and not just from us, from other entities as well. Again, to roll out and become aware, I saw a lot more groups become interested and actually apply. And even if they weren’t selected, the application process was really valuable in terms of lessons learned and getting that experience.

And now they are more competent and they’re applying to other opportunities. Yeah, I think it’s just. Just really inspiring to see and just, it warms my heart and makes all of this definitely a lot more worth it because it would just break my heart if they don’t at least apply for these opportunities and put themselves in these positions.

It is uncomfortable because it’s even if you do get awarded now, what? And I’ll mention really quickly, we are trying to look at that gap and how to help communities who are getting awarded or community based smaller organizations who are getting awarded. These opportunities, how to manage them, something like reporting and management of funds can also be really difficult.

And when it comes to the agency, nothing is in lay terms that is in a different language. Definitely rely on folks for that management portion as well, because retention is extremely important. Yeah, that is 1 exciting thing.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Yeah, and I can go next. I think success is such an interesting term because how do you quantify success in this space.

When we’re dealing with a lot of systemic racism we’re dealing with a lot of just historical environmental injustice that, A lot of times feels like you’re making it or of change. But also you gotta be farsighted enough to like, be like, okay, this is heading somewhere. But I think for me, anytime a community dances on a call.

I’ll take my wins. I take my wins. I think we had a me Sarah and I attended a conference held by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. I’m not sure if any of you have flown here with them. And yeah. During that, it was like a very tangible conference. We held a workshop around Solo4All.

We held a workshop around helping communities sign up for SAM. gov and grants. gov. And that is something, I don’t know if any of you have tried to do that process. It’s a very jargony process, for lack of a better word. Walking through that process, these communities and they dance at the end, I’m gonna dance too that’s what we’re gonna do.

And that’s honestly my success story. In this work is just those moments of joy that like, I’m able to be like, okay, yeah this is actually helping and this, we’re actually doing something and all of that, but I’ll pass it on to Sierra. No,

Sierra Taliaferro: I would echo that as well. And I think you hit it right on the nail.

During the joy of success in those small victories and those small victory getting registered for Sam’s dot gov and grants dot gov. That is really based the grants that if you want to register or get funding for, you need to start there are not either are not aware of it or need assistance with getting registered and that’s a team.

So we want when we can get communities who are at ground level those grass where the government tends to miss them in this huge gap that we’re trying to fill and in turn, they often get left behind. And at least how I think of it.

Are able to write raise those communities up a level or three to getting them registered first step in the huge in the bigger scale of things so yes, definitely that would echo that.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. I love that. Let’s dive into some of the questions here because there’s some good ones. The first one is, how can someone be part of the EPN?

Send us an email.

Kya Williams: Any, anyone who gets in contact with us, we will point you in the right direction. Email any one of us and we’re happy to connect.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. And I feel like this might be like a, maybe they’re interested in volunteering or working, but,

Kya Williams: if you’re interested in volunteering, I.

Don’t say that. I will track you down. We are constantly looking for volunteers, both expert and non expert. I think one thing we’ve explored is having potential community volunteers because again, they are experts as well. And if you want to volunteer to be doing a little bit of what Sierra and Michelle and I do in your community and working with these bureaucrats and a volunteer like Cassidy, we are happy again to connect and build relationships.

Very. Broad, but

Sedale Turbovsky: yeah, awesome. A question. Hi from Miami little healthy little Havana doing work with social determinants of health and housing. They just want to know who are the partners? Who I think, who are the contact people for the Fort Lauderdale area? Hello,

Sierra Taliaferro: I love that question.

Sounds like you’re in which is where I love. Some of the, especially in Fort Lauderdale, a group to keep in mind is deaf. A regional compact. I believe they have a conference coming up shortly. So definitely some Eyes on because it’s both regional local government partners and officials as be to be available resource.

So happy to connect you to that resource if necessary.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. Yeah, we’ll include links and such in the recording and the other info we send out, another great question is the representation for the Western region. This person is with a pave based in Los Angeles, focused on reducing greenhouse gases caused by pavement, especially in cities.

Yes, we

Kya Williams: have before you chime in. I’m so sorry, everyone. I am actually at a community event for air quality right now, and it’s about to start. So I am going to jump off, but I wanted to thank everyone for having me here. And this is just really impactful. And we’re really excited. We were really excited.

And so they all reached out. So I urge everyone to connect with us. And yes, Sierra and Michelle are great. So you guys are in good hands. Thank you so much. Go ahead, Michelle. Sorry about that.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Bye, Kaya. Good luck. Yeah, so Los Angeles. Yes, we have associates for every EPA region. So every region is covered.

We have two associates that one is based in San Diego and the other one is based in Seattle to cover the western part of the country. So yeah, absolutely happy to make those connections when you reach out.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. Yeah and I see a few questions about that, like who’s covering Northern California, Sacramento areas.

So we will we’ll send over info on all of that. But for those who are here I realized that it sounds like there were some issues with the, some of the zoom link. So I think only a part of the crew got in today as well. So We’ll send out this follow up and the video and we’ll get y’all networked in and connected to the right people.

A good question here on just the scope of kind of things y’all offer following up on the IRA and bipartisan Infrastructure Act does EPN help with or identify partners for DOE specific grants?

Mitchelle Mukeli: I can go ahead and see. Oh, I was like, can you hear me? Okay. The

Sierra Taliaferro: question was the CP and help with or identify partners for daily specific grants for that we have. We do emphasize the most when it comes to partnerships is connecting those communities. Either partners within the region or other partners that are doing similar work and I’d a list of partners who are also applying for that federal funding as well.

Mitchelle Mukeli: It’s also listed on our website for reference. Yeah. And also we do help with DOE grants, especially because DOE does not have a community aspect because DOE is originally just a research. Entity, a lot of their, they meet a lot of their aging qualifications under the new Biden administration through EPA.

So a lot of their funding opportunities are coming out through EPA. So for example, with solar and some of those, so we do DOE grants because of that, our DOE expertise is obviously not as robust as our EPA, but for example, for the solar for all, we have a template for that. We have some people who have at least they’re not maybe specific, but have a scope of understanding of some DOE grants. So absolutely.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. Love that. What COBOL, other really good ones here, what’s the optimal timeframe before a due date to engage y’all to support organizations that are applying for funding?

Sierra Taliaferro: Really? I’ll jump in. You can really. I’m highly encouraged to start in the beginning. But if you really are trying to get your foot in, but if you’re more advanced in the process, you’re more than welcome at least maybe I’d say a month. And if you have

Mitchelle Mukeli: all of your documents aligned, and if

Sierra Taliaferro: you need someone to read over for review, just to make sure the

Mitchelle Mukeli: flow is necessary materials.

Sierra Taliaferro: But I’ll also jump let Michelle and if there’s anything that I may have missed as well. I’m

Mitchelle Mukeli: sure.

No, I have heard everything she said. I think as early as possible. And yeah, as early as possible, but there’s not really a timeframe because we understand these things are very complicated.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. Another good question here. Do you have resources for publishing multi stakeholder?

Collaborations for grants. For example, workshops or tasks forces that, you’re working to maybe bring together city and county and school districts and so on.

Mitchelle Mukeli: I think we have had workshops to help build capacity for local municipalities that are smaller and things like that. And that is something we have definitely done.

I think, I would say, reach out. I would need to know exactly,

Sedale Turbovsky: and I may have said that wrong. I’ve been reading too fast. But the question is do you have resources to help bring together these different groups? So one of the things that is happening, so pushing forward multi stakeholder collaboration, so building like consortia or that kind of thing.


Mitchelle Mukeli: I would say what we do is, communities just reach out to us and say, Hey, do you know anybody applying for this grant? And if we do, we’ll connect them. And if we don’t, we’ll be like, so sorry, we don’t know anybody. So I think that’s, it’s basically word of mouth. And if we know people in this space that are applying, we’ll be like, Hey, you guys should have a conversation.

You might want to work together. You might not. That would ultimately be a decision, but we both know you’re applying for this opportunity. In the sense of word of mouth, connecting people as a connector. Yes, we do, but not formally structured in any capacity. Thank you. Yeah, and I’ll also

Sierra Taliaferro: echo that it’s about closing the triangle.

Key keeping is what they also call it. So if there’s a, if there’s people that we know who are, or organizations that we know doing something similar, and we think that you might be a good connector, then I, we definitely

Sedale Turbovsky: do that. Awesome. Very cool. There’s a question here about and I think I already know the answer, but there’s a question about folks in Canada.

I assume your scope is really focused on the United States and generally around the EPA, but. Maybe I don’t know the answer. I’m seeing,

Mitchelle Mukeli: so we have taken requests from Mexico. I’ve done a request in Africa, and we’ve done one somewhere else that I can’t think of right now. So we obviously not the bulk of our work, but if we think we can provide expertise will at least attempt.

Also, we have partners that sometimes work in those spaces and so also, a lot of times we just work as a connector kind of earlier of oh, hey, we’re not the perfect feet, but like fit for this, but C2P2, they do projects all across the country has done projects across, other continents, they might be a better fit.

So I would say still reach out. It might not be us, but we might have partners that work in that space. Awesome.

Sedale Turbovsky: I learned something new and that is very cool. That’s so cool that you do that. So I think a couple of the there, there’s definitely a still a few questions here that are more about just like place based what resources are available here.

I know that you do have a slide that will flash up here as we get closer to the end. But I’d love to talk a little bit more about just your process when it comes to like building the templates and supporting these supporting these communities. There’s a lot that goes into all of this of course, and I just wonder how do you how are you typically seeing communities approach you?

Are they coming with are you finding more folks who are like coming with specific projects where you’re just ready to help them execute? Or do you even help folks who are like, hey, I just know that there’s federal money out there I don’t have any idea about anything other than I think I could help my community somehow How can I help my community is that?

Is that an appropriate level of preparation to reach out to you or would you rather, or is it more productive if they can come with like projects ready to go or do you find it’s better, the opposite where you might help them, put a project together.

Sierra Taliaferro: I’m going to jump right in because I get both sides of the scale.

So it’s depending on the community or the individual who’s coming our way. We’re really able to help from both ends. It just depends on the project.

Mitchelle Mukeli: I will. Yeah, I will also add our goal is to build capacity so we can’t say we want to build capacity and only work with communities that are potentially ready. So I think we definitely have communities who are like, we, and that’s why we like when we meet with almost triaging and okay you are like, you still need to apply for sam.

gov you still need to figure out what your project scope is, you need to, and we sometimes have communities hop on a call with the volunteer. Sure. To figure out what’s the scope of your project going to look like you need to focus more on this. You need to add this and you take this away like that.

Brainstorming process is still critical and it’s still a part of capacity building. So I would say we try to help communities where they’re at. That might mean you don’t apply this round because you’re not ready. But what preparing you for the next round is how we see it.

Sedale Turbovsky: Awesome. No, that’s great to know.

I think, oftentimes we find folks who are afraid to get started because they don’t think they, know enough to get started that kind of like catch 22 sort of thing of like, how am I going to get an experience if I don’t have experience? And I think it is really important.

I like we encourage folks for just go ask, talk to people talk to somebody like I was on a call a couple days ago with a group that is trying to raise money. I was like did you ask people for money? They’re like, no. I was like how do you expect to get money if you’re not going to ask?

So that’s super cool to hear. As we wrap up here with our, we’ve got about 10 more minutes. Definitely if you do have other questions please do feel free to throw those in the chat. But I’d love to talk a bit more about just like where EPN is headed. There was a mention of some kind of like community groups.

Would love to hear like. What’s on the roadmap for y’all? What are y’all focused on trying to achieve that kind of thing?

I can go,

Sierra Taliaferro: that’s fine. I think one at EPN, one of the things that we’re really working on is really compact with understanding that a lot of our communities need our assistance. And so we’re just trying. And who else are we missing? Where are, who are other community groups that we’re trying to reach out to intersections between environmental justice and the work that they’re doing all environmental justice can affect all of us in some capacity, you just have to find those connections.

Mitchelle Mukeli: And and in some ways

Sierra Taliaferro: to just find the dots and find those communities that we don’t necessarily

Mitchelle Mukeli: as often to see how we can help them in their efforts as well. Yeah, I think in a lot of ways, in terms of where we’re going we’ve hired a lot this summer like we added like five new associates so I think we’re building our capacity to reach communities right now actively I still cover two regions and But some of the new associates only have one region that they cover and that really Makes them able to reach more communities within their region.

So I would say that is the first thing we’re doing as an organization is just trying to You know, expand our span as another thing is we are working. So EPA has the thriving Tic Tacs. I cannot have another acronym under my belt. Thriving something. But it’s basically technical assistance centers that EPA has launched and I think those are going to be critical in terms of supporting communities in these areas and.

With the work that we do, we’ve been we’ve we have partnered with some of them. And so I think those are going to be great ways for like places for communities that are there and accessible that communities can go to access technical assistance, and it’s just going to be another place that communities can go.

So I think We’re working to support them launch that as well. And a lot of the centers figure out different things because we’ve been doing this work for a couple years. And we’re hoping that’s another resource that communities can have. So I would say everything that Sierra said, definitely like monthly meetings.

For example, I don’t know if anybody on this call is received their air monitoring grant. But we have a network of communities. We’re working to support to manage that grant because once you get the money, that’s a whole different beast. It’s a whole different ballgame. So that again, yes, and so it’s we’re trying to come from both ends.

Yes, you get the money, but what does it look like to manage that money? And we, this is our first time helping communities through this associates. We’ve never done this. We’re trying to find experts, but we’re very much. We want to create a shared learning space of what are the lessons we’re learning for some experts we can come have present in communities ask questions and just that community because the managing EPA funding is a huge burden.

So I think, whether it’s on that side of things or the applying side of things reach out, we’re really trying to make sure that communities, are building that capacity and have what they need.

Sedale Turbovsky: Yes. Awesome. I’m super excited to hear that. I think, the I just want to unpack a couple of things that you said.

One is that the EPA has rolled out these TIC TACs, these technical assistance centers. They are very cool. And I think that it’s important to recognize, especially for communities who are doing a million other things that there is there’s an extensive support system out there.

The EPN is part of that is pretty cool. And if you can talk to someone like folks from the EPN they can connect you to those resources in addition to, the resources they can bring to bear to support your community. So it is a really, it’s an ecosystem that unfortunately is rather small.

Thank you. Complex and bureaucratic and sometimes hard to navigate, but we are fortunate to have really cool orgs like APN be part of, helping folks navigate all this. So definitely, don’t feel like it’s too early to reach out, to get connected, to get support. And then I love that you all are thinking about doing the, like the post award management stuff and helping folks with that, because that is another part of just like really important Yeah, it’s a really important part of the problem or part of the solution set for this particular problem.

So this is super exciting. I love that. There’s there’s something to be said for the continuum of the process, right? So ideally, you get a grant, you manage it well, you get more grants, you continue to build and you build these relationships, the agencies, And and so having, having the right support and building that capacity is just going to be critical to keep this stuff flowing to the right people.

I am going to go ahead and tackle, there’s another question here. Do you have a network of fiscal sponsors you could connect social enterprises with that are working towards climate justice in the Midwest? We certainly do here at OpenGrants, and maybe maybe Michelle and Sierra do also, but we’re happy to, we’re happy to make that connection.

I’m seeing some negative responses. Yeah, happy to make that connection. And I will just I’ll just type an answer out to you here. So you can you can go ahead and just share. Yeah,

Mitchelle Mukeli: We do not work. Yeah, we do not have fiscal sponsors. And Seidel, do you think it would be helpful for us to go ahead and show the slide with our emails?

Sedale Turbovsky: Yes, please do because my next question is this. We are at the end here of our session. Appreciate everyone who attended. And for those who are catching this video after we process it and put it out on YouTube. Apologies that something funky happened with the next one. You may be catching this post instead of live and we’ll we’ll be digging into what happened and addressing that.

But I want to thank so much Kaya, Michelle, and Sierra for coming. I would love to just end on whatever y’all’s call to action is. So if you give folks who are on the call or watching this later a thing to do after listening to this session. What would it be? And obviously, you are welcome to reach out and connect with these fine folks at the EPN.

I think one of the

Sierra Taliaferro: things that I will leave

Mitchelle Mukeli: this today is

Sierra Taliaferro: on this call, continue to stay connected and observe within your surroundings when that organizations that you can connect with who are looking for people like

Mitchelle Mukeli: you. Love it. How am I supposed to top Sierra? Anyways I will, I feel like for me, I think.

And I didn’t know what environmental justice was and like what that looked like before I started doing this work. And so I think and so I think for me, it’s just like being similar to what Sarah said, being present to environment, seeing places where you can actively Seeing spaces where you can actively work into and where you can bring resources to help like fight for climate and fight for the environment, especially with all the things we’ve seen this summer in regards to climate and environment.

We’re at a place where it’s just, it’s actively, it’s always negatively impacted. Everybody, but it’s becoming more catastrophic. And so I was just that’s just I feel like my call to action to everybody around me is to actively what can we do to try and preserve the planet that we have?

Sedale Turbovsky: Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much. And thank you for the amazing work. That you all do it really is super important and also very impressive. So thank you for spending some time with us today and with the community. We will send out this recording as well as the slide and information out to y’all. So thank you all for joining us today and we will see you next month.

Mitchelle Mukeli: Thank you so much. Sedale great seeing you. Thank you so much.