Above: FGC Plasma founder Felipe Gomez del Campo visits with Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth in Washington, D.C.
Last month, I had the opportunity to make the case for why cleantech entrepreneurs should care about policy engagement on a webinar hosted by the Incubatenergy Network. With all the responsibilities involved in managing a business, time is an entrepreneur’s most precious resource.
So, why should cleantech entrepreneurs focus on policy engagement when they have so much else on their plate? Here are a few thoughts:
Policy Engagement: Not Just Clever Signs at Protests
Policy engagement is so much more than spending your free time encouraging governments and policymakers to adopt certain positions. For cleantech entrepreneurs, it is really about developing relationships with the offices of policymakers so that you can get them to help you when you need it.
At some point in the future, you are likely to find yourself in a jam, or alternatively, have a new grant opportunity for your business. You don’t want to be asking for a favor the first time you reach out to an office – you are going to be much more successful if you develop a relationship in advance.
Steamed Broccoli, Not Pez
Engaging policymakers is a risk mitigation and business development opportunity. It’s a lot like eating your vegetables – it might not be the first thing on your list, and it’s not necessarily enjoyable, but it’s good for you in the long term. It is also important to take a long-term approach to policy engagement – it’s not something you can do once; you need to develop relationships over months and years.
And, much like eating healthy foods, you don’t really have a choice. With public policy, you can either engage and help to shape the political and regulatory environment in which your business operates, or you can let others shape it for you (hint: you probably won’t be happy with their decisions).
Okay, Now What?
If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, here are a few recommended next steps:
- Get to know your elected officials’ offices
- Meet with regulators and staff
- Engage with relevant trade groups and cleantech accelerators, like Clean Energy Trust – we’re here to help!