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Video Tour of the Community Summit Process

Promote the Idea

Build Internal Support

Build Interest Among
Community Partners

Co-create the Future

Promote Local Innovation

Inspire Action

Case Statement

Preliminary proposals must be adapted to suit the "burning need" driving a given organization or company.  This section provides a structure and suggestions about how to frame what is key for your situation.

The case for support for utility decision-makers starts with the specific priorities whether it's to refine the Outreach & Education plans for a pilot, build support for new dynamic pricing programs, or connect regulators with the groundswell of support present in a region to justify cost-recovery. A single "Smart City" can influence the surrounding towns and provide a "reference account" for other locations.

Here are key elements to include:

  1. Current status
  2. Burning need
  3. Strategic investment
  4. Local key influencers or partners
  5. Game-changing opportunity
  6. Methodology to be used
  7. Timeframe
  8. Content priorities
  9. Budget/cost-sharing model

1. The current status

The "current status" focuses your organization's situation to briefly set the stage.  For example:

[UTILITY]’s annual report notes that the company seeks to “enhance customer value with cost-effective technological advancements that empower customers and leads to more efficient utilization of electricity, reductions in future demand growth, improvements in the environment and a more reliable and secure system.” As was also noted by its CEO, the “cultural change” implicit in a grid modernization project is far more daunting than the technology


[UTILITY] has been a leader in developing best practices for the kind of customer engagement needed to gain the value of Smart Grid investments including 90-60-30 AMI rollout notifications, proactive customer support in the field, energy literacy work with community partners, collaboration with business associations and clean tech innovators, and solid integrated multi-lingual marketing campaigns. Other industry stakeholder groups have acknowledged those contributions and have honored the utility with awards, case studies, and speaking invitations.

2. The “burning need”

The "burning need" articulates the specific obstacles your organization is trying to overcome that would justify a substantive investment. For example:

While protests that have plagued other IOUs have not been a significant factor in the service territory, many in the customer base and local media do not share the industry’s view of the utility’s excellence. Full appreciation and trust continues to be elusive and the community is polarized as future energy resources are identified and prioritized.


While the State Legislature has authorized the utility’s grid modernization program and the initiative has the support of such groups as the Consumer Utility Board (CUB), the Regulatory Commission has authorized a new formula rate for reimbursement that is inconsistent with shareholder expectations and which is causing the utility to delay its deployment plans.


State Commissioners and consumer advocates continue to be skeptical of the ROI of Smart Grid to individuals in the short-term so it is important to reinforce how utility plans will support long-term strategic goals. Cheap gas supplies are impacting cost recovery approvals and causing budgets and human-capital to be constrained. Dynamic pricing—on the horizon for spring and summer– remains a controversial topic for low-income consumer advocates despite the positive results of pilots.

3. The strategic investment

The strategic investment section reinforces the solutions you are trying to achieve with the summit:

Creating community enthusiasm and pull for dynamic pricing, DR, and other green programs will require aligning the goals of the community with the utility’s strategies for reducing or deferring customer use based on information or automation; integrating renewables at varied scales; and improving service through digital sensors, controls, and data analytics. By leveraging its partnerships in the community, [UTILITY] can build a critical mass of support for continued investment and differentiated rates, as well as broaden the media and public’s understanding of how smart policies and technology can make the grid more resilient and provide an economic upside for low-income residents.


broaden the public’s understanding of the tradeoffs among low-carbon energy resources.

4. The local key influencers or partners

Identify key Influencers in your community who would be likely to support this sort of effort


5. The game-changing opportunity

Explain why this approach represents a game changing opportunity

IEEE Power and Energy Society recognizes that human-centered design methodologies have the power to change the dynamic of the public conversation and contribute in a meaningful way to the “cultural change” demanded by Smart Grid. View a Sustainability Summit in Process

  1. This form of engagement presents an exceptional opportunity to show how smart energy can support a community's aspirations by linking sustainability with economic vitality;
  2. Community summits are a very targeted and cost-effective way to activate hundreds of smart energy champions who can speak effectively to and influence their peers and the media;
  3. Summits provide a venue for regulators and consumer advocates to experience the groundswell of support that emerges from diverse segments of the community (including low-income residents, seniors, and youth) when people are introduced to Smart Grid from the community's perspectives rather than from the utility’s point of view.

6. The methodology to be used

Describe the methodology to be used

There are several excellent human-centered design methodologies available. IEEE chose to collaborate with Dr. Cooperrider because his approach has proven to be effective with large groups of 300-700 people and to provide persistent value.

An Appreciative Inquiry (AI) summit is a large group planning, designing, or implementation meeting that brings a whole system of internal and external strengths together in a concentrated way to work on a task of strategic importance. Moreover, it is a meeting where everyone is engaged as a designer, across all relevant and resource-rich boundaries, to share leadership and take ownership for making the future of a big-league opportunity successful. Developed by David L. Cooperrider, the Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.

Admiral Clark, the CNO of the Navy, for example used AI for a multiyear project on “Bold and Enlightened Naval Leadership.” Cooperrider was asked by the United Nations to design a historic summit and meeting between Kofi Annan and 500 CEOs to “unite the strengths of markets with the authority of universal ideals to make globalization work for everyone.” This particular methodology has been proven to be extremely effective at accelerating the kinds of cultural change required by the utility sector. (For more detail

7. The timeframe

While the timeframe is adjustable and the IEEE program can accelerate the process, it is important to allow enough time for various participants on the steering committee to feel ownership of the event.

Pre-summit: 3-6 months to recruit steering committee, define goals, organize event, build momentum and visibility in community

Summit event: 2-3 days

Post-summit: Community-led initiatives and new employment opportunities continue to add value beyond the event. IEEE volunteers reduce workload of utility staff.

Shared ownership and influence
The utility can amplify the impact on its investment because other players have a vested interest in continued success. Getting the right people involved goes beyond the steering committee and includes personal invitations and follow-up with all types of community members. These relationships continue beyond the summit.

Guiding the discussion with a light touch
Collectively, the steering committee decides what kinds of projects will advance a smart energy agenda. This influences selection of experts for the keynote and innovation panels. Key concepts are seeded among roundtable discussions. After first day of brainstorming, the core team selects which 15 projects will be prototyped on Day 2 or 3.

8. The content priorities

These will vary from region to region but content goals may include:

  • Help people understand what storm recovery requires and why it takes time
  • Give regulators, advocates, and utilities a sense of how sub-groups view different rate options
  • Demonstrate that utility is listening to the public
  • Explore how Smart Grid-enabled capabilities can benefit vulnerable and low-income residents
  • Learn how low-income consumers can become part of the economic upside of smart energy practices
  • Make the connection between jobs and investment
  • Help people understand how rates are determined
  • Discuss tradeoffs of different types of investment
  • Identify the impact on the utility’s ability to secure capital and invest in new infrastructure if cost recovery is delayed

9. The budget/cost-sharing model

A preliminary budget and description of the cost-sharing model can be included.

  • IEEE provides tools, templates, and the generic microsite to be localized for each venue
  • IEEE is underwriting a support team and has negotiated a discounted rate for engaging AI expert Dr. David Cooperrider
  • The local host pays for venue logistics and honorarium for keynote speaker
  • Optional support includes customization of microsite and collateral, asset map license, new video productions, or localization of a one-day energy literacy workshop.
  • Contact Judith Schwartz, Program Manager for more details This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.