Director’s Letter

Dear Readers,

David HartOne of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with teams of students and faculty dedicated to solving sustainability problems. Because sustainability requires a focus on the well-being of society as well as the natural world, the Mitchell Center serves as a hub for assembling research teams that bring together specialists from such varied fields as economics, biology, political science, environmental engineering, and anthropology. We also assist in finding partners from government, tribal communities, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations who bring their real-world expertise to these solutions-driven collaborations.

As you’ll see from the stories on these pages, we continue to expand our partnerships and tackle an ever-wider range of sustainability challenges, including energy efficiency, coastal fisheries, food waste and climate adaptation. Although each project has unique elements, all have benefited from a commitment to building strong relationships with stakeholders based on open communication, mutual respect and trust. This rich collaborative soil provides fertile ground for generating shared understandings, identifying information gaps and developing tools to improve decision-making.

Our innovative mix of strategies—tailoring our approach to match local needs, yet doing so in ways that provide guidance for broader uses—has earned the Mitchell Center a reputation as a leader and valued partner in addressing sustainability challenges. For example, we were recently asked by Maine’s legislature to facilitate a statewide discussion of diverse stakeholders that addresses intersecting challenges involving food waste, hunger, and farming. We were also invited to join with representatives of some of the world’s leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, to develop best practices for connecting science and policy to solve pressing sustainability problems.

Many sustainability problems lack quick fixes, however, so we’re also developing the leadership capacity of students and faculty to work on these challenges throughout their careers. Although there is no surefire formula, it’s clear that progress towards solutions is enhanced by several things—the humility to recognize that no one person or organization has all the answers, a willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes, and uncommon patience and persistence.

It is  worth noting that these are exactly the leadership qualities Senator Mitchell underscores in his memoir, The Negotiator. In this sense, we’re simply trying to apply some of the invaluable lessons he has learned as part of his lifelong commitment to serving society.

We look forward to working with you on the road to solutions!

David Hart
Director, Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions