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Transformational Change at RMI

Letter from the CEO
By Michael Potts

Most changes in industry and society are incremental, focused on a single component or aspect that might improve performance, but often fall short of changing the fundamental design of a system. Incremental changes are necessary and helpful, but they aren’t our specialty at RMI.

We look for opportunities to drive transformational change: to shake up the very foundations of a system or process. For example, we love to design high-performance buildings that consume 50 to 80 percent less energy than typical structures. These kinds of projects require a fundamental rethinking of the way buildings are built.

In other sectors, we are also striving for breakthrough change: trucks that are three-times more fuel efficient than current models, cars that achieve 150 miles per gallon, large-scale industrial processes that use 80 percent less energy, and electricity grids that rely on renewable energy instead of coal and natural gas.

In the past few years, companies and organizations have grown increasingly receptive to these kinds of forward-thinking ideas. Skyrocketing fossil-fuel prices are only increasing the sense of urgency. The public’s growing awareness, combined with our own desire to dramatically increase our impact and effectiveness, is motivating us to drive transformational change in yet another arena: RMI itself.

Hopefully, you’ve noticed some of the changes that we’ve already made. RMI’s increasingly transformed Web presence, our successful RMI25 event, upcoming National Solutions Council weekends, and the very journal you are reading right now are all signs of how we are changing the way we communicate our work and innovation to the world.

This past fiscal year, our staff grew to more than 100 people. Philanthropy supporting our research and outreach grew by 50 percent. RMI also attracted the attention and partnership of pivotal industry leaders. This growth, however, is only the first step toward changing the nature of our work. As more for-profit practitioners enter our fields, we will be shifting our efforts “upstream” toward research and innovation. Rather than let market forces sort out important questions, such as our reliance on the diminishing supply of fossil fuels, we are actively seeking out answers to guide industry and policy over the next several decades. This internal transformation requires a deeper commitment to philanthropy, which has been generously provided to us in proportion to the mounting evidence of our impact.

To encourage a smooth and thoughtful transition to this new model, I have asked our own team, our clients, our extensive network of advisors and collaborators, and our dedicated board of trustees, to help forge a new strategy for RMI. In this next year, we are embarking on a fundamental quest to determine our future direction in terms of scale, focus, and global reach.

These times at RMI are truly transformative. This work is crucial, fascinating, and fulfilling—and we are delighted that you have chosen to collaborate with us in striving to make our world a secure, life-sustaining, and prosperous place.

Michael Potts is RMI's CEO

--Published July 2008

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