Innovator Stories


Donnel Baird ‘13BUS is the founder of BlocPower, a startup that markets and finances the installation of energy-­efficiency and renewable-­energy technologies in religious institutions, small businesses, and nonprofits in under­-served communities. BlocPower’s online platform connects impact investors with collections of low­risk “blocs” (collections of the nonprofits et al.) to invest in their energy­-efficiency upgrades, which the blocs then pay back over time. BlocPower’s mission is to bring together churches and organizations in a community to use their collective power to bargain for discounts on energy­efficient products, from insulation to solar panels, which are then installed for lower electricity bills. A nonprofit arm of BlocPower trains community workers to do the construction work.

Baird based his model on a project he helped coordinate in Washington, D.C. in 2010 in partnership with the Washington Interfaith Network and a local builder’s union. Donnel spent three years as a community organizer in Brooklyn and one year as a voter contact director for Obama For America. Donnel managed a national Change to Win campaign to leverage Dept. of Energy energy efficiency stimulus financing to create green construction jobs for out of work populations. He partnered with the Washington Interfaith Network to generate a $100m government energy efficiency investment in underserved communities in the District of Columbia. Donnel’s team negotiated similarly successful agreements in Portland, Milwaukee, and New York.

Donnel is an Open Society Foundation/Echoing Green Fellow and a graduate of Columbia Business School, where he was a Board of Overseers Fellow and a member of the Sanford Bernstein Board for Leadership and Ethics. He was also a recipient of investment from the Eugene F. Lang Fund for Entrepreneurial Initiative.

Read more about BlockPower in this Wall Street Journal February 2013 article or better yet, find out how you can help BlocPower make a difference on their website.

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