September 30, 2022

Natalie Elwell joins CIP board of directors

Natalie ElwellNatalie Elwell is a natural fit for CIP’s board of directors, boasting a long career in the international and sustainable development field both in and outside of Cleveland.  But what makes her experience truly stand out is how her past employment with CIP played a pivotal role in how she came to be so passionate about her life’s work.
Natalie with her first CIP group
Natalie recalls, “My experience with CIP, meeting so many interesting people and being exposed to their work and their worlds is what pointed me in the direction of international/sustainable development.  There was one experience in particular that was life changing for me.  A participant from Nepal, Nirmal, generously invited me to visit him and his family.  Shortly after he left Cleveland, I got a nice tax return and instead of putting it in the bank, I booked a trip to Nepal.  This man hosted me on the SOS Children’s Village compound where he lived with his wife and son.

“The compound had several homes where widowed or single women (who were outcasted from society due to harsh social norms) were hired as mothers for disabled orphans.  They each had a house with several children and the village had a school to attend to their special needs.  It was incredible to see how Nirmal was able to apply his learnings from his extended exchange in Cleveland to improve the services his school offered to these children.  

“Nirmal and his family also graciously showed me around Kathmandu and Nirmal even took me hiking, where I took off on my own for a few days to wander through the rice fields, a bit naïve about the Maoist revolution that was brewing.  Seeing how people lived, experiencing their generosity, their curiosity, and their drive to learn and grow, all under the powerful energy of the Himalayan mountains, reignited a drive in me to explore and to contribute to the world.  I came home from that trip and started looking for a graduate program.  Over the years I’ve stayed in touch with CIP and have even gotten involved with a couple of projects here and there.”
Nirmal with his familyNatalie’s resume certainly reflects that drive.  Before CIP, she was an English and Environment volunteer teacher in Moldova with the US Peace Corps, and after CIP she studied sustainable development at the School for International Training in Vermont, focusing on gender and development.  She then joined World Neighbors, which supported community-led development in 18 countries around the world.  Natalie’s aim was in ensuring that the processes used and the outcomes of the initiative were equitable for women.  Seven years later, Natalie  joined the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a senior gender advisor in the gender and development office.  With her background in supporting programming related to agriculture and natural resource management, her main focus became supporting gender integration in the environment and climate programming across the Agency.   After six years with USAID, Natalie joined World Resources Institute, where she continues her career today more than seven years later.  “I am very passionate about women’s rights and the rights of marginalized people.  I’m also passionate about environmental issues.  I love that I get to combine those two passions in one job! I lead the implementation of a global strategy for gender integration in the work of the institute, which is a global research organization that works with governments, businesses, multilateral institutions, and civil society groups to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive.” 

All of these previous experiences and passions combine to form the vision Natalie has for the future of CIP and her ideas for bringing the organization forward.  “I think there is a space for CIP to foster exchange on climate and environment issues between Cleveland and partner cities around the world.  In the span of a brief week or month, CIP is able to offer unique, in-depth experiences that provide participants with knowledge and insights that can propel changes in the way they work that have profound impacts.”  Within her new role on our Board, she is a highly valuable member of the Committee to Address Climate Change and Sustainability, giving the committee her insight into high-needs areas we could be targeting and helping to make pivotal connections in the industry here in Cleveland and nationally.

Natalie’s passion for the environment and community doesn’t stop when the work day is over.  In her spare time, she puts herself to work improving Cleveland for the people and animals who call it home. “I like to run trails and hike and I’ve recently started fostering animals for the APL.  A bit over a year ago I co-founded the Cleveland Heights Green team which aims to reduce and better manage local impact on our environment through advocacy, stewardship, and education.  We do trash clean ups, offer informational session at local events to raise awareness about how to properly recycle and dispose of waste to reduce the impact on landfills and greenhouse gas emissions, host a speaker series on climate change in the Heights and advocate for policies and actions that improve environmental sustainability while fostering social equity and responsible economic development.”

Natalie is an inspiring addition to CIP’s board of directors.  “We are so excited to welcome Natalie to our Board, with her wealth of knowledge and international experience in some critical areas that need our team's energy and focus.  Developing new programming with her invaluable input will be crucial to the success of these initiatives,” says CIP President & CEO Lisa Purdy.

Welcome to our Board, Natalie! 
Posted by Melissa Zwick on September 30, 2022 at 9:52 AM in CIPUSA Permalink
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