A ‘Restless Organization:’ How CLASP’s Values Challenge us to Evolve
by Steve Pantano, Chief Innovation Officer
In celebration of CLASP’s 20th anniversary, each month we profile one of our team members. This month we’re featuring Steve Pantano, CLASP’s Chief Innovation Officer based in Washington D.C., to explore his journey with the organization.
When I joined CLASP in 2011, I didn’t know what to expect. I had been jumping from job to job every three years or so, restless, trying on various engineering, product development, and consulting roles in pursuit of a career that was both intellectually challenging and in service of a greater purpose. I didn’t know whether CLASP would fit the bill, but I could see that I was joining a unique organization with a bold mission, a creative mindset, and a work culture that exudes both drive for results and compassion for its people.
Over time I have come to appreciate the distinctive ways that CLASP’s values are reflected in the day-to-day work of our teams all over the world. Two values – invention and connection – impact how the organization is run and how we think about and deliver our market development programs.
CLASP has never been afraid of change; we have gone through at least three major evolutions since I joined. Each was tested and deliberated at length to ensure we would remain true to our mission, but at the end of the day, we have always been willing to abandon old ways of doing things in favor of a better way forward.
“CLASP has never been afraid of change.”
In our energy access portfolio, this is best exemplified by the work of our results-based financing team, who recently identified a surplus of incentive funds that needed to be quickly deployed to the market. Rather than default to the standard time-consuming approach of price-finding, the team invented and trialed a brand new RBF model – a reverse auction – that produced great results in a fraction of the time.
At CLASP we know that lasting change in markets for efficient, high-quality appliances cannot be effected from afar. The best evidence of this comes from India, where our local team has built relationships with partners and policymakers for more than 10 years — and where we partnered with local consultants for almost a decade before that; enabling remarkable progress in India’s appliance energy efficiency program.
“We have come to recognize that technology is only part of the solution.”
The need for local connection is particularly apparent in our energy access work, where our programs aim to deliver solar-powered refrigerators, water pumps, and other forms of much-needed energy service to millions of people for the first time. Through our field research and experience, we have come to recognize that technology is only part of the solution. It is just as important to understand the wants and needs of the people who are using new appliances and to train and build up a local network of distribution and service institutions to ensure long-term success. In response, we are now exploring how to better integrate the “people” perspective – gained especially through our growing presence and connections in Nairobi and our fieldwork in Bangladesh – across all of our market development programs. The goal is to provide and design programs from a nuanced understanding of people’s needs, balancing our understanding of technology and markets.
Nearly eight years after joining CLASP, I have the great pleasure of coming to work every day in an organization as restless as I am – always true to its values and focused on a lofty goal, but willing to take chances to find better, smarter ways to deliver results.