In honor of Clean Water Action's 50th birthday, we’re sharing our history and stories of the people who have helped us protect clean water along the way through #CleanWater50Stories.
Meet Todd Speight! Todd brought a lot of great ideas and energy to Clean Water Action's canvass programs. He built one of our largest and most successful field operations in Austin, TX. Todd is known for his vision and his ability to wordsmith great ideas into a few simple words. To this day, we use some of his metaphors and descriptors in our canvass training materials! Most importantly he brought a sense of mission, humility, and observational humor to the work. Learn more about Todd in this recent interview:
I started working with Clean Water Action in 1997 – right out of college – as a field canvasser in Austin, Texas. I thought it would be a temporary gig – something cool to do until I found a “real job”. Well, I stayed for 11 years. I Canvass Directed in Austin and San Francisco, and crosstrained to just about every city where there was a Clean Water Action office. It was really only by accident that I ever left Clean Water. I was added to the Canvass Supervisor team to support the Working America project and, in 2008 when Working America went out on its own, it just made sense that I fold in with them. I spent the next 12 years with Working America including 8 years as the National Canvass Director, but I always thought of myself as a Clean Water person on a long crosstrain.
What's Your Favorite Memory or Story about Clean Water Action?
Clean Water Action is so unique and special in how much they invest in the people they hire. This was my first real job out of college and so I didn’t realize until I left how much training and support Clean Water Action provided compared to most organizations. My entire professional career has been like “everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten” except instead of kindergarten substitute my first 5 years at Clean Water. Team building, training, public speaking, communication, recruitment, leadership development, project management - the list of skills goes on and on. And it’s not just experiential learning. Clean Water has created a formal and deliberate process complete with materials, curriculum, and classroom-style instruction. From the weekly trainer training sessions to the (at least) annual leadership conferences, I received a Master’s-level education in management and leadership. Seriously, I don’t know where I’d be without it.
I reflect on my own gratitude for the professional foundation I received at Clean Water, but I also want to reflect on the broader impact this approach has had on the lives of countless activist-minded people who have passed through Clean Water Action’s doors. Most people don’t stay for their entire careers, or even 11 years like I did. But most people go on to do something that benefits our planet and the people living on it – that’s why they answered the job ad in the first place. I am inspired when I think about the diaspora of world-changers who came out of Clean Water Action, all of them having a significantly bigger impact than they would have had they never spent time with this wonderful organization.