Monday, November 13, 2023
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Empowered: A Case Study on Energy Equity Storytelling
Session ID
D2 - Enhancing the Visibility, Salience, and Prominence of Equity in Utility Programs
Equity & Empowerment

The Empowered website project started with an idea to think beyond past research on energy affordability challenges and to instead showcase the lived experiences of people dealing with energy insecurity. The project was initiated by Elevate, a mission-driven nonprofit organization who seeks to create a world in which everyone has clean and affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities – no matter who they are or where they live. Developed in collaboration with Chicago artist/activist, Tonika Lewis Johnson, the Empowered team endeavored to cultivate a visually appealing website that combined research and data with illustrations, audio clips, and quotes from in-person interviews. In doing so, this project not only elevates individual stories, but it situates them into larger structural patterns of energy inequities. Additionally, the Empowered website offers both resources for viewers who might resonate with these experiences, as well as a road map for change in the form of specific policy recommendations. Not only does Empowered discuss present day challenges and solutions, but it also provides historical content in order to understand how discriminatory housing practices of the 1930s have influenced modern day energy challenges that disproportionately impact communities of colors. Understanding who is most affected provides a starting point for where to target resources so that energy investments can make the most equitable impacts. This presentation will offer key insights from this project: how the website has been received, lessons learned from start to finish, insights into the unique artistic collaboration, as well as ways to replicate this powerful use of data-meets-storytelling.

Supporting Document 1
Supporting Document 2