Rudi Navarra: Human Connector

With a lineup spanning from California to Florida, the Solutions Project team strives to reflect the diversity of voices, perspectives, and experiences of the America we celebrate. Together, our stories are a small part of what makes 100% clean energy a reality for 100% of people. To highlight the human energy propelling clean energy, we are introducing a new staff profile series. For our first feature, meet Rudi Navarra.

“I’m an immigrant. I’m Hispanic. I’m American. I’m an internationalist. I’m family-oriented.”

This is what Rudi had to say when I asked him to tell me about himself. Skype-ing in from his home office in sunny Miami, I caught up with Rudi briefly before he got back on the road. Rudi spends a fair amount of his workday traveling and making new connections with leaders and grassroots organizations who are at the forefront of the just transition to a clean energy economy.

As Program Officer for the Solutions Project, Rudi’s work focuses on putting money into the hands of organizations that are able to push policy and build movement simultaneously; a responsibility of which he is deeply proud.

“Environmental issues have been affecting communities of color for a very long time,” he says. Rudi began his work at the intersection of environmental and social justice while part of a Latino civic engagement organization that took on all sorts of issues including healthcare reform, immigration, and digital democracy. In that role, Rudi took up the mantle of environmental issues and pioneered the organization’s work on climate. He took on the role of developing a national Hispanic advocacy program on climate change and conservation in eight states.

Since then, he’s been an active voice for environmental justice, rooted in equity and diverse leadership.

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A self-identified moderate liberal, Rudi’s passion for his work emanates from growing up in Latin America and learning from equity-rooted philosophies such as liberation theology. Born in Colombia, Rudi’s parents raised him in the neighboring country of Venezuela with his two older brothers.

He described his childhood as navigating three different cultural bubbles: the context of the streets and culture of Venezuela, life at home with his socially conservative Colombian family, and his education in an American international school where he experienced firsthand the disparate nature of social classes. Unsurprisingly, his perspective and work is shaped by these early cross-cultural exchanges.

On what gives him hope, it’s all about human connections for Rudi.

He mused that, “Local politics and local power have national and international effect. It doesn’t always, but it can. [And] in spite of polarization, I still think at the human to human level, there’s a lot of empathy and kindness.”

This orientation is in no small part shaped by his family. Rudi often quotes an Italian proverb favored by his great-grandfather: Chi va piano va sano i lontano, chi va forte va a la morte (Who goes slowly, goes far and in health, and who goes fast, goes to death and trouble). As we enter a new political moment, this proverb is a great reminder for us all to take it one step at a time.

Though the fight may seem hard, together, we can be the light we need for a brighter, healthier future. Rudi is certainly a bright light on the Solutions Project team.

You can follow Rudi on Twitter at @LatinoSublime.