A Guide on Collaborating with Community-Based Organizations to Deliver EV and Clean Energy Programs


By Luzita Lutfi

May 23, 2024

Community-based organizations (CBOs) should play a key role in the effective and efficient design, implementation and evaluation of clean transportation and sustainable energy programs in their communities.

With their deep local roots and understanding of local contexts, CBOs are well-positioned to share information about program incentives and other funding opportunities that benefit and empower community members. Just as important, they can share their knowledge of community priorities and challenges with policymakers to inform the programs themselves.

CBOs are driven by a mission to address the unique needs and challenges of the communities they serve, such as health, education and environmental issues. Collaborating successfully with a CBO requires relationship building, training and informational resources, compensation and regular measurement of efforts and impacts.


1. Working with CBOs requires building relationships

Any good relationship relies on regular communication that includes both speaking and active listening.

Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), as part of the solar, energy storage, electric vehicle (EV) and EV charging programs it administers, has built relationships with over 30 CBOs. Each CBO is assigned a case manager who is the day-to-day point of contact and is available to support the CBO’s program efforts. The case manager is responsible for regular check-ins, training and monthly tracking and reporting on deliverables.

Monthly one-on-one meetings are an opportunity for the CBO to ask questions, give feedback and share about upcoming events or activities that would be suitable for engaging the community about the program. These regular check-ins with CBOs help create a genuine relationship that can unlock a wealth of knowledge about community needs, priorities and challenges.


2. Provide training and community-appropriate materials

Many of the CBOs that CSE partners with are not solely focused on environmental issues. That doesn’t mean they can’t share information about solar or EV programs, just that program information must be shared in the context of the organization and the community.

It is important to develop a CBO training curriculum and outreach materials that speak to a specific community’s concerns, such as health, economic or environmental justice issues.

CSE case managers train CBO partners on the programs CSE administers. Once CBOs are trained, the case manager may offer to participate in or co-present in initial community meetings until the CBO staff is confident answering program questions.

As a result of this capacity-building funding, some of the CBOs have created their own EV departments and teams dedicated to EV education to share information about the benefits of going electric with the community long after a specific program has ended.


3. Compensate CBOs for their time and expertise

CBOs are trusted sources of information in the communities they serve. They are experts in what their communities need and prioritize, and their deep knowledge of historical and cultural contexts allows them to share program information in ways that connect and resonate with their community members.

Just as any expert consultant should be compensated for their time, so should CBOs. There are proven ways to compensate CBOs for providing program guidance and conducting outreach and education activities, such as incorporating CBOs in program budgets and paying for their participation in an advisory council.


4. Foster learning by measuring efforts and impacts

Tracking and reporting on a CBO’s key outreach and engagement metrics can help determine which activities work best for a community.

Monthly reporting on quantitative metrics, such as the number of in-person events, virtual presentations and number of attendees, is a first step. Providing CBOs with collateral materials, such as flyers, trackable website URLs, QR codes and social media posts, also provides data and helps them create a coordinated approach to their outreach.

By combining data with qualitative information that tells the story behind the numbers, CBOs and program administrators can determine which outreach methods and messages are working and document the impacts of their work.

Documenting CBOs’ feedback throughout the project is also essential. Collecting suggestions and lessons learned can help improve future program design and refine outreach strategies.


Embrace a CBO strategy

Collaborating with CBOs on clean energy and transportation initiatives promotes awareness of sustainability in low-income and disadvantaged communities and communities of color. The success of partnerships depends on the foundational elements of relationship building and active listening, training and informational resources, equitable compensation and insightful measurement and reporting.

By seeking feedback from CBOs and embracing the lessons learned, CSE paves the way for a more equitable, resilient and community-centered future in clean transportation and clean energy.



Luzita Lutfi

Associate Project Manager

Luzita Pineda Lutfi has over 10 years of experience in outreach and education strategies serving low- to moderate-income communities in the environment and healthcare fields. At the Center for Sustainable Energy, she is the case manager for several community-based organizations and helps raise…

Read more by Luzita Lutfi