December 21, 2011

My Life and Work in Four Acts ~ Donna Morton

Photo: Collection Agency

1. The Artist – My first identity, making films, drawing, painting, poetry; imagining a different world, knowing I could shape the world with art.

I found that identity easily, sometimes wore it, sometimes kept it in secret. I wore lots of black, saw lots of foreign films, sipped cappuccinos in coffee houses, collected the most interesting people.

Yep, even played the bongos once in a street band. Studied arts of course in college, my world was drawn by Frida Kahlo, Smiths soundtrack, politics shaped by Capra, Goddard and Wenders. I was outside the box, and deeply aware that art, culture drive us as much as DNA.

2. Activist – My early adulthood fixated on stopping the destruction of the world. I heard Dr. Helen Caldicott on nuclear, Dr. Suzuki on the environment and left the world of Dr. Strangelove to dig in and get my hands clean. Went to jail every five weeks for Greenpeace for two years. Loved the direct and action of it, the precision, the media, the mayhem. Said “no” lots, to nukes, toxics, deforestation, GMO’s you name a bad and I was against it. I focussed on the world’s most broken  pieces, started to see the whole along with the holes. But the pain of the world was also too much for my heart and I longed for the world of yes. Longed for how we would pay for health care and education and keep people working in this big green sustainable new world.

3. Mother – My son’s birth slowed it all down, a 56 hour natural birth ought to do that, something shifted to a softer more collaborative way and means. I founds more space for Wyatt, more space for more of me too and started to journey inward, started more of my own healing. Something in carrying, more in surrendering shaped me next. My commitments to change the world deepened but also the need for new tactics . My softness emerged and the warrior came to rest, now I can bring her out whenever I need to and she is not the driving force. I started to wear pink, started to do yoga, started to want to collaborate, craft, cooperate, co-create this new world.

4. Entrepreneur – Somehow it is my entrepreneur that is gathering up the pieces, the patterns, the phases of my 45-year-old life and weaving them together. I feel more whole, more creative, more able to express and shape the world in this new way of being. There is a huge and even raw energy to entrepreneurship and I love it. The world seems to be rising up to meet me in this new space and yes, the “YES” of it is more a birth, more a dance, more surfing than anything I have known. My “unreasonableness” is now an asset, my artist is celebrated, my role as mother makes me a better CEO. I made it to mid-life intact still the dreamer, still the agent of change and I am nicer, more fun and way more into building teams of “we”.

I am now the CEO of an energy company, a seemingly strange turn and the most amazing alignment of everything I am. First Power is a highly integrative venture; hybrid structure, the for profit a Bcorp, so values engraved into the core, not some CSR playtime, we are all about changing the world. We use the power of 100% renewable energy to unleash the potential in Native American/First Nations communities, leaving jobs and reduced CO2 in our wake. The projects are co-created with communities, elders, kids, the whole community helps create the vision for the project and then land it. We work with artists to acid etch art on solar panels and carvers to create windmills like totem poles. We craft stories and reports using video to harness the potential and respect the aptitudes of a deeply oral culture.

First Power lets me express, expect and enterprise my way into the world. Business is the most freeing space I have ever occupied. The Unreasonable experience, 26 people from around the world living in a frat house was a game changing. They did not merely accelerate us, they put us on a global catapult and fired us into the ether. Since I left the mansion, speaking gigs, media, three TEDx talks in three months and new projects abound. People are coming out of the woodwork to help us build, expand, grow, it’s magical. My “unreasonable” summer allowed me to see that my complex path was perfect for what I do now, not relevant, not useful, perfect. I was called young to want to re-make the world, this need to first lift economics and now business to align with poetry and the most beautiful music and masks ever created still get me up in the am, it’s just that up is so much higher.




Donna Morton, CEO, co-founder of First Power, with a mission to put clean energy, jobs and equity in the hands of first nations and native communities globally. She recently was elected an Unreasonable Institute fellow for building one of the worlds most “unreasonable” start ups. First Power is profitable and highly impactful. She is also an Ashoka fellow for her work with the Centre for Integral Economics(CIE), both BC based. CIE promotes market-based solutions to social and environmental sustainability and helped put tax shifting and carbon taxes on the map across Canada.

She is a serial-social entrepreneur for over 20 years. She worked for Greenpeace, built campaigns for numerous NGO’s, founded several orgs, worked for US think tank then Northwest Environment Watch now Sightline Institute in Seattle. More recently her experience includes extensive consulting with large and small businesses, governments and NGO’s and numerous first nations and aboriginal business organizations. Her expertise ranges from communications, economics, social enterprise startups, partnerships, economic development and film making.

Donna’s speaking engagements includes: SOCAP11, TEDx Winnipeg, BALLE, Bioneers. She has done extensive media including CBC budget commentaries, recently featured in Entrepreneur, two-part series for CBC Ideas “It is Not Easy Being Green” and Financial Post. She was featured as one of 30 global leaders who use economics, to deliver on the environment in the international TV series, Act for the Planet, which aired around the world.

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