Desirée Williams-Rajee has permanently changed the trajectory of sustainability and climate planning in government. Triple bottom line practitioners struggled for years to manifest the “third leg” of the sustainability stool, a.k.a. social equity, until Desiree supplanted the work with a new approach addressing institutional racism and centering the communities most impacted by climate. She was recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration for her work on the Portland Multnomah County Climate Action Plan, setting a new bar for local government to address environmental racism as a responsibility and a professional practice. Her work and thought leadership continue to have national impact through her firm, Kapwa Consulting, where she supports leaders within the Urban Sustainable Directors Network and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge.
Kapwa is a Tagalog word that defines the interconnectivity between living things, in essence our shared humanity. Inspired by this, Desirée has cultivated an approach to develop “equity thinking” –a means to understand our relationship to the natural world and each other through systems of power, colonialism, and race. With this grounding philosophy, she has helped numerous leaders within government agencies and environmental nonprofits redefine themselves and their outcomes to rebalance urban ecosystems towards justice.