A Year-End Reflection from Stacie Smith, CBI's Managing Director

The ship of Theseus, according to ancient myth, was an Athenian craft whose components had been replaced, plank by plank, while its form remained the same. A popular subject for philosophical debate, it’s also an emblem of continuity through change, which resonates with CBI as we move from 2023 to 2024. This has been a year of big transitions for us, but those changes have helped maintain the qualities that have always defined CBI.

The changes were most evident internally in the organization. 2023 was the first full year in which I’ve served as CBI’s sole managing director, after twenty years in which CBI was led by two managing directors. We also brought on an amazing new Chief Financial and Operations Officer—Sarah Hershberger—who is building upon the substantial foundations created by Ed Minor in his 20-year tenure in the role of CFO. Sarah has been expanding our structures and attention to internal operations and brought in a new accountant to support financial matters.  We’ve welcomed 4 new project staff—two Associates and two Senior Associates—since the start of the year, , and CBI West has a new director, Tania Carlone, who ascended to that role after years as a Senior Mediator with CBI.

And yet, in this year of internal change, CBI’s work has remained steady, focused on our wide and diverse array of projects. That array is itself part of the CBI character: we emphasize our local to global reach, and our expertise across different legal, technical, and policy dimensions. In 2023, that reach has expanded, through practice areas from climate to energy to water resources and more.

We’ve seen immediate effects of our work. This year, CBI’s amazing team of Sinéad Talley, Cam Hager, and Pat Field supported the Not Invisible Act Commission, which was established to confront the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of Indigenous people. This was an 18-month initiative, complex and emotionally strenuous, engaging hundreds of participants from across Indian Country. The Commission recently sent its recommendations to the Justice Department, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Congress. The Commission’s recommendations will, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “play an important role in our shared work to address the violence Tribal communities face.” 

Across the U.S., CBI has continued pursuing projects with vast ecological implications. In New York, CBIers Ona Ferguson, Bennett Brooks, and Brandon Chambers helped make great strides this year in their work with The Nature Conservancy to support a coalition of NYC organizations committed to growing the city’s tree canopy, with successful passage of two new state laws. And CBI staffers David Plumb, Toby Berkman, Pat Field, Catherine Morris, Ona Ferguson, Aarati Halbe, and Melanie Gárate have provided support for climate impacts and action planning efforts in New York, Vermont, and Maine, which has received national recognition for its climate action plan. And our CBI West team of Tania Carlone, Sophie Carrillo-Mandel, Stephanie Horii, Sinéad Talley, and Ryan Golten continue to build our work supporting collaborations around water.  Our involvement with clean energy projects has ranged from the question of siting wind energy to the establishment of a first-in-the-nation clean heat standard in Massachusetts. 

Beyond the United States, there’s been a similar range in our work. In Canada, Michael Brown and Catherine Morris completed a scoping assessment for Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization, resulting in design of a strategy for siting of high-level nuclear waste in Ontario, Michele Ferenz supported an ambitious renewable energy project in India, and Betsy Fierman and David Plumb are leading amazing energy and environmental projects in Chile.

I always say, CBI’s greatest value is the strength and skill of all our staff, and I am thrilled that, even as our team members change, our quality remains. Through this work and with our new staff, we’ve been expanding our areas of work and engaging exciting new ideas—all of which boosts CBI’s consistent pursuit of collaborative solutions across drastically different challenges.