Sierra Business Council founder receives $500K grant |

Sierra Business Council founder receives $500K grant

Moderating meetings between fundamentally opposed political groups and working to achieve sustainable long-term development goals in the high Sierra is a tough row to hoe.

But with the help of the MacArthur Foundation, the row for Sierra Business Council president Lucy Blake may be a little easier.

Lucy Blake was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work as president and co-founder of the Sierra Business Council, a non-profit organization based in Truckee, working to achieve long-term sustainable social, environmental, and economic wealth in the Sierra region.

Blake is one of 25 people selected to receive the fellowship. The awards are given to individuals for their “exceptional creativity, record of significant accomplishment, and potential for still greater achievement,” said David J. Socolow, director of the fellows program.

The MacArthur Foundation announced that “the Sierra Business Council is recognized nationally as an example of how communities can integrate social, economic, and environmental concerns in mutually supportive ways.”

All the candidates for MacArthur fellowships are anonymously nominated, and considered by a 13-member selection committee, all of whom are also anonymous.

The committee recommends candidates to the foundation’s board of directors.

Initially, Blake was stunned by the announcement.

“I was in Costa Rica with my husband. I couldn’t have been more surprised,” said the SBC President. “I’ve never taken much of an interest in rewards. It’s almost embarrassing.”

“At this point I’m happily and gainfully employed,” she continued. “At some point

I will step back. But right now I have a lot of work to do.”

The half million dollar fellowship will be awarded over the next five years. There are no stipulations or requirements regarding how the money should be spent.

“It’s so premature I don’t really know [how to spend the money],” Blake said. “It’s too new. It’s money that will be put into a savings account. I will decide later. It’s a blessed opportunity. I never thought I would receive something like this.”

Blake originally grew up in North Africa. She moved around Europe until finally settling on the East Coast to attend Brown University.

She moved to the west coast in 1981, fell in love with the region, and moved to Sierraville to form the SBC.

Formed in 1994 with only a handful of members, the SBC has grown to 18 staffers and more than 500 businesses.

Under Blake’s leadership and vision, the council has been working on three ongoing projects: investing for prosperity, an assessment of the regions net wealth, planning for prosperity, and building leadership to spearhead regional and local change.

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