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To cohort, or not to cohort:

Created 1/2/2015 by Warren Fish
Updated 1/8/2015 by Ben Fowler
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That is the question…

The SMI Solutions Group of the Northwest Industrial SEM Collaborative, a work team led by Kim Crossman of Energy Trust of Oregon, discussed Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program delivery models at our December meeting and webinar.  At the top of the agenda were the pros and cons of a cohort approach to SEM program delivery.  

What is the cohort approach, you may be wondering?  It boils down to bringing participants from various companies and industries together into group trainings and workshops in support of their implementation of Strategic Energy Management (SEM) at their facilities.  Contrasted with a single-site delivery model, the cohort approach sets out to achieve economies of scale by training staff from multiple companies at once, while also creating peer learning opportunities for participants.   Since peer learning and group formats are often used to foster a greater level of accountability in adult learning settings, the cohort approach has been recognized to a large degree as a best practice.  

However, as SEM program delivery has matured in the Northwest, with over 100 facilities now having participated in SEM programs (wow, right!?), we held this exchange of ideas in order to revisit and test assumptions on the practice.  Among our guest speakers was Stephen Brooks, of the Bonneville Power Administration, who presented BPA’s experience with cohort-based vs. single-site SEM engagements.  He outlined the numerous strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, and described how BPA’s approach to SEM delivery is evolving to rely more—though not exclusively—on individual engagements.  To a large degree, this evolution is borne out of greater overall experience with SEM delivery, which results in greater maturity of SEM assets like case studies, online learning modules, and program administration tools.  

Adding depth and hands-on insights to the discussion were our other guest speakers, which included some of the leading SEM program contractors in the region: EnerNOC (Athena Petty), Triple Point Energy (Mark Hamilton) and Cascade Energy (Martin Lott).  The insightful contributions of these SEM implementers added a lot to this very rich dialogue and discussion.  Our many in-person and via-webinar participants also shared some excellent questions and insights.  Big thanks to everyone who took part, and we look forward to doing something similar again next quarter. 

Do you have an idea for what topic we should dive into next?  Please share it in the comments here!


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