A summer of climate, ocean, and finance

I officially ended my CBE fellowship with the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) and below I reflect on this enriching experience.

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

During my internship with the ORRAA, I had the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s External Affairs team, specifically focusing on policy matters. In this role, I supported the team in accomplishing several key tasks that had a significant impact:

  • Policy Research and Analysis: I conducted research on critical topics at the intersection of climate change, marine biodiversity, and finance, to contribute to producing a series of policy briefs on the following topics: the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD); Deep Sea Mining, Blue Carbon, and ocean-related priorities for COP 28.  This effort has been relevant in shaping the organization’s policy recommendations and strategic advice for its members.
  • Advocacy and Outreach: I collaborated with a diverse, international team to develop and implement advocacy strategies aimed at raising awareness about the need to adopt the High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles, for ocean and coastal nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation. I helped in the membership strategy of ORRAA, building connections with the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so Chile becomes member of the Alliance in the near future. I also represented ORRAA in meetings of the the Race to Resilience, a platform to accelerate climate adaptation goals. This work has helped to foster partnerships and engagement with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors.
  • Communication and Reporting: I’ve supported the communications team to elevate the work of the External Affairs team, showcasing what we have been producing through bulletins and social media posts.

2. Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?

My internship with the ORRAA was immensely beneficial. It has helped me in at least the following areas:

  • Policy Expertise: I gained more hands-on experience in policy analysis, development, and advocacy, which enhanced my knowledge and skills in this area on the topics of marine biodiversity, climate change, international relations and governance, and finance.
  • Global Perspective: Working with a team from all over the world, exposed me to diverse perspectives and approaches to deliver our work, which was international in nature.
  • Networking Opportunities: I had the privilege of collaborating with experts and professionals from various backgrounds, expanding my professional network, and fostering lasting connections.

On a personal level, this experience was deeply fulfilling. It allowed me to align my passion for environmental conservation with my career aspirations, reinforcing my commitment to making a positive impact on critical issues facing our planet. In addition, ORRAA was supportive of my personal situation given that I had to do my internship remotely from Chile, where I needed to be to support my family and father in dealing with cancer. He passed away during this time, and I am deeply thankful for the flexibility that ORRAA allowed me.

3. Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

Yes. I realized that I am not only deeply passionate about environmental policy but also thrive in a collaborative, international, and interdisciplinary work environment. This experience reinforced my belief that addressing global challenges, such as climate change and marine biodiversity loss, requires innovative and inclusive approaches that bring together experts from various fields and backgrounds.

Moreover, working on the frontlines of these critical issues highlighted the urgency of our collective efforts to protect our ocean.

I also realized that finance is critical in addressing the gaps we have for effective policy implementation and that we need more people from environmental fields who are literate in finance. I do not have a formal background in finance, but it is a field that I will definitely continue studying.

An Ocean of Reflection

I started my CBE Fellowship at the Ocean Risks and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) by the end of May, and not with an online onboarding meeting. It was a trip to the UK! They invited me to their all-staff meeting and I was super excited to participate. This organization was founded in 2019 to build a bridge between two worlds. The world of real projects on the ground – or “on the ocean” projects I must say -, led by local governments, non-profits, and communities; and the world of finance, which to me feels like the “deep sea”. Beautiful, scary and intriguing, but that I definetely want to learn more about.

Read more: An Ocean of Reflection

ORRAA is registered in Washington DC, but with a global scope of action, and a strong team based in Europe. Lucky me that I started my CBE Fellowship just when the whole team was going to meet for the first time after the pandemic. I didn’t have summer expectations of the English beaches, but there I was, happily surprised by the sunny and warm beginning of the summer in Poole, on the southern coast of England. I was eager to learn as much as I could about the work of the organization and I was ready to embrace an ocean of new acronyms!

I often think about myself as an introvert, but my next reflections will be more intimate. I’ve experienced so many things during the last 2 months that I cannot decouple my academic and professional life from my personal life.

On my second morning in Poole, I received a call from Nico, my younger brother from Chile. He told me “el papá tiene cancer y está muy avanzado” (“Dad has cancer and it’s very advanced”). I got paralyzed, to be honest. “What am I doing so far away when my dad needs the most powerful hug I could ever give?”, I thought. 

Running by the ocean has always brought me peace and helped me to organize my thoughts and explore my feelings. Before starting the activities of that day, I went for a run to the beach, and it did bring me the clarity I needed. I decided that after the trip to England, I would go back to California, organize my personal life and work, and then would fly to Chile to support my dad in all that I could. I had a conversation with my supervisor at ORRAA, Ariane, and I proposed to work remotely from Chile. She fully supported it. Given that ORRAA is a 100% remote organization, I felt so lucky that I could do my work from wherever in the world and with the flexibility that I would need. 

This was the intense beginning of my summer. Full of reflection but also enthusiasm, sad and happy at the same time. I am currently in Chile, multitasking with my dad’s cancer treatment, my personal life, and the work I’m doing for ORRAA. It has been a good time to reconnect with my country and go out to the nature that inspires me to work in this field. Nature that also heals. Thanks to the support that I’ve received from my partner, friends, the MIIS community, Fulbright Chile, and ORRAA, it was never an option to quit my fellowship.

I am intellectually curious to learn and contribute to what ORRAA does. It is a unique NGO because is the only member-based organization that focuses on the interface of ocean and coastal resilience, and blue finance.  NGOs, philanthropic organizations, corporations, financial institutions, and prominent governments share a formal and voluntary platform to advance investments that support our oceans and coasts. I’m contributing to the following workstreams (and here I go with the acronyms!): the HQBCP&G, the TNFD framework, and the External Affairs ongoing functions.

The High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidelines (HQBCP&G) are a joint effort to create standards for blue carbon projects that are appropriate for the climate, biodiversity, and communities. I am supporting a consulting team in Australia to advance the adoption of these principles. 

The Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is a still-in-development framework anchored in Target 15 a) of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, that will allow the private sector to assess its nature-related dependencies, risks, and opportunities. I am working to guide ORRAA members to engage with this framework and strengthen it from the perspective of the ocean.

Within the External Affairs team, I am supporting the engagement of new members of the alliance (including Chile), consolidating a library of resources for the Sea Change Impact Finance Facility (SCIFF), and supporting the development of position briefs regarding critical issues such as seabed mining or ocean-related priorities for COP 28.

After these 2 months, I can only say that I feel extremely lucky despite what I’m going through, and I’m mobilized to continue learning and working hard.