Since 2007, GTECH Strategies has mobilized residents to transform vacant lots into vibrant green spaces and address environmental issues at the hyperlocal level — but it was one of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets. That’s because its name often obscured its mission.
“We’re not a green technology company — that’s the number one misnomer,” says Executive Director Evaine Sing. She says supporters often struggled to effectively tell GTECH’s story because “they almost have to undo what comes to mind. By then, you’ve spent 20 seconds of your 30-second elevator pitch just explaining the name.”
This week, the Larimer-based nonprofit kicked off its second decade under a new name: Grounded Strategies.
The name was thoughtfully selected with input from board members, funders and staff, and the organization engaged Blender for its branding savvy.
In all the conversations, “one thing that came through is that we should maintain the brand capital we have built with the ‘G’,” says Sing. After exploring concepts like “growth” and “goodness,” the team landed on “grounded” and it became “the name to beat.”
Sing says it works on a few levels. “We’re grounded in community and process, policy, data and design,” she explains. “We work on the ground. It speaks to a growth and anchoring that we’re experiencing as we hit this milestone.”
It’s true: The organization has come a long way from its origins as a scrappy startup that planted sunflowers in vacant lots. Today, its portfolio of projects addresses everything from community-based design to vacant land maintenance policy and green stormwater management. The staff boasts two landscape architects and a planner who collectively represent more than 30 years of professional experience in the field.
Sing believes having in-house expertise on issues like permits and zoning will help deepen relationships between Grounded and the people it serves, who often live in distressed communities.
“We feel like that’s a niche that’s not being filled as much as it could be, especially when we talk about communities outside the city who lack resources and organizational capacity,” she says.
The organization’s growing cadre of community ambassadors is committed to “moving the needle toward progress,” adds Sing. “We can still call on those people and they consider themselves part of our network, even five or eight years later.”
The challenge now, she says, will be to position Grounded to become “a constant, dependable, ongoing resource” to this network.
“These are the people who get the work done, and they give so much of themselves,” says Sing, “but they aren’t the ones who can offer the financial support that enables our organization to expand our work in new communities throughout the county.”
Sing hopes the rebrand will help Grounded reach a broader audience.
“People who’ve worked with us are sold — they want to support us,” she says. “How do we build that momentum so others want to work with us?”
According to Zaheen Hussain, Grounded is on the right track. Before moving into his current position as director of sustainability with New Sun Rising in Millvale, Hussain worked on energy efficiency issues in the neighborhood as a project manager at GTECH.
He says that when Sing stepped into the role vacated by founding Executive Director Andrew Butcher last year, it created an opportunity for “recalibrating” the organization that she handled with aplomb.
“For it to be as strong as it is now even through a change in leadership speaks to the quality of the work,” says Hussain. “Evaine is a fantastic leader.” He believes the time is right to launch the new brand identity because of the solid foundation the organization built in its first decade.
“They’re well-known enough now,” he says, “that even with rebranding, people won’t forget who they are.”