On Listening and Meaningful Change: Angeline Lee

(This is a part of a series of biographical pieces to introduce you to the SGA staff.)

With a warm smile and infectious laughter that lights up the office, Angeline Lee (or Angie as she is known) has the innate ability to weave kindness with impact into her work. This upcoming March, she will be celebrating her two-year anniversary with SGA as a Project Specialist on multiple projects. A University of California, San Diego graduate with a degree in Environmental Systems, Angie has developed three key lessons for implementing effective social and environmental marketing work within local communities. Take notes. With her positive presence, Angie has the keys to making a better world.

On Listening
I learned early on to never underestimate the simple power of listening. I once worked with resistant communities in the Santa Monica mountains who would hang up the phone on me as we encouraged them to comply with environmental permit regulations. So I changed tactics. I stopped talking at them. I visited them in person and began listening. I listened to what motivated their actions, what they feared about these environmental permits, and how it will affect them. Instead of speaking at the community from the voice of a government entity, I worked to foster trust and personal connection with these communities while directly addressing their concerns, which helped all of us to achieve our mutual goals.

On the Curse of Knowledge
One of my favorite projects at SGA was working on an informational signage project with the Orange County Department of Public Works. They had recently renovated their campus with ground-breaking (literally!) infrastructure improvements that saved water and reduced the amount of pollutants running into the storm drains. Our task was to create a series of beautiful signs across the site to educate visitors about the visible and non-visible developments and the environmental impact of each to encourage a dialogue between pedestrians and the built environment – which we did. To achieve this, it was important to be mindful of avoiding the curse of knowledge, which occurs when the educator unknowingly assumes that their audience has the background knowledge to understand the information presented. Therefore, we went beyond sharing theory, facts, and technical language to make the signs accessible to everyone – water expert or not.

On Meaningful Change
When working with local communities, I am most energized when I get to see change happen in person. Every year in May, over 4,000 students, teachers, and volunteers gather on the beaches of Los Angeles to clean up trash for Kids Ocean Day. Afterwards, the community gathers together to form aerial art as a united expression of protecting the health of the ocean. After months of preparation, coordination, and hard work, I love waking up on the morning of the event (is 3AM considered morning?) to be a small part of the larger community across California to make a better world for future generations. Together, we can create meaningful change.