Will Byrne

Civic Innovation Fellow

Consumerism and civic activity are viewed as opposing forces: either you buy things and look out for yourself, or you give things and look out for others. But that’s a false choice, and in our 21st century economy it fails to incorporate some of the most powerful tools we have for social change.
— Will Byrne

Will Byrne believes individuals’ spending power can drive social change on any issue. It’s an opportunity he calls “civic consumption,” which he helped pioneer as co-founder and CEO of Groundswell. The clean-energy social venture began as an unfunded neighborhood project in 2009 and has since expanded across five cities, completing more than $20M in clean energy projects while saving millions of dollars in energy bills for working families.

Through civic consumption, citizens apply shared spending power in the marketplace to get what they need and to incentivize corporations and organizations to take action.

The son of a public defender, Will learned about inequality at an early age — by 12, he was already preoccupied with such systemic failures as mandatory minimums for petty drug sentencing.  After graduating from Vassar College, Will worked as a field operative for the first Obama campaign before launching Groundswell. During his fellowship year, Will is advancing a new venture to unleash civic consumption across all issues: an online platform that merges crowdfunding and digital organizing to let citizens drive corporate and institutional action on issues they care about. You can find Will on Twitter at @will_byrne.

Meet the rest of the d.school fellows