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Dave Ficks

New Executive Director for Sustainable Community Connections


Dave Ficks is an emotional man. He cried a few times during our conversation, and on a couple of occasions he openly sobbed when we spoke of his family and old friends. But he wouldn't mind us telling you that his emotions are on his sleeve, because he said he's an open book. His 40 years have been filled with stints as a community education coordinator, a student volunteer service director, an instructor at Life's Kitchen, a computer skills trainer, a website developer and even a waiter at Emilio's. He has a degree from Boise State in psychology and a doctorate from the University of Idaho in adult education.

His newest and biggest challenge is as executive director of the Idaho nonprofit Sustainable Community Connections.

What were your professional intentions in your formative years?

I knew I wanted to do something big and meaningful, but at 21 I hadn't really defined that yet. When my soon-to-be wife Shelli introduced me to her parents, they asked me what I wanted to do. It was hard for me to articulate but I pretty much told them that I was going to be a psychologist/astronaut.

Were you serious?

Kind of.

Were they impressed?


When did you leave behind your vision of going into space?

Probably later that evening. I couldn't believe it when it came out of my mouth. I remember Shelli looking at me with one eyebrow that went way up. Fortunately I married into a very realistic family. What I've learned about myself, fairly recently, is that when I'm around a group a people with extraordinary visions, I'm really good at finding a way to make those visions work. That's why I think I'm going to be very effective in this organization.

So what would you tell a stranger about Sustainable Community Connections?

SCC exists to create local connections in eight different sectors, including local businesses, local food and farms, local exchange, local arts and culture, renewable energy, alternative mobility, built environment and social equity. SCC is the umbrella for these sectors--to provide leadership, vision and guidance.

Is it possible that eight may be too many sectors for SCC to guide?

I don't think it is. It's not too many if this organization can find a coherent way to allow the sectors to grow over time. Take Think Boise First, a corresponding program inside our local business sector. When I try to tell people where I work, I mention Think Boise First, and they say, "OK, I know them." It's a great program. They promote engagement with local, independently-owned businesses. There's also Think Nampa First, but they're small and growing. And inside the local food and farms sector, the corresponding SCC program is the Treasure Valley Food Coalition.

But the other six sectors have no programs yet, or they're still in development.

They'll grow organically. How will they grow? I'm not sure. But I do know that we've got to give the sectors an opportunity to grow.

What is your model for funding?

It's our 20 by 20 sustainers program. We're inviting individuals who are passionate about committing to these initiatives by making a $20 monthly contribution. And then I'm asking them to get 20 of their friends to do the same.

And 20 is the recurring theme?

It is. In the local sector, we're asking you to purchase 20 percent of your goods and services from local businesses. For local food and farms, we're asking you to ensure that 20 percent of the food you consume is produced locally. For local arts and culture, we're asking you to allocate 20 percent of your entertainment to local arts and cultural events. We're asking you to reduce your electricity and water use by 20 percent and rethink, reduce, reuse or recycle 20 percent of what you consume, and so on.

And now you have your 20 by 20 campaign.

I'm hoping to tie this into something I'm calling 20 by 20 by 22. In other words, by April 22. That's Earth Day. It's very personal for me. I was actually born on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. I asked my Mom and she said I was born for this job.

Tell me about your colleagues.

Just amazing people. I know I got choked up about 10 times during this interview, but this is a good place to get choked up about. Everybody is very authentic here. I'm honored to be at a place where I can be myself.