Acterra: Action for a Healthy Planet VI

Spring-Summer 2022
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Executive Coaching,
Organizational Development
Organization Type


Acterra’s mission is to bring people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. The organization’s current focus is on the most urgent issue of our time: climate change. Its science-based approach instills hope while building community, with educational programs – across beneficial electrification, climate-friendly food, and community resilience – to build collective action in fighting climate change.


A 50-year-old organization, Acterra has grown dramatically in the past three years, expanding out from its base on the Peninsula to the East Bay and now to San Francisco and the North Bay. This growth has exceeded expectations, and the organization believes that now is the time to make decisions about how to best design Acterra’s internal organization to match its growth.

Project Objectives

Acterra has a unique work culture, with highly effective and dedicated staff, an open and communicative design structure, and a flat model that works well…for now. The organization, currently headed by a first-time Executive Director, sought ACT’s guidance in thinking through the best organizational design to help it thrive for the next 50 years.

Project Overview

The project consisted of interviewing the Executive Director, selected staff, and several board members and conducting research on nonprofit and for-profit organizational structures that were similar in size and function to better understand the benefits and drawbacks of various options. The team developed recommendations for ideal organizational structures for Acterra under different scenarios and collaborated with the Executive Director on developing an actionable plan based on current talent within the organization along with a communication strategy and support conversations within the organization and board to gain buy-in.

Key Recommendations

The ACT recommendations were:

Acterra should develop a set of shared services that can be leveraged across programs. This recommendation included the proposed organizational structure, specific actions to take to implement the changes needed, and a list of next steps.

Acterra should establish a separate position to focus on regional expansion. This recommendation included a discussion on how this position would fold into the organizational structure and factors to consider regarding the timing of creating this position.

Acterra should start with an interim organizational structure that will allow it to move to the longer-term organizational structure. This recommendation addressed potential key challenges to be faced and provided possible actions to take.

Final Report Outline

  • Project Plan
  • Actions Taken and Findings
  • Recommendations and Next Steps
  • Appendix: Implementation Resources