From 1997 to 1998, the founders of the Environmental Leadership Program began developing the program with more than forty emerging and veteran environmental leaders. Following two focus group meetings in Washington, DC, and Oakland, CA, eleven professionals - representing a range of academic and professional niches, geographic areas, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds - formed the Board of Trustees and staff.
In 1999, the organizing committee met and began working closely with the Advisory Committee to design program elements and raise funds. In December, ELP selected 22 individuals from across the United States for its inaugural class of Fellows. From 2000-2006 ELP selected a class of 20-25 emerging leaders from across the country and the U.S. Territories to participate in its National Fellowship Program.
In 2004, ELP developed the current regional network program to provide the same programming to a more targeted geographic area. The first regional network launched was in the Delaware Valley and provided training to fellows in Eastern Pennsylvania. The following year, the program was expanded to encompass Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern NJ and Delaware. Due to the success of the regional network model, ELP launched its second regional network in the Greater Boston Area in 2006; and in 2007 the organization expanded once again by launching its third regional network in the Southeast Region (AL, GA, FL, NC, SC central and eastern TN).
In late 2007, the Board of Directors made the decision to discontinue the national fellowship program in order to expand its regional network model on a national scale. During the same year, the Greater Boston Regional Network was expanded to include all of the New England states and was renamed the New England Regional Network. The Delaware Valley program was also expanded in 2007 to include all of New Jersey and renamed the Eastern Regional Network.
In 2008 ELP launched its fourth regional network, the Mid-Atlantic Region (DC, MD and VA) and completed its Eastern Regional Network expansion to include the state of New York.
ELP is currently embarking on a national expansion plan that will bring its unique leadership program and network to all 50 states and the U.S. Territories.
To date, ELP has a Senior Fellowship Community of over 550 environmental and social change leaders!
The board of trustees and staff meet regularly to design ELP's program components and plan for future initiatives. Because the Environmental Leadership Program is a collaborative project that builds community and peer networks through its organizational development, ELP Fellows and Senior Fellows take an active role in shaping the organization and its programs.