Founder, Mothers Out Front
Social activist and entrepreneur Kelsey Wirth is the driving force behind Mothers Out Front, a five-year old non-profit that has mobilized scores of women in eight states, most notably here in Massachusetts, to address the threat of climate change.
With plans to expand across the country, MOF has already had victories including its campaign to persuade elected officials and utility companies to work together in greater Boston to cap the biggest methane gas leaks from aging pipes. This initiative, which will be completed in two years, will help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, a major cause of climate change.
MOF teams in cities like Ithaca, NY, Norfolk, VA and San Jose, CA are pushing legislators and business leaders to work aggressively to make a transition from fossil fuel to clean and renewable energy sources. The groups hold informational house parties; testify at public hearings; raise money; and rally friends and neighbors to the cause.
Volunteer-led and volunteer-driven with a small paid staff, MOF relies on community organization to empower women to step up and speak out as passionate advocates for children and the future. The organization provides structure, training and tools needed to develop and win local and statewide campaigns.
Some ask why mothers? Although the MOF mission statement includes “grandmothers and other caregivers” and welcomes male participation and support, the organization contends that mothers’ voices can be especially effective on issues like the environment and drunk driving since concern for children can bring women together and bridge political, social, racial and economic divides.
As co-founder of Align Technology, the company that developed the Invisalign orthodontia system and went public with a multi-million dollar offering, Wirth transferred skills from the corporate world to this grassroots effort. But she would be first to say that MOF is anything but a traditional top-down enterprise.
After she left the company as president and moved to New England, Wirth was motivated to “do something” about the environment after reading a picture book about coral reefs to one of her two young daughters. Struck that her daughters might never get to see the reefs that are dying as the oceans warm, she convened a group of like-minded women in her living room and those women connected with other women who connected with other women who have led MOF’s growth from there.
And grow it has. Since its founding, MOF has increased its budget from $350,000 to nearly $2 million last year with plans to almost double that in 2018. Supported by the Barr Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and individual donors. Mothers Out Front was also was awarded a $1 million grant from the Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation to support organizational development and expansion.
Wirth, a graduate of Harvard College with an MBA from Stanford, lives in Cambridge with her daughters and husband, a physician and researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is the daughter of environmentalist and former Colorado Senator Timothy Wirth and has served on several corporate and non-profit boards.