The Wood River Valley’s quality of life is world-renowned, but will it last? Recently, megafires, flooding, droughts and economic shocks have raised awareness of its fragility. It makes sense that our community would strive to actively participate in global efforts to restore and conserve our environment, building a healthy, thriving community for now and the future. The Sun Valley Institute was born in April 2015 to build a local innovation laboratory of community resilience and be a global convener and catalyst for action, according to founder Aimée Christensen.

    Over the past four years, the institute has launched local initiatives for lasting quality of place, identifying early opportunities in energy and food production. The Sun Valley Institute’s first program, Solarize Blaine, partnered solar companies with valley residents and businesses, saving them money and growing an industry offering quality year-round jobs to help diversify the economy. In just 20 weeks, five times the amount of solar was installed as the entire year prior, protecting the natural environment, building community, creating quality jobs and reducing cost of living. This is an example of the holistic, systemic approach of the Sun Valley Institute.

    “We look for major gaps and deploy approaches that deliver multiple benefits,” Christensen said.

    Other projects include a regional food system strategic plan, prioritizing and moving forward high-impact initiatives such as a Wholesale Producer Partnership to address local food distribution needs and a regional electricity planning process capitalizing on the expertise of the Idaho National Laboratory to mitigate power-outage risks to critical entities such as cities, communications and St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center.

    The institute’s fifth annual Sun Valley Forum, scheduled for July 23-26, will gather several hundred global innovators to once again share ideas and spark new partnerships, turning risks into opportunities. On its fifth anniversary, the forum will celebrate achievements and milestones to date, and convene the inaugural Youth Forum, organized by and for high school student leaders. Register for the forum at

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