Young Leaders Award recipient Allison Begalman is the CEO of YEA! Impact, the co-founder of Young Entertainment Activists (YEA!), as well as the co-founder and EP of the annual Hollywood Climate Summit. Along with creating USC School of Cinematic Arts' first-ever social impact screenwriting lecture "Call to Action: Writing Stories of Relevance and Social Impact", Allison is currently participating in the Social Justice Partners Los Angeles Systems Change Accelerator. Outside of social impact, Allison writes for television and film--having worked at companies like CAA and Annapurna Pictures, as well as on shows such as Sony TV's PREACHER and Hulu's MONSTERLAND.
Allison's Project: Hollywood Climate Summit
YEA! Impact is a social impact agency that produces events, campaigns, and content rooted in the power of grassroots community organizing--with our top issue area of focus being environmental justice because we created the annual Hollywood Climate Summit which has grown into an international watering hole for entertainment professionals, activists, college students, scientists, and other environmental communicators.
We recently checked in with Allison to learn more about her background and her plans for the conservation and regeneration of the planet.
Walking Softer: What brought you to your work in climate and environmental justice?
Allison: Growing up, it was hard to find a community where I fit in. Never the right friend group, sports team, or after-school activity. In college, I decided that if I couldn’t find the spaces with my people -- I’d build them. The first one I created was for my fellow queer, female, and GNC creatives at my college’s film school, to provide a place for authentic relationship building and a professional network. After graduating, I started to work my way up in entertainment to fulfill my dream of being a TV writer.
Turned out that I was most excited about what was happening outside of work: where I was bringing groups of young professionals together to discuss our industry’s systemic inequities and broken pipeline as well as local, national, and international issues. I realized then that the communities I was creating were part of a larger organizing strategy to build bridges and break silos in my industry. And because entertainment has an international reach, that strategy needed to be harnessed for specific issues that have been left out of the global discussion.
To speak specifically to why climate within this organizing work, aside from it being one of the most pressing and intersectional issues of our time, it has barely been mentioned in television and film -- only 2.8% of scripts even mention it -- and there’s a severe lack of bridge building between grassroots climate leaders and media stakeholders. That’s why my company, YEA! Impact, created the first-ever Hollywood Climate Summit, the first of which took place in May 2020. It’s now an annual multi-day conference going on its fourth year this June.
Walking Softer: What challenges did you overcome in your journey thus far?
Allison: When I first started my company, I was 25 and it was the beginning of COVID. For about a year, I was pounding the pavement trying to land a longer-term impact campaign. I was taking hundreds of meetings, many of which were with older professionals who would see my 25-year-old passion and talk down to it. They’d tell me that I should go work at a big advertising or marketing firm to get experience, go to business school, not even understanding the social impact the entertainment landscape was producing. In the world we’re living in, being a young leader can a lot of times mean that we’re doubted, ignored, and taken for granted -- until our work makes a splash and gets people to take notice. While I’m 28 now, whenever younger folx come to me with an idea or for mentorship, I do my best to listen, ask questions, and offer help as best as I can provide.
Walking Softer: What do you do for self-care and fun?
Allison: While I’m still trying to find the right self-care activities and hobbies that actually remain hobbies, I’ve recently invested in a gym membership so I can take classes I actually enjoy. This forces me to unplug and be present, which can be difficult for young leaders and entrepreneurs. I also plan adventures with my people in LA (partner, sister, and friends) -- like hiking, dancing, and going to the movies.
Walking Softer: Any people or organizations that you would like to thank?
Allison: I would love to thank my team at YEA! Impact and the Hollywood Climate Summit, as well as the team at the Center for Scholars and Storytellers (Yalda, Carrie, and Annie) for nominating me and for supporting the work we do.
Follow Allison's journey:
A podcast to amplify the voices of passionate leaders who are reimagining our connection with the Earth.
Plastic pollution is a significant environmental issue that has harmful effects on ecosystems and human health. Here are 10 ways you can help limit your plastic pollution.
The Young Leaders Award is a year-long program that supports passionate, young leaders who are vital agents of change and innovators of solutions for our planet.