Jeff Harrison is the President & CEO of Citizens Energy Group. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Citizens is a long-time Multiplying Good partner. With a vision to serve its customers and communities with unparalleled excellence and integrity, Citizens' support of Multiplying Good includes participating on the Multiplying Good Indiana Board of Directors, donating services, and sponsoring the local Media Partner program. We asked him a few questions to learn more about how his commitment to service and his racial identity intersect! Check out the Q&A below.

As a Black man, how has service to others benefited you and your community? 

Growing up as a Black young man in Jeffersonville, Indiana, I benefited tremendously from service-oriented individuals in my community. My father was a bricklayer and we weren’t well off, so opportunities outside of my family and school were relatively limited.  

These incredible community members took it upon themselves to spend time with me and other kids like me, helping us grow and providing cultural and learning opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t have had. They were incredible humans who were looking to give back to their community, and they chose to do so by helping to develop kids without a lot of resources but with endless potential.   

Someone else who saw potential in me was my high school guidance counselor, Mrs. Moser. I was on track to graduate high school and become a bricklayer like my father, but Mrs. Moser saw a different future for me. She noted that my success on the basketball team and my standing in the top 10 percent of my class weren’t easy to achieve without hard work and dedication. She asked if I had ever thought about studying engineering. “What about Rose-Hulman?” she said. My first thought was “Who’s Rose Hulman?” That conversation changed my trajectory, though, and I went on to graduate from Rose-Hulman with a degree in electrical engineering. Mrs. Moser helped put me on the path to where I am today.  


Why is it essential for the community of people activating service to others to be diverse?  

The tremendous support I received from service-minded individuals in my community undoubtedly helped shape me into the man I am today, but they didn’t look like me. Today it’s so important that diverse men and women are visible while doing good in the community so diverse young people do see people who look like them and are inspired to follow in their footsteps.    


Why have you chosen to prioritize service to others and recognition at your company? 

Service to others is a fundamental element of Citizens Energy Group. We were established in 1887 as a Public Trust, and we are duty- and honor-bound to provide service to our community. The company’s founders established Citizens as a public utility focused on delivering outstanding customer service while fostering economic development across this growing city. Citizens remains dedicated to this vision because we believe it supports a better quality of life for everyone in the communities we serve. 

Citizens’ commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy further shines through our Sharing the Dream program. Sharing the Dream is a multi-day community service project that gives Citizens employees a chance to serve Central Indiana and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the past 13 years, Citizens and our partners have invested more than $3 million to improve Indy Parks facilities in diverse neighborhoods.  

Citizens also encourages our employees to serve individually. We support their efforts by providing a $250 grant to the organization of their choice once they have volunteered 50 hours or more in a calendar year. 


In your opinion, what is the biggest/most significant impact service to others can have on Black communities? Why? 

The protests that took place around the country last summer were a sign of anger and lost hope in the Black community. Racial injustice didn’t appear overnight, and it certainly won’t disappear overnight. Encouraging signs emerged, though, when people of all races came together to show solidarity. And I’m not talking about rallying around slogans or hashtags, but rather a genuine commitment to action and change.  

Action and change are integral to the recently formed Business Equity for Indy initiative, which I am proud to chair. Business Equity for Indy is a collection of aligned Central Indiana companies dedicated to working together to identify, develop and implement programs across the city aimed at increasing fair and equitable participation in our economy by all our citizens, especially people of color. 

It’s inspiring for me to see the diverse individuals on the committee and in the wider community standing up and speaking out to advocate for people of color.   

As a Black person in America, have the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence against Black Americans affected your ability, willingness, or desire to serve? In what ways? 

It most definitely has. On the whole, it’s reinforced that we have to do more. We’ve made great strides, but it’s not enough. Personally, my willingness to do more has increased, as has my focus.    

I’m especially focused on my work with Business Equity for Indy right now. The work has really just begun, but the commitments of the participating organizations represent a huge step forward for achieving racial equity and inclusion for the people and economy of Central Indiana. 


What is your earliest service-oriented memory? 

I benefited greatly from the service as others as I was growing up. My first real personal service commitment was joining Big Brothers Big Sisters when I graduated from college. I wanted to pay forward the gift of service that had been given to me by connecting with and supporting a young man in need of a strong male role model in his life. 


Tell us about your service work. 

In addition to my role as chair of Business Equity for Indy, I’m also passionate about my service on the boards of the Indianapolis Urban League and the Center for Leadership Development.  

The mission of the Indianapolis Urban League is to assist African-Americans, other minorities and disadvantaged individuals achieve social and economic equality. The mission of the Center for Leadership Development is to foster the advancement of minority youth in Central Indiana as future professional, business and community leaders by providing experiences that encourage personal development and educational attainment. 

The important work these organizations do in our community reminds me of the support I received when I was growing up. I’m honored to be able to help cultivate opportunities for others. 


How does your racial identity affect your experience as an advocate for service to others?  

I believe it’s important that diverse men and women are visible while doing good in the community, so diverse young people see people who look like them and are inspired to follow in their footsteps.  

But I also am inspired when older Black men, who are themselves committed to service, approach me and offer congratulations on my professional achievements and community commitments, sharing that they didn’t know if they would ever see anyone who looks like me in my position. These incredibly humbling moments motivate me to further commit myself to inspiring the hearts and minds of young people. These men paved the way for me, and I can only hope I’m able to do the same for future generations.  


Our blog series, Exploring the role of service in the Black Community, is an interview series with participants from our Students In Action, Media Partner, and Recognition Champions programs. For the next three weeks, we're giving the Multiplying Good community an intimate look into how their unique experiences and racial identity impact their service work.  

The blog series will culminate with a Facebook Live conversation among all the participants. It will be held on Thursday, February 25, and moderated by Mr. Taj Tashombe, Vice President of Government Affairs, Oakland Athletics/Multiplying Good Bay Area Board Member. Like our Facebook Page to get notified when we go LIVE so you can tune-in.