Robin Rather, mother, environmentalist and entrepreneur, is at once peaceful, pragmatic and powerful.

By Brandi Clark Burton. Photos courtesy of Robin Rather

Ask and Listen


Robin Rather is not one to boast or brag, and her LinkedIn profile barely hints at any of the important work she has been doing for years. With her beloved father, Dan Rather, in the national spotlight for nearly all of her life, she’s not overly eager to draw attention to herself. People manage to find her, though, whether it’s to comment in the media on a local development in Austin, to speak on an international stage like SXSW or to facilitate a giant town-hall forum where important community issues are being hashed out.  

She has a habit of asking others how they are, what they are working on or what is important to them, then deeply listening. Perhaps she picked up this interview style from watching her “fave reporter” (and dad, Dan) elicit compelling stories as a world-class newsman.

This approach is one key to her success in her early years as a tech executive providing market research, polling and communication strategy for a dozen years at Intelliquest, CMP Media, and then as CEO of Mindwave Research. It continues to serve in her sustainability-focused consultancy, Collective Strength, which she has led for nearly two decades. She has become the quiet go-to person to unstick and make progress on seemingly intractable issues. 

Peaceful, But a Fighter

Robin Rather’s drive toward peacemaking and solution-finding has been influenced by her Quaker education, Buddhist practices and reverence for Indigenous wisdom. However, her journey has revealed a vital lesson: While committed to peace, effectiveness often demands a readiness to fight hard when necessary. Her approach integrates both peacemaking and advocacy, recognizing their indispensable roles in environmental progress. “I’ve tried to wield both kinds of arrows in my quiver because we absolutely need both. Often you can’t have one without the other,” she asserts. 

Her evolving understanding acknowledges the iterative nature of consensus-building, interspersed with the necessity to defend or restore it through hard-core advocacy or lawsuits. “I literally wish we never had to fight, because I don’t enjoy it at all. I’m just wired for oneness. But for the greater good, sometimes you have to warrior up and fight back.” With her quiet confidence, she has committed to bringing her skills to “help the people who fight the hardest fights there are for the environment.”

Fostering Consensus

Robin possesses a powerful skill to facilitate audiences of widely differing views. “I love trying to bring together people who can’t find their consensus and do whatever it takes to really find it.” She has a great capacity to take in a lot of information, opinions and concerns, synthesize and summarize them and reflect it back in a way that people feel heard and respected. Mind you, she’s not an impartial bystander. She injects her wisdom and framing to make the whole endeavor move forward faster.

She acknowledges there is a delicate balance between idealism and pragmatism in seeking consensus-based solutions. “It’s a dance between believing that communities can come up with solutions that really work and knowing that sometimes it doesn’t work the way we hope.”

She is most proud of her pivotal role in bringing together “very, very diverse stakeholder groups” to facilitate the creation of a new “groundwater management zone (GMZ) for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (GCD), after they had not been successful in doing so for 15 years.” This GMZ protects the groundwater wells and springflow during droughts in the Hill Country, including the iconic Jacob’s Well. Even though consensus was reached, one of the major players has not abided by it, and now Robin is part of the team that has filed a lawsuit against them. 

A Beautiful Future

Robin is not in denial of “the dystopian future bearing down on us, with the record-breaking heat and heat island effect last summer and recent snow-pocalypse, and the absolute injustice of our current materialistic culture,” but she chooses to focus on visualizing the better future we {can} create. Her most recent project is a new network called RewildATX, which connects the people and nonprofits already doing great work to make Austin a leader in urban rewilding, enhancing biodiversity, water protection and tree canopy.

Waxing nostalgic about the clean air in Finland that “is so sweet you can still taste it” years after visiting, Robin shares her vision for where we are headed: “The future I see for Austin is full of incredible biodiversity, native plants, trees and watersheds that are flowing. Beyond the physical attributes, that beautiful future is a place where we have a culture of really deep caring, nurturing, tending to each other and really deep listening.”

EcoConcept in Action: Power Player for People and the Planet

Robin chooses to work with visionary clients who are bringing transformative work to the next level in a collaborative, consensus-driven way. These include Fortune 500 companies, municipalities, regional agencies, national nonprofits and universities. Her portfolio includes high-level strategic work on more than 50 transformative projects covering climate mitigation, land conservation, water protection, regional planning, health care, transit and biodiversity.  Select examples include:

  • Helping a major national environmental group develop sustainable urban solutions around mobility, renewable energy and sustainable food systems, and ways to bring sustainable economic models to disinvested communities. 
  • Creating a 600-member stakeholder group establishing soil, forest and blue carbon protocols as consultant and interim COO of B Carbon. 
  • Working with the post-Hurricane Katrina planning and resiliency team across Louisiana. 

In all this she “relentlessly pursues real, measurable on-the-ground results, which tend to unite people toward action, more than philosophical debates.”


Robin holds up the landscaping around the central Austin Public Library as a model of successful rewilding within the city.

Robin takes pride in her Texas roots and relishes every opportunity to spend time with her extended family. She adores and cares for her aging parents, Dan and Jean, who moved to Austin a few years ago. She has a dear partner who helps her stay grounded and her most precious role has been as (adoptive) mom. She confides, “Look, I’ve done the money thing, the fame thing, and power thing, but nothing, nothing compares to being Andy’s mom.” She is extremely proud of her son who has been forging his path and finding meaning in a career as an EMT. In general, Robin finds great hope in the young people in her life and believes that “they are going to need that beautiful future I see just beyond the horizon. If we just work hard enough, we can achieve it.”



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