Philanthropy’s missed opportunity: Grassroots solutions to climate change

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May 2, 2017

By Rajasvini Bhansali, former Thousand Currents Executive Director

We were at a funders dinner the day after the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014. Never before had the world seen a more unified global voice, 500,000-person strong around the world, calling for world leaders to take action on climate change.

Two large institutional funders at the table shared their strategies. As they described their vision, my ears perked up as they talked about how important is was to have strategies that included the people most affected by climate change, particularly in the Global South. The funders referred to interesting, important work going on at the grassroots level around the world, but they highlighted that these “pockets” were hard to find.

“We just don’t know how to find them,” they explained, honestly.

At that moment, I looked across the room at Terry Odendahl, President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund.

“We know,” we shared telepathically through our knowing look at each other. “We can help you invest.”

And at that moment, the idea for the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund (now the CLIMA Fund) was born, which we are proud to launch today at the EDGE Funders #JustGiving2016 Conference in Berkeley. Our joint grantmaking approaches already channeled resources to initiatives, projects, organizations, and movements led by everyday people fighting for climate justice in their neighborhoods and nations.

The conversation inspired that day between Thousand Currents and Global Greengrants Fund soon grew to include Grassroots International and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights. As we reflected on the funders meeting, we asked ourselves: “Are we part of the problem? Have we not articulated the powerful and vast grassroots work that is happening around the world?” While we are all relatively small funders on the global climate change funding scene, we have key insights, resources, and expertise to share.

Now we have come together to send a unified message:

Announcing the CLIMA (Climate Leaders In Movement Action) Fund

Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, and diverse grassroots groups around the world have the solutions to our global climate crisis. The CLIMA (Climate Leaders In Movement Action) Fund, formerly named the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund, finances and amplifies these solutions – to ensure a brighter future for us all.

The Need for Grassroots Solutions

History shows that powerful grassroots organizing has been a vital lever of major social change—from decolonization to civil rights to the environmental movements. Yet today, grassroots efforts often remain underfunded and overlooked.

This missed opportunity is tremendous: Effective grassroots organizations and movements around the world inspire and enable local action to protect communities’ rights to water, soil, air, seeds, food, forests, livestock, and land.

Grassroots solutions to climate change come from working directly with families and communities as they cope with climate chaos. As a result, these solutions embody an approach that addresses environmental, economic, and social issues simultaneously, recognizing the wholeness of people’s lives.

Thus, grassroots solutions also address the root causes of climate change, including loss of land, territory, and resource rights, as well as the expansion of industrial agricultural systems, mega-dams, and fossil fuel extraction. When movements are born of organizing strategies that include people across borders and boundaries, they can spark broad, comprehensive social change powerful enough to address the greatest challenge of our age—climate change.

A New Collaborative: The CLIMA Fund

CLIMA Fund logos

Who We Are: Together, Thousand Currents, Global Greengrants FundGrassroots International and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights are launching a unique collaborative fund that will reach grassroots organizations and social movements in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands that are working at the intersection of climate resilience and human rights. This global reach is possible thanks to the unique approach and long-term relationships with grassroots groups developed by each of the collaborative fund members.

How We Work: For three decades, our four organizations’ grantmaking practices have relied on the wisdom and strength of local people and movements to tackle injustices. We invest in long-term solutions that are not imported, but rather are developed in response to listening to people on the ground. These grassroots solutions can be scaled appropriately to meet the needs of people who are most directly affected by climate change.

What We Will Achieve: The CLIMA (Climate Leaders In Movement Action) Fund provides an unprecedented continuum of support to people fighting climate change—from awarding a security grant in as little as 12 hours to an activist whose life or family has been threatened, to providing a promising grassroots movement with its first infusion of outside resources, to sustaining established organizations with multi-year support and capacity-building through proven long-term partnership models.

The CLIMA Fund will transform large amounts of grant capital into strategic investments in effective grassroots climate solutions being led by our partners in more than 100 countries.

Invest in grassroots climate solutions

The global climate movement can learn from and respond to solutions being developed by the very people whose daily lives are impacted by climate change.

Investing in the CLIMA Fund means creating an unprecedented and urgent scale of support to advance global grassroots leadership for climate resilience.

We are seeking funding partners for this multi-million dollar venture. Be a part of the learning, connection, and leadership.