What is a grassroots climate solution?
Grassroots solutions are those led by communities local to the problems they seek to solve rather than those led by international policy or corporate actors. They are led by communities instead of industry leaders, institutional environmental NGOs, and academic panelists. They require working at a local scale that has often been considered out of reach for large, international philanthropies.
The evidence shows that these approaches ultimately yield the most success in the stated aims of global climate philanthropies: reducing emissions, promoting alternatives, securing human rights, improving public health, increasing global education, and ensuring community resiliency in the face of a changing world.
Why did the four members of CLIMA launch this Fund?
The impacts of climate change are already visible, from tens of thousands of climate refugees to sea levels rising almost 7 inches (~18 centimetres) over the last 100 years to eroding coastlines. Economies are growing faster than our ability to reduce the associated emissions. Philanthropies have dedicated billions of dollars to address climate change through policy, but emissions continue to rise.
In parallel, effective grassroots organizations and movements around the world are already advancing grassroots climate solutions, such as promoting agroecology; defending Indigenous land, water, and territories; recognizing women’s leadership and advancing gender equity; and ensuring local governance over energy systems.
In our initial conversations, we asked: “Unless we visibilize the powerful and vast grassroots work happening globally, are we part of the problem in philanthropy of neglecting grassroots brilliance?” The CLIMA Fund is our best effort to share our expertise and relationships to ensure we too, are part of the solution.
Why would I support the CLIMA Fund as a collaboration?
As four public foundations with a reach of 168 countries and 115 years of collective experience resourcing this work, the CLIMA Fund was born to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for funders to make ‘big bets’ on grassroots climate justice movements.
Philanthropy: We increase the impact of funders’ giving by efficiently moving donor and foundation capital to thousands of grassroots groups globally and accompanying those groups in their work. By speaking with one voice, the four member organizations can reach a broader funder audience and provide high-demand political education and grant-making support to philanthropies worldwide.
Grantee Partners: CLIMA members work together to provide an ecosystem of support to grassroots movements (rapid response to long-term partnership to seed funding). Grantee partners also have increased connectivity to each other across the CLIMA collaboration, visibility within philanthropy, and access to funding through CLIMA’s fundraising.
CLIMA Members: By collaborating, we can strengthen each member’s work, learning from and challenging each other to innovate and improve our grant-making.
What’s an example of how CLIMA supports grassroots climate justice movement ecosystems?
Movement ecosystems are webs of grassroots actors working across geographies building power and advancing systemic change. In spring 2019, we re-granted $80,000 to movement groups in Brazil. The world’s tropical rainforests, of which the Amazon is the largest, absorb 20% of global CO2 emissions. In June and July 2019, Brazil saw a surge in deforestation, increasing threats to Indigenous and other frontline defenders of the forest, and devastating wildfires. This is why the CLIMA Fund chose to support movements in Brazil as an epicenter for climate justice and the world’s collective well-being.
Our funding supported local community groups training youth in agroecology methods, building community gardens, protecting Amazonian Indigenous cultural diversity, developing distributed community solar grids, and sharing tactics for resisting large hydro-projects threatening community lives and lands. Support went to national movements that are kicking out mining companies, protecting fishing rights, strengthening Indigenous unity and political power, rescuing and distributing native seeds, and resisting large hydropower dams. And support went to digital security trainings and assistance to legal cases against criminalized activists. Supporting this diversity of tactics and movements is the strength of the CLIMA Fund.
How are CLIMA’s grassroots partners responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our partners are disseminating public health messages to hard-to-reach areas; organizing mutual aid and radical self-management; and advancing critical housing, food, and healthcare policy wins. Instead of “disaster capitalism,” they are offering collective solutions that could usher in new systems based on the health and well-being of all people and the planet.
What has CLIMA achieved?
We have raised >$25M to re-grant to grassroots movements globally and leveraged further investment from global philanthropies. Through the 20,000+ grants we have given in our collective history, we are helping nurture a more connected, empowered, and vibrant ecosystem of grassroots actors forging systemic change in response to the climate crisis. In addition, we have produced innovative and compelling videos, webinars, workshops (thirteen in the last two years), convenings, and online spaces for funder dialogue (such as our Underpinning Stories dialogue series). We produced the report Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Work, which is used widely as the evidence base for resourcing grassroots climate solutions. We also produced Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Transform, which provides further evidence that grassroots movements are best positioned to shift the global food and energy sectors from dominant extractive models to regenerative ones.
How do you share or shift power to your grantee partners?
Each of the CLIMA Fund members re-grant using distinct strategies to challenge traditional philanthropic power structures and embed democracy in their grant-making processes. For example, Global Greengrants and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights use networks of activist advisors to make or inform their grant decisions. Grassroots International and Thousand Currents use program officers that build relationships over the long term with movements regionally and provide long-term, core operating support to grantee partners.
All CLIMA Fund members provide flexible funding, minimize reporting requirements, and are nimble in responding to grantee partners’ needs and requests. We have feedback structures that ensure our individual and collective work is guided by grantee partners experiencing the climate crisis first and worst. We’ve learned the centrality of respecting the autonomy and self-determination of our grantee partners, who teach us what strength and resilience look like every day. And we strive to be thoughtful of the power differentials inherent in philanthropy that hinder transparency, trust, accountability, and solidarity.
What is your fundraising goal and what will be possible if the Fund achieves that goal?
Our goal is to raise an additional $20 million by 2026 to give to grassroots movements around the world advancing just, effective solutions to the climate crisis. We envision a world in which the Indigenous communities, peasants, women, and youth with ingenious, self-determined solutions to bolster climate resilience and address the root causes of climate change have the resources they need. If climate movements have the resources they need to affect change, we will see a rapid drawdown in greenhouse gas emissions, widespread sequestration of carbon, and political and social transformation towards more just and livable communities and economies.
Does the CLIMA Fund accept restricted funding?
The CLIMA Fund prefers unrestricted funding so that we can be responsive to climate justice movement needs globally and flexible in where or how we move money. We accept restricted funding above $50,000 on a case-by-case basis.
The CLIMA Fund will accept gifts or grants of cash or publicly-traded securities from individuals and foundations. In-kind gifts of benefit to the CLIMA Fund, such as the use of conference space or design services, may also be accepted. The CLIMA Fund will not accept planned gifts (bequests) or gifts of non-cash assets such as property. Learn more here.
Does the CLIMA Fund take a percentage of each grant or gift?
Our goal is to build an efficient mechanism to dramatically increase funding for climate justice movements globally. Towards that end, we take 20% to cover administration and operations. Our aim is to leverage investments in this collaborative to attract, absorb, and distribute much larger grants than any one of the CLIMA members would otherwise receive.
How do you evaluate your work?
The CLIMA Fund sees its long-term impact in the money that we mobilize from the philanthropic sector to directly resource movement organizations addressing climate change with holistic, grassroots strategies. We recognize that evaluation is inherently political and not external to processes of social change, and therefore our approach seeks to transform traditional evaluation and grantmaking frameworks in which funders are the ones who typically define success. Who decides what success is, how it is measured, and how a framework is implemented are political questions that directly influence the work of grassroots movements. We believe grassroots grantees are the experts and are best positioned to define what constitutes success. Accordingly, we place CLIMA Fund as the primary object of our evaluation.
We employ a results-oriented and reflexive approach to evaluate how we meet our objectives. We understand evaluation to be a subset of learning and work towards creating a culture of learning in all of our programs. Our approach is guided by the broader question of: How can we ensure that the CLIMA Fund remains accountable to our grassroots grantees and adapts our strategies to deliver on our mission? We engage in learning through various methods with an emphasis on 1) attention to power, 2) reflexivity, and 3) experimentation.
Is the CLIMA Fund a 501c3?
The CLIMA Fund is fiscally sponsored by Thousand Currents, which is a 501c3 headquartered in the United States (EIN: 77-0071852).