Raising Ambition

As I was doing some on-line reading on International Women’s Day this year, I found a number that shocked me.  A study by Global Green Grants and the Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds found that only 0.2% of all global foundation funding was directed towards women and environment.  Over the years, the Climate Wise Women have shown me how many climate-smart, resource-efficient initiatives are pioneered by women in the communities most affected by climate change.  I couldn’t believe the stats I was seeing.

A few months later as I listened in to a planning call with fellow USCAN (US Climate Action Network) members for the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, my hopes for the gathering drooped as I learned that the focus would be on big challenges for governments, business and industry.   Where was the entry point for the grassroots community, the people who live with the most severe impacts of climate change?

I thought about the challenge that I would make, the challenge to the philanthropy community to raise their ambition for supporting the global grassroots women who are the first-responders in preserving their communities in the face of climate change. It felt like a quixotic exercise until I discovered that a few smart and dedicated funders were already leading a persuasive education campaign to explain how and why their peers should join them in a bottom up approach to climate resilience. 

The CLIMA Fund (Climate Leaders in Movement Action), led by Thousand Currents, Global Green Grants, Grassroots International, and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights was formed in 2016 to provide the support that has been so scarce for grassroots and indigenous communities confronting severe climate change impacts.  As they support these groups the four organizations are also looking to educate the philanthropic sector writ large and engage the larger, mainstream foundations as partners in the fund.   I spoke with Lindley Mease, the fund coordinator, who highlighted the key messages of the coalition:  

 “There is still an underlying distrust in the wisdom and abilities of the grassroots,” Lindley told me.  “We need to build the case in a different way.”  The coalition plans to release a study in October 2018 with data that demonstrate the collective impact and potential scale of frontlines community action on climate change.  “We need to change funders' framing from one solely focused on mitigation to one focused on nurturing a society that is humane and just,” Lindley adds.  “I’m really thinking about our success as whether in one to two years, we have a cohort of funders that would not otherwise be investing in grassroots climate solutions.”

The CLIMA Fund has already raised almost $500k and made grants to 19 global grassroots organizations working on advocacy, movement building and fossil fuel-free community development.

Inspired by this ambitious coalition, Climate Wise Women co-founder Constance Okollet and I will head off to San Francisco next week for the Global Climate Action Summit where we hope to continue the conversation on grassroots women and funding and all the work that still needs to be done.

Tracy Mann, September 4, 2018

Tracy Mann