Learning by doing: Our collaborative learning pilot fund for justice and equity grantmaking

Blog Post Justice & Equity
Published June 2, 2022

Jessica Brown

Senior Director, Adaptation and Resilience

Victoria Gonzalez

Program Manager, Carbon Dioxide Removal

We believe solving the climate crisis requires advancing equity and justice. The connections between systemic racism, various forms of social and cultural oppression, and climate change are deep and unmistakable. One cannot be solved without the other.

In 2020, ClimateWorks made commitments to strengthen racial and social justice. We aspire to center justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do, from the staff we hire to the programmatic strategies we advance. As part of this ongoing effort, ClimateWorks has launched a Justice and Equity Collaborative Learning Pilot Fund dedicated to further supporting, amplifying, and integrating justice and equity in our strategies and grantmaking for 2022. This fund expands on the $1.0M special fund established in 2021 and other efforts to scale up justice and equity grantmaking at ClimateWorks.

We strive to do more to advance equity and justice at ClimateWorks. This includes expanding our networks, building authentic relationships, and exploring trust-based grantmaking. 

The fund will focus on supporting systemic change and power building and moving resources closer to community and frontline groups. While climate justice grantmaking is not new for us, we strive to do more. Over time, we will apply lessons from the grantmaking supported through this fund to adopt new, durable behaviors, practices, and approaches.

Engaging grantees closer to frontline communities

The fund is designed to help ClimateWorks staff build capacity and connection with groups focused on power and movement building and mobilizing communities to advance climate solutions. ClimateWorks will partner with grantees to identify possible areas for support and carry them forward as a request to the fund’s decision-making body, a group of ClimateWorks staff and our equity and justice advisors. Direct engagement with grantees is critical to the success of this fund because we believe those who are directly engaged in fighting for justice must lead the design and shape of the work.

The ClimateWorks Justice and Equity Collaborative Learning Pilot Fund was designed to align with the objectives of our existing programs while helping them transform from the inside out and more deeply center justice as a critical element of their overall strategy.

Grants made through the pilot fund will align with the strategic objectives of our existing programs to more deeply center justice as a critical element of their overall strategy. Examples include a campaign by a climate justice network to address under-resourced communities paying disproportionately for energy costs, legal action led by a coalition of grassroots organizations against polluting industries, or networks bringing together communities and labor unions to promote the interests of a just climate transition.

With guidance from leading climate justice experts and funders, all grant requests will:

  • meet the priorities of building power and moving resources closer to community and frontline organizations;
  • support active learning with the grantee and other hands-on learning opportunities, and;
  • use trust-based grantmaking.

Piloting trust-based grantmaking

ClimateWorks is new to trust-based grantmaking and we’ll use the following approaches with this fund:

  • multi-year, unrestricted funding or general operating support
  • streamlined applications
  • minimal reporting
  • strategy development led by the grantee
  • a commitment to building relationships based on transparency and mutual learning
  • providing support beyond the check

We hope exploring trust-based philanthropy through the pilot fund will be a first step toward adopting these approaches more broadly into our grantmaking.

It’s been two years since George Floyd’s death. While there’s been accountability for his murder, the recent mass shooting in Buffalo has shown there is still so far to go to fight racism in America. Structural racism, along with other forms of systemic oppression, is a fundamental driver of inequities worldwide, including the disproportionate impacts of climate change. To create a more just, vibrant future for people and planet, ClimateWorks remains committed to fostering equity and justice in all aspects of our organization and our work.

Learning as we go

To be a more effective ally for climate justice and equity, we will engage in hands-on learning opportunities to build our knowledge, network, capacity, and lexicon, in parallel with our 2022 grantmaking.

Questions we hope to answer include:

  • How can we go deeper on trust-based grantmaking approaches?
  • How can we expand to reach new networks and partners?
  • How can we more deeply incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion– and specifically movement and power building – into our work?
  • How can people-powered movements help slash emissions?
  • What do the grantees want us to learn?

Embracing a collaborative design process

We are grateful to the many individuals across the climate justice funding landscape, and from ClimateWorks, who helped shape this fund.

At this time, we are not accepting unsolicited grant proposals. For questions, to express interest in being part of future solicitations, or to follow along as the Pilot Fund progresses, send us a note here.