‘SOLIDARITY PHILANTHROPY’ ADVANCES EQUITABLE, REPLICABLE CLIMATE SOLUTIONS CREATED BY BLACK, INDIGENOUS AND OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR COMMUNITIES
Media contact: Carina Daniels
In a milestone moment for climate philanthropy, the grassroots climate justice leaders who make up the Governing Body of the Fund for Frontline Power have announced the fund’s inaugural slate of over $5 million in grants to 48 diverse groups working on the front lines of the climate crisis.
The Fund for Frontline Power is an autonomous fund that emerged from a movement action coordinated by CJA, with support from key allies, in response to the first round of Bezos Earth Fund grants that moved the vast proportion of funds to big green organizations. At the request of movement groups, the Fund is housed at The Solutions Project. Governance of the fund is held by 13 grassroots movement leaders, and fund development has been supported by CJA, Solutions, and People’s Climate Innovation Center.
“We put meeting the needs of our fellow frontline communities at the heart of every decision we made — from designing the grantmaking process to selecting grantees, ” said Governing Body member Julia Ho, founder of Solidarity Economy St. Louis and co-founder of STL Mutual Aid.
“The communities and places represented are only a small sample of the power and wisdom across frontline communities, and so are the impactful climate justice projects we are honored to fund. It was exciting to collaborate with fellow frontline leaders and learn about the wide range of innovative climate solutions envisioned and led by frontline communities,” Ho said.
The Fund for Frontline Power (F4FP) is a leading example of “solidarity philanthropy” in action. Traditional philanthropy revolves around donors rather than recipients, imposing potential solutions from outside, and putting recipients in the position of having to “prove” that they are worthy of funding. In contrast, solidarity philanthropy centers leaders from impacted communities as experts and decision-makers — honoring their lived experience, following their lead, and trusting that they know best what their own communities need. The F4FP’s Governing
Body, made up of 13 grassroots climate leaders, controls the agenda and the purse strings, while donors contribute financial and other forms of support.
“Those of us serving on the Governing Body know from firsthand experience that smaller, community-based organizations are successfully working at the intersection of climate justice and racial justice to create equitable, practical climate solutions that are ready for immediate investment,” said Governing Body member Antonio Diaz, organizing director of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER) in San Francisco. “Our solutions are grounded in justice, equity, sustainability, and systemic change.”
The Fund for Frontline Power supports community-based, equitable climate solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate resilience, strengthen local regenerative economies, and build power on the front lines of the climate crisis. Over 400 organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities applied for F4FP grants. These requests totaled over $60 million, demonstrating the growing demand for funding frontline climate solutions.
Groups receiving funds in F4FP’s inaugural grantmaking cycle include the following:
Rustic Roots Sanctuary in Missouri grows healthy, fresh, organic food; teaches sustainability; works with youth in agriculture; feeds seniors who are home-bound; runs the Spanish Lake Farmers Market; and works with Black farmers to build a healthy local food system.
Taos Pueblo’s Red Willow Center in New Mexico is an Indigenous-run farm working to reclaim the pueblo’s agricultural heritage and restore strong local food systems that empower tribal sovereignty.
For 25 years, the Just Transition Alliance has united the labor and environmental justice movements in working on long-term solutions to the impacts of toxic, extractive and exploitative industries; and advancing a safe and just transition to equitable and sustainable economies.
Black Sustainability Inc. is building the world’s largest network of Black sustainability practitioners to share knowledge and resources, and to build and re-build sustainable communities and economies that restore balance to our planet.
WeCount! is made up of thousands of agricultural, construction, and domestic workers in South Florida who campaign for inclusive democracy and climate action and helped win the nation’s first county-wide heat standard for outdoor workers.
“In Miami-Dade County, we average 41 days per year with a heat index over 100,” said Oscar Londoño, co-executive director of WeCount!. “But in a couple of decades, scientists say we’ll have 141 days a year with a heat index over 100. That’s a tremendous increase in risk for a state that already leads the nation in heat-related hospitalizations. Our work will focus on ensuring that the food on our tables, the plants in our homes, and the buildings in our cities won’t come at the cost of workers’ health or lives.”
The climate justice movement created the Fund for Frontline Power in response to the massive first round of Bezos Earth Fund (BEF) grants in 2020, which vastly favored large, white-led, well-resourced organizations. The fund got its start with a $1 million investment from The Solutions Project. Movement leaders then came together to strategize about catalyzing that million dollars.
“We called on big green groups that received grants from the Bezos Earth Fund to redirect a portion of their funds to a pooled Fund for Frontline Power designed to move funding to powerful, yet under-resourced, frontline organizations,” said Marion Gee, co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance, which supports the F4FP on fundraising and communications. “Scalable, replicable, equitable solutions created in and led by frontline communities are ready for investment now.”
The Climate Justice Alliance, The People’s Climate Innovation Center, and The Solutions Project all provide various kinds of administrative support as requested by grassroots groups, but they do not control F4FP.
So far, seven Bezos Earth Fund grantees have contributed to the Fund for Frontline Power: the Hive Fund for Climate & Gender Justice, ClimateWorks Foundation, Building Equity & Alignment for Environmental Justice, the Union of Concerned Scientists, RMI, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Solutions Project. Donors range from “big green” environmental groups and funders to the sustainable home- and baby-care company Seventh Generation.
“True climate justice requires an equitable transition to a renewable energy economy, and frontline communities are leading the way,” said Ashley Orgain, Seventh Generation’s chief impact officer. “The Fund for Frontline Power offers a way to accelerate that transition. Our support represents an investment in the solutions frontline communities are creating to curb climate change and tackle intersecting issues from heat resilience to food security to job skills training.”
Another supporter is Avenew, a new organization started by a collective of sports industry executives and leaders from EcoAthletes, a nonprofit that helps athletes lead climate action.
“The sports and entertainment industry has an outsized opportunity to invest in underrepresented communities, but has lacked a mechanism for our industry to invest in the communities where we operate venues and places of mass gathering. We created Avenew as a pathway for athletes and sports venues to fund the Fund For Frontline Power, which creates a powerful way to advance our sustainability goals and our anti-racist commitments,” said Kristen Fulmer, sports & entertainment sustainability executive. “The fact that grassroots climate justice leaders decide which of their peers’ projects to fund gives us a lot of confidence.”
The grassroots climate justice decision-makers on the F4FP’s Governing Body initially tried to winnow applicants to fit their available $4 million grantmaking budget. Instead, they found that funding 48 projects for a total of about $5 million would be more effective. They alerted funders that an additional sum of almost $1 million was needed.
That opened the door for another example of solidarity philanthropy in action. The nine women-of-color justice leaders on the Kataly Foundation’s Environmental Justice Resource Collective (EJRC), who have independent decision-making and spending power, consulted with the Fund for Frontline Power and committed to fill this gap.
“That is how solidarity philanthropy works – we show up for each other,” said Gloria Walton. She sits on Kataly’s EJRC and leads The Solutions Project, which houses F4FP at the request of grassroots groups. She was perfectly positioned to facilitate EJRC’s contribution. “Philanthropy needs to move in unity with the movements we support, and rapidly scale up our support while building greater trust through transparency and accountability,” Walton said.