New $10 Million Program “Communicating Our Power” Will Boost the Communications Capacity of Frontline Climate Justice Organizations
For Two Years, 20 Organizations Across 16 States Will Receive Support in Hiring Communications Staff and Building Narrative Power
Contact: Olivia@climatejusticealliance.org 301-613-4767
Oakland, CA – Through a new $9.6 million program, twenty frontline climate justice organizations across sixteen states will receive support in hiring communications staff and training to advance narrative strategies. The Climate Justice Alliance, the Center for Story-based Strategy, and The Solutions Project developed the program – called “Communicating Our Power” – to help address the racial and gender disparities in climate philanthropy and media coverage.
“As the climate crisis accelerates, frontline climate justice organizations led by people of color – and especially women of color – are ramping up their work to meet the urgency of this moment and protect their communities,” said Ozawa Bineshi Albert of the Climate Justice Alliance. “Given the most recent UN report on climate, we know that real solutions that center the interests of humanity and Mother Earth above corporate interests will be few and far between unless they are prioritized by governments around the world. This reality makes it all the more necessary for frontline communities to have the communications support they need to tell their stories, advocate for solutions and policies that address the root causes of the crisis, and engage their neighbors.”
To date, frontline climate justice organizations led by people of color have been severely underfunded compared to larger, white-led environmental organizations. As a result, frontline climate justice groups have found themselves having to do more with less, and having to rely on volunteers and program managers to handle communications even though they might not have communications expertise. This has implications in terms of which climate organizations get attention, funding and support.
There is a vast funding disparity, with justice-centered groups receiving just 1.3% of grants awarded in the environmental philanthropy sphere. In a recent survey of 40 BIPOC-led grassroots organizations, 90% said they don’t have full-time communications staff, and 50% said they don’t have an active social media presence or a functional website.
The lack of communications resources is reflected in media coverage. In 2020, only 13% of news articles about climate change mentioned communities of color, up from just 2% in 2019.
“We are in a moment where we are experiencing the catalytic effect of grassroots power building and its impact on public narrative and discourse. It’s not a coincidence that we are hearing the Executive office discussing Justice40 and reparations and white-led climate organizations talking about climate justice and just transition. These are direct results of the frontline communities and organizations who have been influencing, organizing, and seeding values for equity and justice for decades,” said Gloria Walton, President & CEO of The Solutions Project. “A program like Communicating Our Power will strengthen organizations’ capacities to share their intersectional climate justice solutions. The world wants to hear from our communities, so let’s continue to help amplify their stories, solutions, and impact.”
The 2022-2023 Communicating Our Power cohort includes:
- Alternatives for Communities & Environment (Boston, MA)
- Blacks in Green (Chicago, IL)
- Community to Community Development (Bellingham, WA)
- Detroit Black Food Security Network (Detroit, MI)
- Farmworker Association of Florida (Apopka, FL)
- Ironbound Community Corporation (Newark, NJ)
- Kheprw Institute (Indianapolis, IN)
- Little Manila Rising (Stockton, CA)
- Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (Chicago, IL)
- Native Movement (Anchorage, AK)
- Native Renewables (Flagstaff, AZ)
- Parable of the Sower Intentional Community Cooperative (Vallejo, CA)
- PODER (San Francisco, CA)
- Rise St. James (New Orleans, LA)
- SouthWest Organizing Project (Albuquerque, NM)
- Southwest Workers Union (San Antonio, TX)
- People’s Justice Council (Birmingham, AL)
- The Smile Trust (Miami, FL)
- UPROSE (Brooklyn, NY)
- Virginia Interfaith Power & Light (Richmond, VA)
Each cohort member will receive funding to hire a full-time communications staff person, who will participate in a two-year grassroots-centered and expert-facilitated fellowship program focused on developing communications strategies and building narrative power. They will also collaborate and learn from other frontline climate justice organizations.
“Narrative power is the ability to define who and what matters. A story-based strategy seeks to build this power in frontline communities, so those most impacted by any problem are the ones to make meaning for the larger public to understand what matters,” said Zakiya Scott, Strategy Director for Center for Story-based Strategy. “A participatory methodology is essential for accountability to impacted communities.”
Communicating Our Power is generously supported by the Hewlett Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Sequoia Climate Foundation, Pisces Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Energy Foundation, and Generation Foundation.
“It is important to build capacity in-house, especially content area expertise and communications capacity. I encourage more funders to recognize that it’s equally essential to fund climate justice programs and climate justice communications. Frontline groups are saving lives and strengthening communities with holistic climate solutions deserving of scaled resources and celebration. Having communications and narrative strategy capacity isn’t a luxury; it’s a core part of this work,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE.