Green New Deal Statement

We are living in times of accelerating environmental and political shifts. While catastrophic climate change used to be a distant threat, we now see scientists’ predictions materializing in our backyards. At the same time, right-wing populism is on the rise, with growing gaps in income and access afflicting communities across the globe. We know we must address these threats together, as manifestations of the same systemic crisis. In fact, organized labor and frontline grassroots communities have been saying as much for decades. Those Indigenous, Black and Brown, and working class white communities that have historically borne the brunt of extraction have grown their own movements around a Just Transition toward a regenerative economy that centers people, planet, culture, and community. In the U.S., as rhetoric builds around a Green New Deal (GND), we must recognize that the challenges of today require unprecedented changes in the ways we organize, listen, learn, and do our work.

As funders we can all agree that, broadly, our job is to leverage resources and opportunities toward a better world. But just how to do that has remained challenging, particularly for those of us who are pressured by 12-month grant cycles, strict program parameters, and metrics designed for a time that no longer exists. We have learned frontline movements are interconnected, yet often in philanthropy we are sidelined into chipping away at just one piece or another, making short-term gains in one area while even delaying progress in another. We know from experience that viewing the world in silos and supporting top-down approaches actually harms communities, and that when communities are harmed, none of our shared objectives can be achieved.

We have seen funders collaborate on ambitious, well-intentioned efforts, such as the unprecedented investment in passing climate legislation in 2010, the large “down payment” commitment to the climate crisis announced at September 2018’s Global Climate Action Summit, and the myriad of strategically-similar efforts in between. But this kind of funding, brokered without the input of the most affected communities, has not worked. In fact, it has done harm, and has brought us to where we are today.

As funders, we must recognize there will be many iterations of a GND—from federal to local in rural, urban, and tribal communities—which all need support. Funders and frontline communities play distinct roles in an ecosystem and need to come together in powerful partnership like never before to pass and implement a GND that has the capacity to truly address the realities of frontline communities.

We cannot repeat the mistake of pouring billions into a single piece of legislation without equal, if not greater, investments in the on-the-ground implementation that will sustain and scale strong solutions. Nor can we depend on one single piece of federal legislation to dismantle the generations of systemic and environmental racism, extraction, and land grabs responsible for our climate crisis. We can no longer pour our resources into technical, market-based false promises (e.g. REDD+, carbon trading schemes, etc.) that give temporary hope at the expense of real, long-term transformation.

What can we do to seize the urgency of this moment; invest in the wisdom, solutions, and organizing power of frontline communities; and make real steps toward sustainable racial, economic, and environmental justice? We can agree to work together to support people-led movements that push for change at the top, while building resilience and power at the local level. For decades, grassroots groups in frontline communities have accomplished tremendous success with few resources.

Last September, frontline mobilizations led by It Takes Roots (ITR) organized a week of actions in the Bay called Solidarity to Solutions (Sol2Sol), parallel to the government-, business-, and industry-led Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). The ITR Funder Support Circle came together to organize the People’s Orientation to GCAS for funders. We introduced a simple tool—the People’s Solutions Lens— to discern people's solutions from false solutions by asking four basic questions: Who makes the decisions? Who benefits? What else will this impact? How will this build or shift power? This tool can also be applied to proposed GND solutions.

The signers of this letter affirmatively “call in” all philanthropy to act swiftly and in good faith to support grassroots organizing for a GND that marshals the country’s resources toward authentic solutions that center labor priorities and frontline communities’ solutions. As funders, we must: 1) Work within our organizations to direct more resources to grassroots, base-building organizations in the most impacted communities, 2) Amplify our impact beyond our own institutions by organizing across the philanthropic sector to move significantly more multi-year funding, more quickly, to achieve grassroots climate solutions, and 3) Hold each other accountable to ensure we don’t repeat historic funding patterns that prioritize business-as-usual approaches that undermine the grassroots.

Work within philanthropic organizations takes many forms, including both grantmaking and the ways in which staff time and other supportive resources are deployed. Many funders who have worked closely with and funded grassroots, frontline organizations have made the case for this strategy, e.g., CLIMA Fund’s Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Work report and Climate Justice Alliance’s Collaborating for Bold Possibilities report. The aforementioned People’s Solutions Lens is yet another hands-on approach for funders to apply a critical lens to grantmaking. We must prepare now so we are ready to support emerging frontline-focused climate campaigns. Make sure your foundation understands why it is critical to dedicate staff time and resources to organizing with other funders.

Most immediately, you can:

  • Pass this letter to other funder colleagues to share and gather their support
  • Host a conversation within your docket/program to apply the People’s Solutions Lens to your funding portfolio
  • Increase your funding commitments to grassroots climate solutions in your next funding cycle by ___%
Signed by the following:
  • Daniel Moss, Agroecology Fund
  • Anna Fink, Amalgamated Foundation
  • Tyler Nickerson, Amalgamated Foundation
  • Robert Bank, American Jewish World Service
  • Kathryn Gilje, Ceres Trust
  • Farhad Ebrahimi, Chorus Foundation
  • Lindley Mease, CLIMA Fund
  • Climate Advocacy Lab
  • Peggy Saika, Common Counsel Foundation
  • Ellen Friedman, Compton Foundation
  • Hanni Hansen, Compton Foundation
  • Sofia Arroyo, EDGE Funders Alliance
  • Rena Meyers-Dahlkamp, Emerging Practitioner in Philanthropy
  • Marnie Thompson, Fund for Democratic Communities
  • Ed Whitfield, Fund for Democratic Communities
  • Chung-Wha Hong, Grassroots International
  • Terry Odendahl, Global Greengrants Fund
  • Vanessa Daniel, Groundswell Fund
  • Jenny George, Hidden Leaf Foundation
  • Supriya Pillai, Hidden Leaf Foundation
  • Dana Kawaoka-Chen, Justice Funders
  • Jason Franklin, Ktisis Capital
  • Rachael Young, Mertz Gilmore Foundation
  • Nile Malloy, Neighborhood Funders Group
  • NorthLight Foundation
  • Anna Lappé, Panta Rhea Foundation
  • Connie Malloy, Panta Rhea Foundation
  • Holly Roberson, Panta Rhea Foundation
  • Lisl Schoepflin, Panta Rhea Foundation and Qinti Fund
  • Anuja Mendiratta, Philanthropic + Nonprofit Consulting
  • Xavier Morales, Praxis Project
  • Rebecca Barnes, Presbyterian Hunger Program (PCUSA)
  • Andrew Kang-Bartlett, Presbyterian Hunger Program (PCUSA)
  • Iimay Ho, Resource Generation
  • Laura Fernandez, Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment
  • Kelly Buhles, RSF Social Finance
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Ashley Orgain, Seventh Generation Foundation
  • Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples
  • Sarah Christiansen, Solidago Foundation
  • Megan Wolf, Solidago Foundation
  • Jon Alferness, Solidaire Action
  • Harley Brown, Solidaire Action
  • Joy Lian, Solidaire Action
  • Sophie Robinson, Solidaire Action
  • Connie Rubiano, Solidaire Action
  • Katrina Wehrheim, Solidaire Action
  • Chris Westcott, Solidaire Action
  • Peter Yedidia, Solidaire Action
  • Vini Bhansali, Solidaire Network and Solidaire Action Fund
  • Helen Chin, Surdna Foundation
  • Alison Corwin, Surdna Foundation
  • Kellie Terry, Surdna Foundation
  • Sonja Swift, Swift Foundation
  • Angie Chen, The Libra Foundation
  • Crystal Hayling, The Libra Foundation
  • Regan Pritzker, The Libra Foundation
  • Sarah Shanley-Hope, The Solutions Project
  • Solome Lemma, Thousand Currents
  • Joan Briggs, Threshold Foundation
  • Underdog Fund
  • Kate Kroeger, Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
  • Heather Coleman, Wallace Global Fund
  • John Esterle, Whitman Institute
  • Pia Infante, Whitman Institute