Are we losing our love of life? ‘It must be the money’

This blog originally appeared on Open Democracy.

 Pia Infante of The Whitman Institute, Adriana Welsh Herrera of Ñepi Behña, Elvira Sanchez Toscano of ISMUGUA, Milvian Aspuac Con of AFEDES, and Gloria Marina Figueroa Aguilar of DESMI at the  Buen Vivir  Fund founders circle meeting at Casa Xitla in Mexico City in October 2016. Credit:  http://www.whattookyousolong.org . All rights reserved.

Pia Infante of The Whitman Institute, Adriana Welsh Herrera of Ñepi Behña, Elvira Sanchez Toscano of ISMUGUA, Milvian Aspuac Con of AFEDES, and Gloria Marina Figueroa Aguilar of DESMI at the Buen Vivir Fund founders circle meeting at Casa Xitla in Mexico City in October 2016. Credit: http://www.whattookyousolong.org. All rights reserved.

By Rajiv Khanna

I knew right then I was going to be schooled.Thirty-eight of us, representing 24 organizations from six countries, had gathered in rainy Mexico City to design an investment fund that would re-imagine our economy—and  our investment practices—with the concept of buen vivir at the center.

Buen vivir comes from Indigenous movements in Latin America and implies “right living” or life in balance with communities, natural systems and future generations. Our grassroots partners, financial investors, and adviser allies—all  leaders in alternative economic practices—had joined the gathering because of relationships built up over time with my organization, Thousand Currents. They trusted us because we have a 30-plus-year track record of establishing respectful and productive partnerships with grassroots leaders around the world, and with those who have deeper pockets in wealthy countries.

But that doesn’t mean we knew how to build an economy that’s centered on love and equality. That was the challenge that emerged from the grassroots, and specifically, how to develop an investment fund that’s run on these same principles and values—in stark contrast to the mainstream of philanthropy, foreign aid, social enterprise and investing.

Most impact investment initiatives are centered on persuading investors from the Global North to lend money and ‘expertise.’ The accumulation of privatized wealth is then reflected in the centralization of power and control in philanthropy and social investing. That’s why we came together to design a fund that would not only provide capital to grassroots groups who had never had access to investment before, but also support donors in the US who are floundering in a broken, fear-ridden financial system.

In order to re-imagine finance in this way we asked: What if that economic power could be shifted to communities in the Global South? What if capital could flow in the service of well-being? That’s why I needed to be ‘schooled’ by Milvian Aspuac Con, the leader of an Indigenous-women led group called AFEDES, a long-term Thousand Currents partner in Guatemala. She went on to share what it means to “recover the deep love for life” after a long history of Spanish colonization.

In generations past, she said, her family lived well. Her grandparents produced food so they had enough to eat. Her grandmothers knew how to weave so they had enough clothes to wear, and what they needed for the house. They produced, sold, or exchanged the rest. They had little stress. They had a chance for recreation, to do other things besides work.

But in 1980, after the approval of neoliberal and “Green Revolution” policies in Guatemala, many multinational agribusinesses arrived to convince farmers that it wasn’t profitable to produce their own food, and that their land could produce extra crops and extra money instead. This, they said, was the ultimate goal. These companies got rid of trees and other forms of biodiversity in order to focus on cash crops like green beans.

As a result, Milvian’s community lost their traditional crops. Industrial agriculture meant that they had to buy seeds and apply for credit from these companies, trapping them in cycles of debt. Her family lost their way of life. In the end, Milvian’s father suffered bankruptcy.

“It must be the money,” she said. “My father lost the love of life and went after money. We are recovering from this…slowly.”

That feeling of loss—of substituting love for money—is common in contemporary societies, and it also characterizes the ways in which we usually approach the question of mobilizing finance for social change. We wanted to escape from these constrictions and develop a model that brought love and money back into a healthier relationship with one another, but this process proved to be much more challenging than we imagined.

Conventional attitudes toward money run deep—who has it, who controls it, and how many strings are attached to how it’s spent. Working through these questions became a year-and-a-half long process of co-designing a radically-different investment vehicle which would come to be called the Buen Vivir Fund. What we thought could be resolved in a week took many thousands of hours—2,934 to be exact.

That’s because we had to acknowledge that our own relationship to money was grounded in scarcity. Until we transformed that relationship—until we truly acknowledged our fears about money and inequality—we couldn’t build an investment fund that would run on different principles and result in wellbeing instead of profit or top-down control.

You can read the full story article here

25 Powerful Ways Funders Can Support Social Movements

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This blog originally appeared on Inside Therapy

By Solome Lemma

So funders, you want to offer support to social movements? Here’s the essence of what you need to do, boiled down:

  1. Get uncomfortable.

  2. Move more money.

In the 30-plus years that Thousand Currents has been operating in the global philanthropy and social change space, we’ve come to learn intimately the difference between supporting a cause or an issue, an organization or a movement. Here’s our understanding of some of the key characteristics of social movements:

Movements are generally focused on moving systems, structures and institutions toward justice and equity. (FYI, philanthropy is, itself, an institution.) This means fundamentally changing society’s status quo, not just making changes to service delivery for “poor people” (though this clearly remains important and has strategic and tactical importance in movements). 

Movements build community and momentum in response to a specific need or social condition or vision, or all three. They resemble an umbrella, rather than any organogram, including and gathering more and more individuals, campaigners, formal and informal groups, policy analysts, civil society organizations, media makers, etc., all taking coordinated steps.

Most importantly, what differentiates movements from other social good efforts is that they are rooted in and led by “the people.” This collective leadership can take many forms, but it is seen in its accountability to people—not boards nor funders.

Movements are characterized by systemic analysis and agenda in order to take principled, collective, direct action and create targeted strategic pressure. Just as much as they may include joint efforts on policy advocacy, narrative shift, community organizing and mobilizing popular support, movements are phenomena. However, sometimes, they are standalone efforts working to push a new or excluded agenda forward. Movements vary greatly, as the context and the people decide the configuration that a movement takes.

Now, if you still want to keep learning about how to effectively support these ever-moving, sometimes nebulous, and interconnected groups of humans trying to achieve change together around the world, here are some additional insights Thousand Currents can offer on moving with movements in practice.

3. Be clear: Funders don’t start movements. They fund. They can connect. They may convene. They can facilitate (sometimes, if requested to do so). They can encourage. They back, but they don’t build. Building is the work of movement leadership.

4. Don’t predicate your support on a formal organizational registration. Movements take many forms and often don’t fit into bureaucratic boxes. Limiting your funding to a particular structure undermines the emergent and dynamic nature of movements, and stifles impact.

5. Make the case for why YOU (funder) should be the one supporting the movement(s) instead. Be prepared.

You can read the full story article here

Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda: African-centered, self-determined, and people powered

By Luam Kidane, Africa Regional Director

This article originally appeared on Thousand Currents.

One of our new catalyst partners, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda, is a vibrant rural community movement that mobilises for rights, democracy, land reform, and sustainable rural development located in Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Started in 2002, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda was formed by community members as an organization to help propel the work and vision of the community forward.  Starting with the name, Ntaba kaNdoda is a nod to a historically significant mountain while the name Ntinga means “to soar” in Zulu. It is clear that Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda is the creation of a community that is committed to maintaining its Indigenous knowledges and that seeks to to mobilise and catalyse people power to transform the lived realities of the member villages. Their goal: self-determined communities based on principles of justice and imagination.

 

Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda is a community-driven and sustained effort that strives to build and nurture collective community solidarity, critical consciousness, and democratic practices through five main programmes:

  • Community heritage, arts and culture
  • The solidarity economy alternative for sustainable livelihoods and development
  • Quality public education
  • Ntingani Lootcha (activating youth leadership)
  • Rights-based participatory democracy

The work of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda reaches 42 villages in Keiskammahoek, approximately 400,000 people. The coordinating headquarters of the organization is on a 4-hectare site that the Rabula community gifted to Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda. When I visited Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda in November 2016, the members and staff of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda had built a rondavel where community meetings and workshops were held and they were doing their administrative work out of two rented rooms at a neighbouring house that they were using as their office space.

As I learned more about the organization and the surrounding communities, community members and staff showed me their future plans for a multi-purpose centre on the Rabula site. The plans included a learning agroecology farm and centre, an early childhood development centre, a recreational and learning centre for the elderly, a heritage museum, sports facilities, meeting rooms and offices, a community hall and a roadside farm stall. These plans reflected the mandate that Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda has been given by the community members: to build spaces where the community can have somewhere to come together, vision, and build with one another. The desire to build this multi-purpose centre was propelled by community self-determination.

The idea of a community mandate is what is important about the work of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda. The General Assembly, the highest decision making body of the organization, is held annually. In addition to the General Assembly, there are Village Assemblies through which community members participate in creating the working mandate for Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda’s work based on what was agreed upon at the General Assembly.

Nestled in the mountain of Ntaba kaNdoda, a site of African resistance to colonialism, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda ensures that the lessons of African freedom fighters continue to be explored through an annual heritage festival. Past festivals have included a visit to the grave of Maqoma, an anti-colonial resistance strategist, leader and military commander, musical performances, poetry and book readings, Indigenous dances and games, as well as izidlo zikaNtu cuisine.   

In 2012, Keiskammahoek community members did a traditional cleansing of the site given the violence committed during the apartheid era of the Ciskeian homeland and preparation for the reconstruction of the Maqoma Memorial at Ntaba kaNdoda. Ntaba kaNdoda is currently working with the Amathole District Municipality for the resuscitation and official declaration of Ntaba kaNdoda as a South African heritage site. Such a declaration is believed to be a key step in the development of the Keiskammahoek Heritage Route. In addition to Ntaba kaNdoda, the route will include other historical sites as well including: King Ngqika’s grave, the site of the Burnshill Wagon Battle, Fort Cox, Sandile Dam, Booma Pass, Princess Ntsusa’s grave, Dyirha’s cliff, Mount Hoho, Khoi sites, German graves, rock art sites and local forests.

The work that Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda is visioning and building in Keiskammahoek is creative, African centred, imaginative, and exciting. At a time when the onslaught of state collusion with corporate power, industrialized agriculture, climate change, land grabs, and economic injustice continue to rise in Africa, the communities of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda are doing important propositional work. The communities of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda are exploring pathways of building community through self-determination and balance with the earth. And along the way, they are learning and inviting African communities to join their exploration of agroecology, solidarity economics, and youth-centered leadership development.   

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Exploring Other Options With Alternative Economies

At Africans In the Diaspora, we believe that women, youth, and Iocal communities are the source of innovative solutions for our shared African problems. In 2018, we are excited to share information about the three issue areas that direct our mission: food sovereignty, climate justice, and alternative economies. Today, we discuss alternative economies.

 Photo courtesy of  Whole World Women Association  

Photo courtesy of Whole World Women Association 


Alternative Economies In Action

Other highlights: 


 South Africa-based partner,  Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda  strongly exemplifies models of alternative economies through their community trainings on "Savings, Lending, and the Investment Initiative." This enables the community-owned rural movement to create a self-funded and self-managed microfinance fund that will benefit around 300 women .

South Africa-based partner, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda strongly exemplifies models of alternative economies through their community trainings on "Savings, Lending, and the Investment Initiative." This enables the community-owned rural movement to create a self-funded and self-managed microfinance fund that will benefit around 300 women .


“Having a good life, feeling happy, being satisfied with the life that you’re leading in your community. [It’s] in the work that you do, in the family that you live with and in the people that you work with.”
— Mary Tal, Founder and Director of Whole World Women Association (WWWA) on "What is Buen Vivir to you?"

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and check out our updated website.

And our next newsletter will be roundup of all three topics: food sovereignty, climate justice, and alternative economies!

Your Climate Justice Forecast For The Day!

At Africans In the Diaspora, we believe that women, youth, and Iocal communities are the source of innovative solutions for our shared African problems. In 2018, we are excited to share information about the three issue areas that direct our mission: food sovereignty, climate justice, and alternative economies. Here is your Climate Justice forecast for the week.


Taking The Temperature: Climate Justice In Action

“One Voice Aired: The Power of SDCEA”
Learn about the powerful impact of our partner South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)'s work over the past 22 years. The organization's coordinator, Desmond D'sa, won the Goldman Environmental Prize — the world’s largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalists.


    Other weather elements: 


    “When movements are born of organizing strategies that include people across borders and boundaries, they can spark broad, comprehensive social change powerful enough to address the greatest challenge of our age: climate change.”
    — Thousand Currents: "People-led climate solutions"

    Why Food Sovereignty Is Critical

    At Africans In the Diaspora, we believe that women, youth, and Iocal communities are the source of innovative solutions for our shared African problems. In 2018, we are excited to share information about the three issue areas that direct our mission: food sovereignty, climate justice, and alternative economies. First up, we give you a sampling of resources surrounding Food Sovereignty.

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    What Is Food Sovereignty? 

    When we know more about how our food is produced, we can better understand how it affects our everyday lives. Here is a bit-sized roundup of resources:


    To build and realise Food Sovereignty, it is imperative to work and engage with others — peasants, indigenous people, fisherfolk, women, men, progressive researchers, consumers, etc. — to rethink ways and means of farming and mobilisation.
    — Elizabeth Mpofu, chairperson of Thousand Currents partner, Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF)

    Other useful resources: 

    Food Providers Speak: Should we implement agroecology, the science behind sustainable agriculture, as part of the greater food sovereignty movement? Watch food providers from around the world offer their opinions on this.


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    Surplus People Project supports people’s right to produce food in ways that are politically, economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. We aim to make communities gain control over their local food systems through local agroecological production which allows people to consume healthy food whilst contributing to the local economy. We do this through training and exchanges. Production is for household use primarily, while surplus could be sold for additional income or donated to vulnerable groups as an act of solidarity.


    Why Is Food Sovereignty Critical? 

    Advocating for food sovereignty matters in today's world. Here is a sampling of resources to explain why it is important:

    In their 2017 report, “Who Will Feed Us? The Industrial Food Chain vs the Peasant Food Web”, the ETC group compares small-scale producers vs. the larger global agribusiness to show that it is the former that can better feed the earth.


    “We are told that it is big agribusiness, with its flashy techno-fixes and financial clout, that will save the world from widespread hunger and malnutrition and help food systems weather the impacts of climate change. However, a new report from ETC Group shows that in fact, it is a diverse network of small-scale producers, dubbed the Peasant Food Web, that feeds 70% of the world, including the most hungry and marginalized people. ”
    — ETC Group's “Who Will Feed Us? The Industrial Food Chain vs the Peasant Food Web”

    Other useful resources: 


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    Zimbabwe Small Holder Organic Farmers' Forum (ZIMSOFF) is a dynamic group of 19,000 small-scale farmers nationwide who are promoting agreoecology and advocating for policies in favor of biodiversity. 

    Founded in 2003, ZIMSOFF envisions improved livelihoods of organized and empowered smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, practicing sustainable and viable ecological agriculture.

    Their work focuses influencing policies and to raising public awareness to ensure that issues of food sovereignty, land justice, and environmental justice are represented in local, national, regional and international spaces.


    Our next roundup will dive into Climate Justice. To interact with our content now, follow us on Facebook and check out our updated website.

    Why NOT grassroots climate solutions?

    This blog originally appeared on Thousand Currents.

    By Hilda Vega, Director of the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund

    They’re drinking contaminated water!

    My niece yells, as she watches the news from Puerto Rico. Her friend lives there, and news reports showed that water made available in this zone is being pumped from the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, a Superfund site. This part of Puerto Rico is considered lucky, since at least 35 percent of the island continues to lack potable water and 90 percent of homes are in need of repair. Half of the island’s population still does not have power. This is recovery two months after Hurricane Maria†. 

    As we watch Puerto Rico work to repair its infrastructure and service systems from the damages inflicted by Hurricane Maria, it is evident to many of us that this slow and politically tinged recovery process is a climate justice issue. This concern is not just about ‘rebuilding’ but about how resources are distributed in the United States and around the world. Why were the hurricane impacts in Florida and Houston managed (and talked about) so differently from the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico?

    People often think of a natural disaster as something temporary. Conceptually, it is easy to visualize disaster relief – people going “to the rescue,” supplies being shipped in. Because we can fix a crisis. We send money and resources and move on to the next crisis.

    It is much harder to think that the recovery and rebuilding process in a place like Puerto Rico is linked to its complicated relationship with the U.S. mainland, a failing economic system, poor infrastructure, and a mix of racism and sexism emanating from U.S. government officials meant to be responsible for supporting its citizens in emergency situations.

    Wait…isn’t Puerto Rico a separate country? Or…is it?

    † Numbers vary by source and are difficult to confirm as information changes quickly. 

     

    Climate injustice is a way of life for too many

    We’ve seen much of this struggle for autonomy and a just recovery in Puerto Rico play out in the media, especially social media. What we see less of are the many ways in which communities all over the world contend with similar or worse situations every day.

    In Central America and in Asia, community groups (often led by women) are standing up to governments, paramilitary forces, and corporations to end practices such as land theft, development of energy mega-projects, weakening environmental legislation, support of industrial agriculture, and lack of respect of human rights and safety of anyone who interferes with business-as-usual economic development projects.

    In Southern Africa, local fisherfolk advocate for equal representation in the procedures that determine how coastal resources can be managed without resorting to the damaging effects of fossil fuel extraction.

    All over the world, indigenous communities fight to protect their legal right to ancestral land and other natural resources upon which they and their communities depend for livelihoods and well-being.

    Not only are all of the organizations supported by the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund (GCSF) protecting the spaces (e.g., carbon sinks and thriving, unharmed ecosystems) that keep us all a bit safer from environmental chaos, they are also leading the way in shaping climate solutions that respect people and nature while helping us all achieve prosperity.  They are doing this in response to not just short-term crises, but within the long-term and slow-moving catastrophe that is climate change. They are working on strategies for more sustainable resource management, for less reliance on fossil fuels, for low-intensity agriculture, and for integration of ancestral knowledge with renewable energy and just economic practices.

     

    Grassroots practices are key to tackling climate change

    We know these grassroots solutions work. They can work in Puerto Rico and they are working already in communities around the world where they are developed and practiced by those most impacted by climate change. Theses strategies are spreading as people seek out methods for grassroots solutions that make sense back in their own contexts, where they can be adapted and scaled.

    But let’s be clear: grassroots climate solutions are not the next shiny object to exploit as we seek to address the climate crisis. Rather, they are part and parcel of a climate justice movement that understands that we cannot ‘fix’ climate change without a fundamental overhaul from the roots. This includes:

    • respecting land and resource rights,
    • recognizing that economic ‘development’ cannot depend on exploitation,
    • respecting the leadership and knowledge of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and other marginalized populations;
    • reforming laws that enable profit-seeking at any cost; and
    • fully financing strategies that support locally-driven energy alternatives.

    I often think of a comment that Caitlin Stanton of Urgent Action Fund (one of the GCSF’s members) makes about dominant models of philanthropy. Stanton—referring to the excellent research shared by Sarah Hansen in Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funderspoints out that the field has been funding the environment in the same way for decades. Donors prefer to fund big organizations, based in the U.S., who can help us meet our goals in a way that we can sell to others (bosses, boards, funders, etc.). A fraction of environmental funding makes it way to those most impacted.  

    Stanton urges donors (all of us) to continue to ask the question: How has thatapproach worked out for us?

    We can see that answer for ourselves. So when people ask me why the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund supports grassroots leaders and communities directly, or why they should fund grassroots solutions, I think that the question is not ‘why should we fund grassroots strategies?’ but ‘why not?’

    Here are two objections I often hear:

    1.“Those solutions are too small-scale”: This isn’t an accurate argument, because our partners are already aggregating and replicating solutions howand when it’s appropriate – and on their terms, not ours.

    2. “Grassroots organizations are too small to manage the funds”: This isn’t a strong argument, because leaders in the climate justice space work in all sorts of configurations and are able to adapt financial strategies as needed so long as we support them how and when they ask it of us.

    Why not fund grassroots climate solutions, then? What’s holding us back?

    We need global grassroots activists’ wisdom to, quite frankly, save us from ourselves. With disasters like Puerto Rico on the rise, we have little to lose, and a thriving future to gain.

    People-led climate solutions

    This blog originally appeared on Thousand Currents.

    History shows us time and again: the vital lever of major social change, from decolonization to civil rights to environmental movements, has been grassroots organizing.

    Yet, even today, grassroots efforts often remain underfunded and overlooked.

    This missed opportunity is huge, especially in regards to one of the greatest and most pressing challenges of our age: climate change.

    Effective grassroots organizations and movements around the world are busy protecting communities’ rights to water, soil, air, seeds, food, forests, livestock, and land. And they urgently need our solidarity and support.

    So this year we helped launch the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund—a unique collaborative fund with Global Greengrants Fund, Urgent Action Fund, and Grassroots International—to reach grassroots organizations and social movements in over 100 countries around the world!

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    The solutions already in our midst

    The global climate movement can learn from solutions being developed by the very people whose daily lives are impacted most by climate change.

    Investing across borders and boundaries

    For over three decades, our four organizations’ grantmaking practices have looked to the wisdom and strength of local people and movements to tackle injustices.

    We don’t invest in solutions that are imported; rather we invest in solutions that are developed in response to listening to people on the ground.

    For over three decades, we’ve seen how organizing strategies that include indigenous peoples, women, youth, and diverse grassroots groups across borders and boundaries can spark powerful social change.

    Here are just a few examples of how grassroots solutions are working to address climate change:

    Inherently holistic approaches

    Climate change makes focusing on one issue at a time a luxury. Grassroots solutions to climate change reflect social, political, geographic, and economic realities simultaneously.

    For example, to counter environmental degradation in Haiti, the grassroots organization Peasant Movement of Papaye has to address all aspects of people’s lives that depend on degraded and deforested farmlands. Their solutions they advance in the face of Haiti’s changing climate and agricultural conditions come from a deep understanding of how people cope and the social fabric surrounding them.

    On-the-ground readiness for disaster

    Time and again, grassroots groups have predicted the precise infrastructural collapses and hardest-hit areas in natural disasters missed by top-down efforts.

    In Guatemala City, for example, our local partner ISMUGUA works with a network of 22 community organizations developing evacuation plans and family emergency plans for recurring natural disasters.

    Since communities are already living in highly vulnerable conditions, ISMUGUA is also strengthening their efforts in regards to housing rights, education,and health to mitigate the effects of climate change. They’ve initiated a community-led advocacy response in the form of a national housing law that addresses the right to dignified, healthy and adequate housing, as part of a long-term recovery strategy to disasters.

    Pulling together as communities

    People, even under the direst of circumstances, can and do pull together.

    In Rajasthan, for example, our local partner Sahyog Sansthan works in over 100 indigenous communities in an already semi-arid part of India where rainfall is becoming less and less predictable. Sahyog works with local communities to improve crop yields and, more importantly, they work together to manage communal lands more equitably and efficiently. They reach thousands of women and have inspired local government agencies to replicate its methods.

    Scale from a new perspective

    Scale is not just about reach, but about quality and effectiveness.

    For example, in South Africa, our partner Biowatch promotes seed saving and agroecology practices that enhance resilience to climate change. The results? Long-term food security for more than 500 rural farmers and their families, while also preserving biodiversity.

    Unprecedented support

    The Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund is unprecedented in that it provides a continuum of support to people fighting climate change.

    What does this support look like in action?

    It means we can award a security grant in as little as 12 hours to an activist whose life or family has been threatened.

    It means we can provide a promising grassroots movement with its first infusion of outside resource.

    And it means we can sustain established organizations with multi-year support and capacity-building.

    Grassroots innovators as rightful peers

    The global climate movement has so much to learn from grassroots solutions. But those holding the purse-strings often dismiss grassroots solutions as quaint “feel-good” projects on the sidelines. They fail to recognize the technical prowess and complex innovation at the core of effective grassroots efforts.

    If global leaders and funders continue to only invest in short-term projects led by people outside communities, or market-based responses to climate change like carbon markets, they risk only protecting the special interests of corporations. They risk not recognizing grassroots innovators as rightful peers. It’s a risk we can’t afford to take.

    What it takes to secure the planet’s future

    Imagine if we supported hundreds—and even thousands—of effective grassroots climate solutions around the world to thrive, lead, and link together?

    It would make so much more progress possible.

    The time to invest in grassroots efforts is now. We urgently need to recognize and support global grassroots innovators of climate solutions.

    Yes, charities want to make an impact. But poverty porn is not the way to do it

    This blog originally appeared in The Guardian.

     Comic Relief was criticised recently by watchdog Radi-Aid for reinforcing white saviour stereotypes. // Photograph: Freddie Claire/Comic Relief/PA

    Comic Relief was criticised recently by watchdog Radi-Aid for reinforcing white saviour stereotypes. // Photograph: Freddie Claire/Comic Relief/PA

    By Jennifer Lentfer, Director of communications, Thousand Currents

    Our job is to tell compelling stories without trivialising people’s lives – and to promote a more nuanced narrative about how to achieve lasting change

    Pity, guilt and shame are easy emotional levers to pull, and ones that have become tempting to indulge in as funding is squeezed. We have seen how one well-crafted message can raise awareness of a problem and increase donations in the blink of an eye – from the Kony 2012 film, which became a viral video sensation for Invisible Children, to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised more than £75m for motor neuron disease research.

    But at the other end of the scale, Comic Relief’s fundraising video featuring pop singer Ed Sheeran and the street children of Liberia won the Radi-Aid “most offensive” campaign award in 2017. Run by the Norwegian Students and Academics International Assistance Fund, ( the contest aims to expose and discourage “poverty porn”.

    Since Band Aid in 1984, non-profit organisations have faced scrutiny about approaches that raise awareness and money, but do not invite the public to question why poverty exists in the first place. The challenge for our sector is not just to get as many £5 texts as possible, but to transform goodwill into well-thought-out and sustained action. It means finding a balance between telling compelling stories, without trivialising people’s lives, or the long term prospects for social change.

    READ THE FULL POST HERE

     

    Half a century later, MLK is still right

    This blog originally appeared on Thousand Currents.

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    Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first, that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. And if Nkrumah and the people of the Gold Coast had not stood up persistently, revolting against the system, it would still be a colony of the British Empire. Freedom is never given to anybody. For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.

    -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. shared these insights after returning from the celebration of Ghana’s independence in 1957- the first country in Africa to do so – over half a century ago. The struggles for a world liberated from neoliberalism, militarization, imperialism, and white hegemony remain central to our quests for self-determined, free nations and peoples. In parts of the world, militarized states and polices forces continue to suppress people movements; corporations continue to cement their hold on resources and power through extraction, violence, and unjust trade; and in the United States, white nationalists have found a national spokesperson in the form of the President, while the country’s domestic and international policies continue to marginalize and exploit black and brown people.

    For people in the United States, these times are an excellent opportunity to examine the covert and overt manifestations of white supremacy that the President, and past administrations, are giving voice to. In the most recent capture of the U.S. federal government by white nationalists, we are seeing the worst attributes of leadership amplified through the voice of a fascist president committed to destroying the democratic ideals that many of us are working towards. In a time when the President of the United States believes and outwardly states that Mexicans are rapists, Muslims are violent, and all Haitians have AIDS, these racist views do not just degrade attitudes and narratives and rally his white nationalist base, they also shape policy. These ideas have and continue to manifest in material changes around aid, disaster relief, immigration policy, criminal justice reform, and public health resources.

    If we stand opposed to this president and administration, it is incumbent upon us to support and be in solidarity with struggles being led by  oppressed communities fighting for transformation. Some of the ways we can do this is by demanding protection under a just DACA and TPS, supporting the self determination of the people of Puerto Rico, working to support communities fighting the militarization of the African and Latin American continents, and by demanding the end of corporate power. It also remains important for us to refuse to normalize these incidences, and refuse to comply with the culture of impunity that is characterizing Trump’s tenure. This administration is a failure. We must stand united and strong across our movements and struggles.

    At Thousand Currents, we partner with groups around the world that are fighting to create self-determined futures. Their work is rooted in the principles of equality, justice, accountability, and transformation. They hold the complexity of the structural and globalized challenges they face while advancing localized and contextualized solutions. Our partners in South Africa and Zimbabwe hold true that the fight for Black lives in the US is inextricably linked to the fight for Black lives everywhere. Our partners in Guatemala teach us that the fight for the intellectual rights of Indigenous women in Guatemala is the continued resistance against the genocide of native peoples and their cultures across the Americas. While our partners in Rajasthan, India affirm through practice the importance of sourcing local solutions of agricultural practices  to ward off the rise of corporate power. Through their disciplined practice, our partners teach us the importance of maintaining interconnectedness, sharp political analysis, creativity, and solidarity as foundations and pathways towards a just, equitable world.  

    Even as the tainted ink of emboldened white supremacists dry on executive orders and bills and engulf our national conversations, let’s heed Martin Luther King’s words and remind ourselves of what side of the arc of justice that we want to be on. This president uses his words and policies as weapons for division and destruction. White nationalists when we become insular, when we shut the world out, and when we address problems in isolation. They win when we fall prey to their distraction tactics, lose sight of the big picture, and remain entrapped in cycles of despair and outrage without action. They win when we close our borders, our minds, and our hearts. We must remain vigilant and focused. Our outrage is important, children are watching. Denouncements are necessary, the world is listening. Action is demanded of us, our freedom is at stake.