We are witnessing the devastating toll of a pandemic that has changed the global landscape for good. In addition, the U.S. is in the process of a long overdue reckoning with racial inequality as well as dangerous challenges to our fragile democracy. While the climate crisis was eclipsed by these headlines, the coming catastrophe has not gone away. As funders, we have tried to be nimble and respond to the pressing needs arising from both the pandemic and the racial justice movement, while remaining steadfast to our central mission of supporting climate change resilience. We have done so by making grants and investments to organizations implementing water and health initiatives and organizations that build inclusive and sustainable economic outcomes, while continuing to invest in core areas of climate adaptation and resilience.
Early on, we recognized that “dual-opportunity” organizations that had both an effect on COVID-19 and provided the systems changes needed for future crises would be key investments. By focusing on clean water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs, we’ve been able to address both immediate pandemic needs and build the infrastructure necessary for climate resilience. Investments to organizations like Blood:Water , an equipping agency that partners with African grassroots organizations to address the HIV/AIDS and water crises, was strategic in this moment. Their community partners have been at work for years increasing sustainable access to clean water, sanitation facilities, hygiene training, and health services, and they were well positioned to help vulnerable communities face the COVID pandemic. Other grant partners like Saha Global , have been at the front lines of the pandemic. They bring clean water to remote regions of Northern Ghana via women-led water businesses. In the villages where they work, these businesses are the only source of clean water and serve as a first line of defense against COVID-19. This summer, they launched the Coronavirus Emergency Water Fund (EWF) to ensure that the last-mile villages where they work are included in the government’s efforts to provide free water to all Ghanaians.
Building inclusive and sustainable outcomes in the U.S. economy and in global settings has been a priority in 2020. We invested in the Impact America Fund which bridges the financial and cultural divides that have kept low- and moderate-income people of color on the sidelines of today’s economy. The fund focuses on early-stage investments in tech-driven businesses that create new frameworks of ownership and opportunity within marginalized communities. We also invested in Navajo Power , a Public Benefit Corporation that is generating utility-scale clean energy and uses an indigenous-first leadership approach. They are transitioning to clean energy via solar and storage initiatives, developing a model for an equitable and sustainable energy transition that creates jobs and strengthens communities. Globally, we partnered with Land is Life , an organization that provides direct support to Indigenous communities in Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Suriname, builds and strengthens Indigenous networks and strategies, and ensures Indigenous peoples are included in policy making. We’ve partnered with Land is Life not only because they address the needs of underserved communities using a community-first approach, they work to address the climate crisis by safeguarding the lands and natural resources of Indigenous groups and building and sustaining community resilience.
In addition to making grants and investments that respond to this moment, we have made core climate resilience investments. These include a grant to CARE’s Water+ initiatives to help them build and scale a cohesive strategy around water and climate change. We are also supporting a pilot project to test the use of incentive mechanisms administered through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) in communities where farmers are learning water-smart agriculture techniques. We have also partnered with the Pacific Institute , a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts to develop sustainable water policies. They implement innovative projects to achieve a water-adaptive future and work with the government and private sector to demonstrate the savings that can be made through proper water stewardship. In the agriculture sector, we continued our partnership with Root Capital , an organization that invests in the growth of smallholder farmers and works to scale climate action by helping farmers understand and address their specific climate risks. Their work with farmers, supporting climate-smart practices in environmental hotspots, boosts yields and incomes while building resilience to climate shocks.
The crises that are coming to a point are not anomalies, they were predictable outcomes from decades of activities fueled by greed, hate, and carelessness. We hope to leverage lessons from the pandemic, democracy, equity, and climate crises to create meaningful long-term positive change. To that end, in the last 12 months, we have committed over $5 million dollars in grants and impact investments to combat these horrific trends. While we know this is just a drop in the bucket, we’ll continue to lead and engage additional capital sources to bolster this mission.
Moving forward, our goal is to build our education and deploy nimble but strategic funding. We will be rigorous in supporting solutions that can contribute to scalable and replicable tools for change. While climate change adaptation and resilience is our primary focus, we embrace intersectionality and systems-change approaches and recommit ourselves to creating systems where equity and justice aren’t just checkbox items, but are built into our DNA. We will continue to build strong community partnerships, and use our platform to elevate the voices of those most affected by the climate emergency. We invite you to join us in these endeavors–we’d love to learn and share with you.
Paul and Jeny