Bold and creative young climate activists lead transformations to combat the climate crisis: we need philanthropy to match this boldness and invest in us
Our earth is borrowed from the next generation. We have to meet human and environmental needs equitably, without sacrificing the ability of future generations of humans and species to meet their needs. The formation of the Next Generation Climate Board (NGCB) of the Global Greengrants Fund in 2012 is part of an attempt to seed the changes we need for the future we want for ourselves, coming generations and our ecosystems. The board was formed to support youth-driven climate interventions and to ensure young people’s voices within the global climate movement. From its inception, the NGCB has been composed of vibrant young advisers and leaders from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. Central to the Board and their individual activisms, is investing in diverse action by young people around the world under a gender, indigenous and disability lenses.
Most of the world’s communities – particularly southern, indigenous and rural – currently endure unprecedented climate change impacts to their livelihoods and ecosystems. Despite, youth are demonstrating that they can shift the present to build a different, more sustainable future. We, at the NGCB, strive to mobilise increasing unrestricted resources to these youth initiatives
Different backgrounds, different stories, one goal
The NGCB has supported youth initiatives in three key areas: capacity building, implementation of adaptation and mitigation initiatives, and policy and campaigns. Advisors review submitted proposals and hold virtual/physical meetings to approve grants based on consensus. A constant political decision has been to focus on supporting indigenous, black, rural, women and other gender minority youth, since people with these identities are less likely to access seed funding or decision-making spaces because they are operating in racist and patriarchal societies.
The Board has strengthened youth groups by supporting trainings, workshops, and seminars that enhanced educational initiatives on solutions to the climate crisis, and thus build communities local resilience. In 2017, the NGCB supported an indigenous youth group in Nepal, Digos Bikas Institute, to hold a training and information sharing gathering to further their vision of a ‘fossil free Nepal by 2050’.
The youth form the largest percentage of the global population. Their role in climate change debate cannot be gainsaid. Their voices should be the loudest because the future that is now so much threatened by climate change is theirs.
– Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, 22-year-old climate justice activist from Uganda
The NGCB has also supported policy initiatives on research, dialogues, public campaigns, and regional and international advocacy. A group doing intersectional work on gender and policy advocacy is the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND) in Ghana. The group engaged young women from within their membership and those in the affected areas as climate ambassadors. As such, they were able to reach local and central government officials and community elders, which in turn, enabled them to engage in local and regional level planning and decision-making processes. The group is currently part of various initiatives at the national level in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and received other funding to continue their activities – a clear illustration of how youth organisations develop as a result of strategic grants made by the NGCB.
A core feature of the NGCB’s work is trust-based grantmaking. We trust each other, the networks and movements that we are connected to, and the groups that we recommend for funding. Personal connections, experience and direct knowledge of the work that young activists are leading to build climate resilience and fight climate injustice in diverse contexts is what feeds these levels of trust and centring trust in our day-to-day work is something we continuously reflect on, and collectively update in our strategy. By trusting youth organisers, we now see the importance of providing funds for administrative or overhead support, as well as the benefits of re-granting to groups that are still in their early stages and need continuity to consolidate their work.
TierrActiva Peru received multiple funding from the NGCB. This enabled a national gathering of climate and environmental youth activists prior to COP20 in Lima which linked youth to policy-makers and climate specialists, as well as other activists, and led to the launch of the TierrActiva national network. Subsequent funding from the NGCB enabled them to organise additional sub-national youth convenings, develop learning materials on climate justice and alternatives to the climate crisis, carry out campaigns and engage in ongoing awareness-raising and advocacy activities, from the UN climate negotiations to neighbourhood climate education.
Expanding horizons: bringing in new regions
In 2016, an adviser from the Canadian Arctic – a region fast becoming uninhabitable – joined the NGCB. Soon, we realized that a challenge faced by the Arctic communities is to organize in vast and remote areas that are only accessible by flights and thus needs high budgets for transport. This type of work requires larger grants than what the NGCB can provide.
The Caribbean is another priority region: between 1990-2014, it experienced 328 recorded natural disasters, emphasising the need for more organized climate response to build resilience among the Small Island States (SIDS). Caribbean youth have engaged in improving climate change awareness amongst students, showcasing rural women as champions of climate action, advocating for the inclusion of the ‘1.5 to stay alive’ campaign at the local and national levels, and devising practical solutions that embody the idea of thinking globally and acting locally. In light of this, the NGCB now considers this region a new area of focus and has recently welcomed a Caribbean adviser.
While the NGCB has an unusual role of delivering funds from youth to youth in the most affected regions of the world and reaching initiatives that often go unseen by larger funders and donors, it is clear that supporting youth in regions like the Arctic requires a larger collective effort from philanthropic actors.
The NGCB is continuously updating our strategy based on regional trends in social movements and struggles for climate and environmental justice, as well as regional political, economic and social issues. Additionally, we engage in reflection on key strategic questions to re-emphasise, transform or add elements based on our ongoing learning about grantmaking.
Youth leading global grantmaking
As young activists, organisers and advocates ourselves, being part of the NGCB is also a personal learning process. We have encountered some inevitable challenges in grantmaking, both internally and externally.
As a board, we have seen groups that have failed to implement projects, become absent, or fail to commit to timely coordination with us. While this can be frustrating, we are learning to implement more efficient strategies that can cope with these unexpected situations.
We also learned that flexibility is the key to supporting youth work as they are dynamic and respond to circumstances. Their adaptability is a sign of resilience, and in most cases results in more cohesive movements. Flexibility has been especially useful in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic enabling groups to make adjustments that in some cases have contributed to surviving the pandemic, supporting their livelihoods, and also creating environmental and climate resiliency.
We have learned that trust-based grantmaking and the principle of working as allies and partners (and not mere funders or grantees) works as young people increasingly feel that they are in charge of their activities without the burdensome visits, monitoring and reporting involved in traditional grantmaking. It also creates safe spaces for groups to seek advice or support from the board.
Continuous learning, reflection and open-mindedness by the board have also led us to recognise that contexts differ, and that impact is measured differently. The NGCB has funded activities as diverse as art competitions, caravans, music concerts, intergenerational learning events, spaces for self and collective care because we understand that youth continue to create new exciting ideas that may never be funded elsewhere.
What can the climate negotiations do for youth? How must the climate negotiations live up to youth expectations?
Article 12 of the Paris Agreement on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) which is reflective of Article 6 of the 1992 UNFCCC addresses youth engagement. Young people continue to champion the implementation of this article at local, national and international level to ensure that future generations are not left behind and that climate justice is on course. As a Board, we expect the upcoming climate conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, to reinforce the work under ACE especially in terms of measures for actual implementation so that young people are empowered to fully engage in combating climate change. We also expect further financial commitment which is unconditional and predictable to support regions that contribute the least to climate change but bear the brunt of it.
Time for philanthropy to step up and invest in youth
How is philanthropy supporting ongoing grassroots-led efforts of tackling the climate crisis? What is its contribution to future generations? How is it contributing to the collective futures we want and to the preservation of the earth as a complex ecosystem? These are questions that need to inform decision-making in the philanthropy world considering that i) funding for youth to address climate change remains very low, ii) youth remain at the margins of decision-making processes, and iii) despite these drawbacks, youth still continue leading action on climate change across the world.
In line with our key insights, we ask the philanthropy sector to provide unrestricted and flexible funding to youth trusting that they are able to respond to their contexts with expertise, keep open communication with youth networks, and be open-minded in supporting new riskier ideas.
In the absence of leadership and decisiveness from current leaders, especially those from countries that are most responsible for climate change, youth is the present and future hope. As young people have demonstrated time and again, lack of leadership and cowardice will not deter them from taking action as we realise that more than ever, we have to triple our efforts in supporting and nurturing grassroots youth movements to combat the climate crisis.
The Next Generation Climate Board is comprised of Matthew Hawi (Kenya); Ivan Torafing (The Philippines); Majandra Rodriguez Acha (Peru); Jhannel Tomlinson (Jamaica); Maria Alejandra Escalente (Colombia); Hilma Angula (Namibia); Milikini Failautusi (Tuvalu) and Winnie Asiti (Kenya).
A follow up to our June 2016 issue ‘Climate philanthropy after Paris’, this issue looks at philanthropy’s role in addressing climate change as we approach the world’s pivotal climate summit five years on: COP26 in Glasgow. Guest edited by Global Greengrants Fund’s Winnie Asiti and Active Philanthropy founder, Felicitas von Peter.
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