Actualizing trust-based, participatory grantmaking for youth climate movements!


Winnie Asiti


Young people engaged on climate action are faced with a myriad challenges including the fact that they are living with impacts of climate change in the global south. Some of these impacts which are currently more frequent and intense include floods, drought, sea level rise, cyclones and heatwaves. These impacts affect the lives and livelihoods of youth in immeasurable ways.

Funding where they are not able to access the required resources to carry out their activities and adapt to climate change is another main challenge. Faced with adverse climate change youth have to pull together their limited resources to address climate impacts. Where they access funding these are often limited and with many bureaucratic limitations that have to be overcome, and often, the amounts remain small.

Capacity building is another challenge for youth where they are limited opportunities to be able to enhance their capacity and be able to effectively engage in their climate activities either on adaptation or mitigating climate change. There is also the invisibility of youth climate advocates and activists in the global south especially where they are presented as victims rather than active agents in transforming the situation they find themselves in.

At the Philea Forum, held in the beautiful city of Sibenik in May this year, I proposed a number of ways through which philanthropy can shift power, address some of the challenges above and adequately resource youth movements.

Philanthropists can support youth in concrete ways, first and foremost they must walk the talk on trust-based, participatory grantmaking to ensure that youth engaged in climate action access adequate resources to undertake their work. This means fully trusting youth that they will do what they say they will do with funds allocated and vice versa and working on context-specific and culturally appropriate ways to implement this. Some, such as the Next Generation Climate Board which I belong to already practice this model, as does FRIDA and many others who no longer want to be spectators. There are many lessons to be learnt from those who have already started. Undoubtedly,  this will enable a growth of the youth climate movement as well as lead to better outcomes in terms of adaptation since young people based in impacted regions of the world already know what solutions they need and can be able to freely implement these given the freedom to do so.

Philanthropy needs to give up power -to youth, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups – who are actively engaged in finding solutions to their challenges by working with them on an equal footing in seeking partnerships and collaboration. This willingness to give up power can be manifested in involving youth as members of boards for philanthropic entities, participatory and demand-led processes where they are able to make decisions and dismantling the systems that continue to perpetuate power asymmetries and an unequal world.

Philanthropy needs to change its perception of risk and perceive youth, innovative and creative ideas that are out of the norm as avenues for learning, exchange of knowledge and ideas and experimentation for better processes and outcomes. Many people I met with at the forum expressed their openness and willingness to do this and I am hopeful that there are more philanthropists out there that are waiting to jump in. In other words, philanthropists need to be open-minded in working with youth. These changes will take courage but as mentioned at the forum, philanthropy must take this opportunity to change the trajectory of not only youth climate funding but all funding it makes. It is possible!

Winnie Asiti is a member of the Next Generation Climate Board, Global Greengrants Fund and an adaptation strategies analyst, Climate Analytics.

Tagged in: Philea Forum 2023

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