The Honnold Foundation (HF) and Global Greengrants Fund are both fighting climate change at the grassroots level. We fuel climate movements built and mobilised by community leaders worldwide, directly supporting the people at the frontlines of our changing world. And together, our organisations are getting more resources into the hands of visionaries and organisers implementing community-led solutions to the most pressing issue humanity has ever faced.
Since 2019, HF and Global Greengrants have co-funded solar energy access initiatives identified by Greengrants’ unique network of international volunteer advisors. Our organisations are committed to centering the work and priorities of our grant partners worldwide, and to supporting local leaders who are addressing their own challenges in unique ways. While these kinds of partnerships aren’t common in the philanthropic space, we hope for ours to serve as a model for other funders aiming to address the climate crisis more efficiently and effectively by investing in grassroots leadership.
Here are three guiding principles we apply to our collaboration:
1. Collaborative funding helps us do more: Global Greengrants Fund has been working with activists worldwide for 27 years, fueling effective movements for environmental and social justice. Our network of volunteers helps us to identify grantees and grassroots activists around the world that otherwise might not have access to the resources they need to implement community-led solutions.
The Honnold Foundation supports solar energy access worldwide through our community-owned microgrid program, and with unrestricted grant funding. We’re eager to support grassroots climate resilience work at every scale but finding the right community group in rural India requires deep community connections – connections that Global Greengrants has been building for decades.
In collaboration, Greengrants and the Honnold Foundation have directed funding to a group in Kenya called Konservation, focused on promoting climate education and clean energy solutions in local schools. In Nyamira County only 20 per cent of the population lives with access to electricity and is dependent on fossil fuels, contributing to the region’s carbon footprint. Konservation aims to visit 40 schools this year with an estimated reach of 14,000 students. These students will benefit from classroom lectures on climate change, facilitated by their young scientists’ volunteer program. The grant will also support Konservation’s energy access project that highlights the benefits of clean energy to parents as well as distributes solar lamps and clean cook stoves to local women entrepreneurs in various villages who own kiosks, enabling them to sell these technologies to their community members.
Konservation is just one example of our collaborative work. Together, we’re reaching more people and more communities than before, and leveraging one another’s’ resources and networks to reach a common goal: community-owned solar for the people who need it most, in the communities on the frontlines of climate change.
2. Prioritise a just transition: At HF and Global Greengrants, we’re committed to ensuring that no one is left behind as the world transitions to renewable energy. When communities develop their own solutions to the social and environmental issues they face, those solutions are more likely to generate buy-in, and lead to real change. This is why The Honnold Foundation and Global Greengrants Fund award grants to groups implementing projects developed within the communities they benefit, from community solar solutions, to solar powered boats, to new ways to provide clean water for all. We utilise a trust-based model, investing directly in people developing personalised solutions as opposed to finding a singular solution that benefits just an elite few.
3. Good work takes time: People-powered solutions don’t flourish overnight. True grassroots community work can take years or decades – which is why we’re committed to providing unrestricted, multi-year support to the projects and initiatives we believe in. And of course, while each grant has an impact for a specific community, it’s the cumulative power of our work that drives systemic change. We fund thousands of grantees worldwide, all working for the shared goal of environmental and social justice. It takes all kinds of work, all types of funders, and – most importantly – a deep and broad network of community leaders committed to driving change, challenging the power dynamics and oppressive systems that continue to feed our climate crisis.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the differences in scale – a community group in Ecuador seeking $5,000 to repair a solar system on their community center, and the sheer enormity of our changing climate and the uncertainties that accompany it. Yet in our everyday work we see how small steps add up to something bigger. In fact, for lasting and systemic change to take place we need many pieces collaborating together and not centralised approaches led by only a few. With collaboration between like-minded funders, a focus on justice, and a healthy dose of patience, a better world is possible for all of us.
Dory Trimble is the Executive Director of the Honnold Foundation, and Laura García is the President & CEO of Global Greengrants Fund.