funding the climate movement (May 2009)

What kind of climate movement will help Australia play its part in averting dangerous climate change? What will it take to create this movement? How can the progressive philanthropic community support this movement? A discussion starter, arguing the case for three short-term priorities for grant-makers and other philanthropists.

1. Bridge building

There is no doubt that a more unified and linked-up climate movement will be more powerful. This requires groups to work across historical, political and cultural barriers; for environmental NGOs to work with non-traditional allies; unionists to engage more deeply with their members and other community groups; and activists occupying the rebel, reformer, citizen and change agent quadrants to align (to some extent) their analyses and actions. The silos and fiefdoms of parallel and competing climate campaigns cannot bring about the changes we need to see.

During the last 12 months, we have supported some significant bridge-building initiatives including the Climate Summit, where crisis talks were held between the emerging grassroots movement and some established environmental NGOs. Subsequently, the Climate Action Network of Australia initiated further dialogue during their annual conference. Since 2006, the Change Agency has encouraged and facilitated climate summits to foster movement dialogue and relationship building. Summits have now been held in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales as well as the national gathering in Canberra. There is enormous potential for bridge building to further strengthen and diversify relationships within the movement.

Examples of the kind of projects that could be supported by philanthropists to increase bridge building:

  • Future national summits of the grassroots climate movement, with participation and talks with other aspects of the movement
  • Regional summits
  • Collaborative projects between different groups in the climate movement
  • Projects by established organisations to engage with and share resources with grassroots climate action groups

2. Capacity building

The climate movement is – and will need to be – unlike others we’re familiar with. It is more diverse, more porous, growing more quickly and fuelled by a greater sense of urgency than any other contemporary Australian social movement. One consequence of this dynamism and diversity is that many activists are engaging in community political action for the first time or in ways that are new to them. Many individuals who feel motivated to commit time and energy to climate change activism find it difficult to navigate their way in, and to develop the skills and resources required for effective and sustained campaigning. Our experience tells us that people benefit from supported real-life activist experience that is linked to achievable strategies and builds their relationships with other networks. Some climate change advocacy groups are building the capacity of individual activists, organisations and networks through education and training, skill sharing and internship programs. These learning activities are relatively isolated, however. The philanthropic community and climate movement would benefit from linking some of these activities together.

Examples of the kind of projects that could be supported by philanthropists to increase capacity building:

  • Educational and skill-share elements of national and regional summits.
  • Development of shared curriculum for climate action groups (including educational resources and workshop plans).
  • Internship programs, where participants learn through direct campaigning.

3. Direct action and civil disobedience

The Change Agency has facilitated strategy development with climate activists for several years. According to their political analyses and theories of change, different groups espouse very different tactical orientations and critical paths. A recurring and almost universal point of agreement, though, is that bringing about the urgently required political changes in Australia will require a dramatic and sustained escalation in nonviolent protest: actions such as climate camps, power station protests and other actions targeting coal or carbon-intensive infrastructure; peaceful demonstrations in the offices of Members of Parliament and so on. Even scientists including the IPCC’s James Hansen are now calling for widespread civil disobedience. This, in turn, requires the climate movement to support activists to develop the skills and confidence to initiate and engage in strategic direct action and to provide safe experiential learning opportunities. The 2008 Climate Camp in Newcastle served this purpose. Just 41% of Climate Camp participants considered themselves likely to participate in direct action before the Camp. The experience of peacefully blocking coal trains for a day left more than 70% of participants ‘likely to take direct action’ in the future – even with more than 60 arrests.

The groups most actively involved in initiating direct action events and mobilisations receive minimal philanthropic (or other financial) support and some have turned to international funding sources.

Examples of the kind of projects that could be supported by philanthropists to increase capacity for direct action and civil disobedience:

  • Infrastructure and/or wages to support climate camps.
  • Educational workshops in nonviolent direct action.

tCA’s climate change action research project

This project started in mid-2006. As an action research project, it entails a series of cycles of reflection, planning and action. Each cycle focuses on a question or challenge that, if resolved, holds potential for more effective action. In the case of the climate movement, these questions influence how the movement builds and mobilises the power and momentum necessary to avert dangerous climate change. Since mid-2006, we have completed three action research cycles, focusing on: (1) challenges faced by climate action groups (CAGs) during their initial phases; (2) an internship program that focused on the craft of community organising including accountability sessions, relational meetings and mobilisation; and (3) how the climate movement’s online strategy and tactics can effectively build power.

During the last 12 months, the tCA team worked closely with the grassroots climate movement. At the request of the organisers of Australia’s first Climate Camp (July 2008 in Newcastle, and prior to that in Anvil Hill, October 2006), we contributed to a program of workshops to share and develop activist skills and supported the facilitators of the Camp’s spokescouncil and other decision-making forums. Between October 2008 and March 2009, we worked with the organisers of the first national Climate Summit to facilitate decision-making about the grassroots network’s structure and strategy. This culminated in the network adopting three campaign objectives to align their activities during 2009.

Our fourth action research cycle will focus on factors that radicalise and mobilise community-based climate action groups.

What are people saying about us?

Chloe_A

Chloe Aldenhoven, Victorian Lock the Gate Coordinator

A packed program of skills, stories and discussions to figure out how to build the place of community development in our campaigns. So important to draw on the experience and wisdom of past campaigns and seasoned campaigners.  But not only that, an amazing opportunity to learn with and from the cohort of campaigners from across the country who between them have decades of organising experience.  Skills, conversations and connections that are going to be essential to us building a movement to achieve climate justice in Australia.
2015-03-17T19:27:44+00:00
Chloe_A
A packed program of skills, stories and discussions to figure out how to build the place of community development in our campaigns. So important to draw on the experience and wisdom of past campaigns and seasoned campaigners.  But not only that, an amazing opportunity to learn with and from the cohort of campaigners from across...
dave & gemma

Dave Muhly, Sierra Club

What began at Pittwater as a collection of skilled campaigners became a cadre of skilled organizers by the final day at Baden Powell. On Sunday evening as we gathered, I overheard one participant chatting with another at a picnic table and heard, "challenge, choice, outcome" as part of her conversation. Another commented at the final circle at how what had seemed like such a large group at Pittwater now seemed like a much smaller group, reflective of how closely this group had bonded as a team despite their vast differences in geography or organizational size or style, but based on a common goal and identity. Concepts like "building teams" and "building relationships" were part of the normal parlance and just a cursory review of the evaluations to date show an increased appreciation for and attention to leadership development and strategic planning. A number of participants reminded me of my off-the-cuff set of definitions about the differences between mobilizing, campaigning and community organising (focusing on local power), and one told me she has it on the wall of her office to inspire her every day. This has been the successful launch of an ambitious and visionary program. Many thanks to James and Kate for their vision, wisdom, and care in developing and nurturing the curriculum and the cohort. Kudos!

2014-09-15T10:27:41+00:00
dave & gemma
What began at Pittwater as a collection of skilled campaigners became a cadre of skilled organizers by the final day at Baden Powell. On Sunday evening as we gathered, I overheard one participant chatting with another at a picnic table and heard, “challenge, choice, outcome” as part of her conversation. Another commented at the final...
simone

Simone van Hattem

The Community Organising Fellowship has given me effective organising skills and tools, and background information of the Australian environment and climate movements I need to develop strategy for campaigns, and provide training for other organisers and campaigners across Western Australia. The support I've been given through the ongoing mentorship and buddy program helps me stay connected with the wider movement, and stay on track to organise the people we need to defeat organised money. This program is a transformative experience, changing my work and the movement, and I'm so thankful to be part of it.
2015-03-17T21:04:17+00:00
simone
The Community Organising Fellowship has given me effective organising skills and tools, and background information of the Australian environment and climate movements I need to develop strategy for campaigns, and provide training for other organisers and campaigners across Western Australia. The support I’ve been given through the ongoing mentorship and buddy program helps me stay...
cherry

Cherry Muddle, Australian Marine Conservation Society

The Community Organising Fellowship has rooted in me a deeper sense of belonging to an intentional, international movement to create the positive changes we wish to see in society, environment, culture and climate. The program delivery is varied, fluid and always interesting. The strengths and highlights for me include learning through shared experience and critical analysis. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed forging strong connections and bonds between fellow organisers, facilitators and guest speakers.
2015-03-17T21:02:16+00:00
cherry
The Community Organising Fellowship has rooted in me a deeper sense of belonging to an intentional, international movement to create the positive changes we wish to see in society, environment, culture and climate. The program delivery is varied, fluid and always interesting. The strengths and highlights for me include learning through shared experience and critical...
jason

Jason Lyddieth, Greenpeace

There are many learnings, skills, and tools I am keen to take back to my work to empower my teams and improve our campaigns. The people and the vibe at the trainings were amazing and truly inspiring. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to have been able to attend and privileged to be a recipient of such great learnings and in the company of such amazing people.
2014-05-10T21:48:34+00:00
jason
There are many learnings, skills, and tools I am keen to take back to my work to empower my teams and improve our campaigns. The people and the vibe at the trainings were amazing and truly inspiring. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to have been able to attend and privileged to be a...
alycia

Alycia Gawthorne, GetUp! organiser

The Fellowship has challenged the way I previously thought about campaigning and community organising, and made me rethink how I approach my work. It’s afforded me the space to take a step back and look at the entire movement. I feel like the skills I take away from the Fellowship will be invaluable, but far more important will be the deeper understanding I have about my role and how it fits within a larger movement.
2015-03-17T19:33:28+00:00
alycia
The Fellowship has challenged the way I previously thought about campaigning and community organising, and made me rethink how I approach my work. It’s afforded me the space to take a step back and look at the entire movement. I feel like the skills I take away from the Fellowship will be invaluable, but far...
anna-keenan

Anna Keenan, Students of Sustainability Collective 2006

Thank you for your involvement in SoS this year and for your continued commitment over the years to effecting sustainable environmental and social change. Your co-facilitated presentations on activist learning, campaign strategy and activist sustainability were all very well received, generating discussion, excitement, considered thought and motivation from the participants, including myself. Not only was the content inspirational, but to see the way that the two of you work together and so effectively co-facilitate was a lesson in itself. At your “Moving beyond Tactic-Led Campaigns”, you so successfully engaged all in the room and drew from their experiences that it was the most effective workshop I attended through the whole conference. Your involvement in SoS 2005 has had a significant impact on the future of Australian environmentalism by sharing the tools of individual, collective, and community organising, and inspiring us to advocate for and take action towards positive social change.
2014-03-30T07:52:56+00:00
anna-keenan
Thank you for your involvement in SoS this year and for your continued commitment over the years to effecting sustainable environmental and social change. Your co-facilitated presentations on activist learning, campaign strategy and activist sustainability were all very well received, generating discussion, excitement, considered thought and motivation from the participants, including myself. Not only was...
clairevh

Claire Van Herpen, Environment Victoria

The Community Organising fellowship provides a positive and nurturing environment in which to learn and apply the practical skills required to effectively mobilise communities to create change. It's a great opportunity to learn from others in the environmental movement and provides space for collaboration and reflection.
2015-03-17T19:26:27+00:00
clairevh
The Community Organising fellowship provides a positive and nurturing environment in which to learn and apply the practical skills required to effectively mobilise communities to create change. It’s a great opportunity to learn from others in the environmental movement and provides space for collaboration and reflection.
thea

Thea Ormerod, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Whereas I had been working intuitively and reasonably well as a part of with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Community Organising Fellowship is providing a range of easy-to-understand useful tools which will help ARRCC to be much more effective. The training is carefully crafted to maximise skills development so we can use our limited resources in a way which will deliver results far more strategically. I already have quite a clear vision of how to successfully motivate our volunteers into participating more actively in the change effort.
2015-03-17T19:24:22+00:00
thea
Whereas I had been working intuitively and reasonably well as a part of with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Community Organising Fellowship is providing a range of easy-to-understand useful tools which will help ARRCC to be much more effective. The training is carefully crafted to maximise skills development so we can use our limited...
Jessica Kirby

Jess Kirby, GetUp! organiser

The Change Agency fellowship has been a completely transformative experience for all of us. I’ve met 22 of the most diverse, interesting organisers and campaigners in the country, and been trained by more than a dozen experts on everything from critical pathways, to the history of the environment movement in Australia, to NationBuilder best practice. I can’t recommend this program highly enough.  
2015-03-17T20:50:52+00:00
Jessica Kirby
The Change Agency fellowship has been a completely transformative experience for all of us. I’ve met 22 of the most diverse, interesting organisers and campaigners in the country, and been trained by more than a dozen experts on everything from critical pathways, to the history of the environment movement in Australia, to NationBuilder best practice....