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?

Julie Lyford

Julie Lyford, Groundswell Gloucester

Such a long fight. Without you and the Change Agency we would be floundering. Thank you so much for your energy, passion, wisdom and guidance and for all that you do in changing the world.
2016-09-30T13:24:47+00:00
Julie Lyford
Such a long fight. Without you and the Change Agency we would be floundering. Thank you so much for your energy, passion, wisdom and guidance and for all that you do in changing the world.
Chris Rose

Chris Rose, Author of ‘How to Win Campaigns’

They (tCA) really are movement makers... the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
2014-03-30T08:05:33+00:00
Chris Rose
They (tCA) really are movement makers… the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
Naomi Hodgson

Naomi Hodgson, community organiser, NW NSW

I can emphatically endorse the value of this time to build skills and awareness in strategic thinking and in specific and practical community organising tools. I am sure that with concerted application of the course content I will become a significantly more confident and effective organiser. Furthermore, the value of the relationships that have been forged among the cohort offer great potential for future collaboration and support to help build a more coordinated, cooperative and powerful environment movement in Australia.
2015-03-17T20:49:16+00:00
Naomi Hodgson
I can emphatically endorse the value of this time to build skills and awareness in strategic thinking and in specific and practical community organising tools. I am sure that with concerted application of the course content I will become a significantly more confident and effective organiser. Furthermore, the value of the relationships that have been...
Anna Rose

Anna Rose, ASEN Convenor and NUS National Environment Officer 2005

The Change Agency has contributed enormously to strengthening the student environment movement in Australia and helping us shift to a culture of strategic thinking, planning and reflection on our activism. The training and advice provided by the Change agency over the last twelve months has been invaluable to tens of campus environment collectives and we are already seeing tangible results in real wins in our Campus Clean Energy Camp. Thank you Change Agency!
2014-03-30T07:37:22+00:00
Anna Rose
The Change Agency has contributed enormously to strengthening the student environment movement in Australia and helping us shift to a culture of strategic thinking, planning and reflection on our activism. The training and advice provided by the Change agency over the last twelve months has been invaluable to tens of campus environment collectives and we...
isaac

Isaac Astill, Divestment Campaigner, 350.org Australia

It would take years of fumbling along for me to learn what the Fellowship has taught me in a few short months. I feel more powerful for it, and I’ve walked away with the ongoing skills and relationships I need to build a more powerful movement.
2015-03-17T19:37:41+00:00
isaac
It would take years of fumbling along for me to learn what the Fellowship has taught me in a few short months. I feel more powerful for it, and I’ve walked away with the ongoing skills and relationships I need to build a more powerful movement.
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...
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...
Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker, National Campaigner, The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society has embarked on a major organisational change project to embrace community organising as our core way of doing business. I’m leading on this project. The Community Organising Fellowship has helped me to define the key principles and approaches of community organising and has provided me with the space and support to plan for this critical change process within my organisation.
2014-03-27T02:09:18+00:00
Glenn Walker
The Wilderness Society has embarked on a major organisational change project to embrace community organising as our core way of doing business. I’m leading on this project. The Community Organising Fellowship has helped me to define the key principles and approaches of community organising and has provided me with the space and support to plan...
Peter Archer

Peter Archer, World Vision

I have shared with my friends and family that this workshop was the most valuable training I have done. It came at a time when I had become aware of my passion for grassroots activism. The follow-up support equipped me quickly and powerfully to put my learning into practice and age my confidence a huge boost.
2014-03-30T08:11:05+00:00
Peter Archer
I have shared with my friends and family that this workshop was the most valuable training I have done. It came at a time when I had become aware of my passion for grassroots activism. The follow-up support equipped me quickly and powerfully to put my learning into practice and age my confidence a huge...
hayley

Hayley Troupe, 350.org organiser

The community organising fellowship has expanded my theoretical and practical knowledge of how and why to organise. Through the Fellowship I have so far gained new skills to lead strategic, collaborative and powerful university divestment campaigns. I have learnt so much from the well-structured workshops and the inspiring sharing of experiences. I look forward to sharing my experiences and learnings with others involved in the university divestment movement.
2015-03-17T19:29:30+00:00
hayley
The community organising fellowship has expanded my theoretical and practical knowledge of how and why to organise. Through the Fellowship I have so far gained new skills to lead strategic, collaborative and powerful university divestment campaigns. I have learnt so much from the well-structured workshops and the inspiring sharing of experiences. I look forward to...