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?

Jack Bertolus

Jack Bertolus, Market Forces

The Community Organising Fellowship introduced a plethora of new and exciting concepts in campaigning and community organising, and gave us the practice and tools to apply these effectively. The time spent learning with and from the talented and experienced cohort was an invaluable insight into Australian social movements and established what I’m sure will be lifelong connections.
2017-11-12T18:54:18+00:00
Jack Bertolus
The Community Organising Fellowship introduced a plethora of new and exciting concepts in campaigning and community organising, and gave us the practice and tools to apply these effectively. The time spent learning with and from the talented and experienced cohort was an invaluable insight into Australian social movements and established what I’m sure will be...
Catherine Delahunty

Catherine Delahunty, Kotare Centre, Aotearoa

This was the most effective movement building workshop I have participated in. It focused the people on breaking the barriers to participation in social movements in a very practical way. They had some excellent participatory processes for defining mobilisation and also some great methods for getting diverse people working together.
2014-04-25T06:04:55+00:00
Catherine Delahunty
This was the most effective movement building workshop I have participated in. It focused the people on breaking the barriers to participation in social movements in a very practical way. They had some excellent participatory processes for defining mobilisation and also some great methods for getting diverse people working together.
alexandra

Alexandra Soderlund, Solar Citizens

The fellowship has managed to achieve that elusive duo of being both a broadening and deepening experience - complete with delicious food. Learning as much from the incredible and diverse participants as the amazing facilitators, the ten days of the first workshop have flown by. I feel like I’ve come a long way as an organiser (and dare I say a person?!) already, I’m excited and a little bit scared to see where I end up. 
2015-03-17T20:59:30+00:00
alexandra
The fellowship has managed to achieve that elusive duo of being both a broadening and deepening experience – complete with delicious food. Learning as much from the incredible and diverse participants as the amazing facilitators, the ten days of the first workshop have flown by. I feel like I’ve come a long way as an...
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.
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...
Nic clyde

Nic Clyde, Climate team leader, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory... or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and community organising. It has connected me with a mob who are passionate, connected and willing to help out in whatever way they can. Thanks!
2014-05-23T16:40:41+00:00
Nic clyde
Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory… or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and...
jono

Jono La Nauze, FoE Melbourne

Totally awesome working with you guys. Thanks for your patience, commitment, considered and constructive guidance and generously giving so much time and effort. Thank you also for having faith in the process. Working with tCA was easy and a pleasure.
2014-03-30T08:23:37+00:00
jono
Totally awesome working with you guys. Thanks for your patience, commitment, considered and constructive guidance and generously giving so much time and effort. Thank you also for having faith in the process. Working with tCA was easy and a pleasure.
Cate-Faehrmann

Cate Faehrmann, Director, Nature Conservation Council NSW, 2005

We did a two-day workshop with The Change Agency early this year which provided our organisation with some much-needed tools for strategic campaigning and planning. There was nothing but positive feedback from our staff and board members about what they gained from the two days spent with James and Sam. The power mapping exercise was particularly insightful for staff and board members alike and as a result our campaigns are more pro-active - we are seeing results!
2014-03-30T07:51:49+00:00
Cate-Faehrmann
We did a two-day workshop with The Change Agency early this year which provided our organisation with some much-needed tools for strategic campaigning and planning. There was nothing but positive feedback from our staff and board members about what they gained from the two days spent with James and Sam. The power mapping exercise was...
leigh

Leigh Ewbank, Yes2Renewables coordinator

Usually, organisers learn in the heat of battle – through trial and error, stress, and necessity. The Community Organising Fellowship has provided a rare opportunity to step off the campaign trail, slow down, and do some deep learning. The suite of tools explored in the program will influence my practice for years to come.

 By creating a ‘community of practice’ of organisers, those behind the fellowship have shown strategic leadership. The relationships the program has cultivated (within the cohort and between alumni) will pay dividends. 
2015-03-17T20:58:10+00:00
leigh
Usually, organisers learn in the heat of battle – through trial and error, stress, and necessity. The Community Organising Fellowship has provided a rare opportunity to step off the campaign trail, slow down, and do some deep learning. The suite of tools explored in the program will influence my practice for years to come.  By...
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...