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?

Chris Rose

Chris Rose, Author of ‘How to Win Campaigns’

They (tCA) really are movement makers... the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T08:05:33+11:00
Chris Rose
They (tCA) really are movement makers... the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
Jane Stabb

Jane Stabb, Community Organiser, Environment Victoria

The Community Organising Fellowship workshop was extraordinarily impactful for me. I had a chance to investigate the theory behind effective organising and campaigning tools that I can use in my practice every day but very rarely interrogate or reflect on.  I found new frameworks and structures that will improve my practice so much. I had the space and place to interrogate my campaign with the assistance of masters!  And I was given the opportunity to build relationships with leaders in my field, to be supported in my thinking by them and to support them by sharing our practice and experiences... 100% pure gold.
The Change Agency
2014-05-23T16:45:53+10:00
Jane Stabb
The Community Organising Fellowship workshop was extraordinarily impactful for me. I had a chance to investigate the theory behind effective organising and campaigning tools that I can use in my practice every day but very rarely interrogate or reflect on.  I found new frameworks and structures that will improve my practice so much. I had the space and place to interrogate my campaign with the assistance of masters!  And I was given the opportunity to build relationships with leaders in my field, to be supported in my thinking by them and to support them by sharing our practice and experiences... 100% pure gold.
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.
The Change Agency
2017-11-12T18:54:18+11:00
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 lifelong connections.

Josh Creaser, Frontline Projects Coordinator, 350.org

Most campaigners would probably shudder at the thought of spending ten whole days away from the frantic world of actions and meetings, to invest time in their own reflection and learning. The Community Organising Fellowship forces you to do just that – and what a gift and opportunity that time becomes.

 The Fellowship is a unique combination of ingredients. Time for pause and reflection. Discussion with leading thinkers. Connections to a wide array of campaigns. Guidance from experienced and caring facilitators. Bonds formed with 25 inspiring campaigners from across the country.

 These ingredients are brought together with carefully crafted methods. Thought-provoking stories. Challenging questions. Developing crucial skills. Applying new methods and tools. Preparing new plans for real world projects. 

 The result? Ten days that couldn’t have been better spent for someone that is looking to challenge their assumptions, deepen their understanding of why we organise in communities and feel ready to go forward with greater focus and vigour in their work.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T20:56:37+11:00
Most campaigners would probably shudder at the thought of spending ten whole days away from the frantic world of actions and meetings, to invest time in their own reflection and learning. The Community Organising Fellowship forces you to do just that – and what a gift and opportunity that time becomes.  The Fellowship is a unique combination of ingredients. Time for pause and reflection. Discussion with leading thinkers. Connections to a wide array of campaigns. Guidance from experienced and caring facilitators. Bonds formed with 25 inspiring campaigners from across the country.  These ingredients are brought together with carefully crafted methods. Thought-provoking stories. Challenging questions. Developing crucial skills. Applying new methods and tools. Preparing new plans for real world projects.   The result? Ten days that couldn’t have been better spent for someone that is looking to challenge their assumptions, deepen their understanding of why we organise in communities and feel ready to go forward with greater focus and vigour in their work.

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.  
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T20:50:52+11:00
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.  

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.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T19:24:22+11:00
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.
Emilie Carey

Emilie Carey, Solar Citizens


I really admired your facilitation skills. I learnt lots watching you guide us through the evening. I'll definitely be using lessons from last night. You're a total pro and I'm really grateful you're generous enough to share your knowledge.

The Change Agency
2016-03-25T10:35:26+11:00
Emilie Carey
I really admired your facilitation skills. I learnt lots watching you guide us through the evening. I'll definitely be using lessons from last night. You're a total pro and I'm really grateful you're generous enough to share your knowledge.
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.
The Change Agency
2014-04-25T06:04:55+10:00
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.

Peter Callender, Quit Coal



Like many campaigning groups, we are constantly grappling with capacity issues, a lack of funding/resources, burnout and how to best manage volunteers. While it's early days, the fellowship is already having significant flow on effects to the rest of the Quit Coal collective and the lessons we are learning are both effective and reinvigorating!


The Change Agency
2014-04-16T22:34:36+10:00
Like many campaigning groups, we are constantly grappling with capacity issues, a lack of funding/resources, burnout and how to best manage volunteers. While it's early days, the fellowship is already having significant flow on effects to the rest of the Quit Coal collective and the lessons we are learning are both effective and reinvigorating!

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.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T20:49:16+11:00
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.
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The Change Agency