The ability of citizens to organize themselves and redress grievances is under attack in 111 countries around the world. For environmental and conservation funders, these restrictions limit the ability to achieve key program outcomes, whether in wildlife protection, forest conservation, or climate change. We can come together with other funders, governments, and NGOs to address the root causes and manifestations of closing space, to help citizens in their efforts to protect our shared planet.
It is over thirty years since Michael Soulé proposed his model of conservation biology as a “synthetic, multi-disciplinary science”. Since everything humanity needs and does is ultimately derived from nature, it is imperative the sciences, social sciences, policy, practice, human rights, international development, legal and financial systems, culture and the arts come together to address one of the most pressing existential crises of our time. The Collaborative Fund is designed to support such collaboration between nine biodiversity conservation organisations and the University of Cambridge.
One of the toughest challenges facing us in caring for the environment is that it is going to take all of us working together. The big systemic challenges like climate change or economically-driven degradation of the natural world need systemic responses. Responses are not hard to design, but how to do we achieve the ‘all of us working together’ part? The USA is way out ahead of us here, with funders partnering up with backbone organisations and giving unrestricted funding, in relationships of trust. It is time we in the UK caught up with this approach to whole-systems change.
Unsustainable development, consumerism, the unequal role of women in society – all have negative impacts on our natural environment. Can environmental philanthropy successfully address the most pressing challenges if we do not acknowledge their interconnected nature? We believe that collaboration with funders from different fields – health, development, social justice – will mean a better-targeted and relevant response to environmental problems, and ultimately more impact. Collaboration across sectors is the future of environmental funding.
Each year EFN hosts a two-day retreat for funders to discuss the most pressing issues concerning those involved in tackling the myriad of challenges facing the environment. ACF’s Emma Hutchins reports back.
We believe our current food system is broken, causing not just environmental damage, but epidemics in obesity and diabetes, poverty amongst food and farm workers, and the mistreatment of animals. Last year the Food Ethics Council was commissioned by a group of funders to conduct a census of CSOs in order to develop a picture of the voluntary sector on food, farming and fishing in the UK. The census indicates that the challenges faced by the food system are getting worse. And despite the best efforts of CSOs, the sector’s response is not commensurate with the scale and urgency of the challenges.
As a group of Marine NGOs (loosely termed), we are a system, or perhaps more relevantly, we are an ecosystem. We have a loose common purpose, we relate to each other and our actions have consequences for each other, yet until now, we have barely been aware of each other and certainly did not collaborate and coordinate our activities. Not in any meaningful sense. Now this is changing.
Last year we established the Marine CoLABoration, a group of nine UK-based NGOs, each bringing different approaches, areas of expertise and geographical focus to marine conservation. We are funding the CoLAB to meet, initially over a two-year period, to explore new ideas and areas of convergence in a series of facilitated workshops using experimental ‘laboratory’ techniques. The CoLAB creates a collaborative arena to think differently, experiment with new ways of approaching problems, take action, learn and share. Its vision is to catalyse new and more effective solutions, working with the values that connect people and the ocean.