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August 16, 2016

Opinion: Time for ‘Big Green’ to Truly Serve Grass Roots

A program officer at an environmentally focused family foundation writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about philanthropy’s role in addressing funding and other disparities between major green organizations and community-based groups tackling environmental injustice.

Samantha Harvey of the New York-based Overbrook Foundation notes a history going back to the early 1990s of grass-roots green groups calling out the exclusivity of the mainstream environmental movement — which commands the vast majority of donor attention — and demanding greater participation for local organizers and people of color.

She details how Overbrook has tried to address the issue by establishing Building Equity and Alignment for Impact, a coalition that includes grant makers and mainstream environmentalists but “is led always by grass-roots participants,” including decisions on where and how to focus funding and activism.

“I often feel that simply proving such a model can work is as important as the actual work we do,” Ms. Harvey writes, “and that upending hierarchies and living the example of solidarity and equity matters more for our collective future on this planet than anything else.”