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As she sat in a rural community center, she learned about how the archipelago’s electrical grid had failed after the storm. Yet the center, called Casa Pueblo, had power. Years earlier, organizers had begun investing in a microgrid, or self-sufficient energy source, for the center. After the storm hit, community members flooded the center to power dialysis machines, charge their phones, and contact relatives.
“It really underscored some of the exciting work that is already happening,” Bluedorn says. “We don’t have to look for someone to create a solution — they’ve already created it.”
It’s the kind of innovative smaller-scale approaches to environmental justice that Bluedorn, 28, finds especially inspiring in her own grant making. Since 2018, she’s donated more than $1 million, with a particular emphasis on global environmental justice. In January, she’s launching the Carmack Collective, a $10 million family-endowed fund, which will grant at least $600,000 a year.
“There is a lot of power in being forced out of your own bubble,” says Bluedorn, whose parents were the first generation in her family to accumulate wealth. Unlike many of her wealthy peers, she didn’t grow up with a family foundation or other established vehicle for philanthropy. So she’s had to pave her own way.
Bluedorn became involved in organizing shortly after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Like many young people, she was angered and radicalized by the political fissures broken open by Trump’s environmental deregulation, threats to democracy, and other policies. She had also recently graduated from college and was living alone for the first time.
Supports enivormental justice and efforts to fight climate change
“I was starting to really grapple with what it would mean to live in alignment as an individual with inherited wealth,” Bluedorn says of her attempts to reconcile her privileges with her politics. Bluedorn’s financial resources come from her parents’ success in the corporate world.
One of her first organizing efforts was the climate-focused Sunrise Movement, which she joined in the years following its founding in 2017.
“We were young people who wanted to fight for the places and people we loved,” Bluedorn says. “There was this moral clarity that came with fighting for a just future.”
Learning With Other Donors
From the beginning, Bluedorn’s organizing has worked in tandem with her grant making. In 2018, she became a member of Resource Generation, a group that organizes wealthy young people around issues of social justice. She became part of the group’s fledgling direct-action work and found community and direction on how to use her wealth as an organizer.
Then she participated in her first giving circle in 2019. Giving circles allow individuals to pool their money toward a common goal and often feature additional opportunities for volunteering or political engagement and education.
We were young people who wanted to fight for the places and people we loved.
It was through that giving circle that Bluedorn got to know John Stewart, a member of Resource Generation and director of strategic partnerships at Corporate Accountability, a nonprofit that advocates against corporate policies that impact the climate, democracy, and other issues. They’ve been working together ever since.
“At this point, she’s more versed on some climate-policy issues that I am,” Stewart says. “Because she has so proactively gone out there to ask the questions of what she really needs to know to do this effectively.”
Together, Bluedorn and Stewart have organized fundraising events to benefit global climate justice, including an online one recently for the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. They raised $68,000 ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.
“She feels like a teammate,” says Stewart, who notes that as a young woman, Bluedorn often has to work “twice as hard to be taken seriously in philanthropy spaces.”
For the past year, Bluedorn has been organizing a national member-led campaign with Resource Generation that aims to raise $2 million for the National Network of Abortion Funds by 2025. She is also a member of the Women’s Donor Network, where she appreciates learning in a multigenerational community as one of the group’s youngest members.
“These spaces allow me to be in community with other funders and really think about how we can mobilize more donors,” she says. “It’s about shifting not only the amount of money that’s moving but also the ways in which the money moves and where it’s moving to.”
Those kinds of connections have helped steer Bluedorn as she prepares to launch her new fund, which will be the first of its kind in her family. Like most of her previous grant making, the collective will focus principally on grantees that work for climate justice and seek to change the root causes of harmful systems.
“It’s this idea of sharing not only money but also power,” Bluedorn says. “We’re well aware that often philanthropy can exacerbate or mirror the systemic oppression that it seeks to address.”
Instead, Bluedorn likes to see her work as a form of wealth redistribution that could one day change the very nature of philanthropy. In fact, that’s the point.
“If I want to effectively fund movements that will create more just worlds, I have to embrace the fact that I will be destroying all the mechanisms by which I can stay very wealthy,” she says. “And that is the goal.”