The Grassroots Fund is both a funder and a learning community that is centered around Environmental Justice (EJ). We believe that in order to seek Environmental Justice, we must invest in the power of grassroots organizers who are directly shifting resources into their communities, addressing the effects of systemic inequalities, and developing strategies to create just and safe communities.
As a funder, we also acknowledge that the dominant structures and practices in the philanthropic sector tend to underfund community-led and community-driven work and organizers and organizations from communities of color. But we know that in order for the Environmental Justice movement to continue to grow and strengthen, as an environmental funder, we must learn alongside grassroots organizers in order to better understand and co-create what strategies, practices, and values are necessary.
“The EJ movement emphasizes bottom-up organizing, centering the voices of those most impacted, and shared community leadership.” (Source: Climate Justice Alliance)
Grassroots organizers are still at the heart of the civil rights movement and the Environmental Justice movement as they have been for decades. EJ came as a response to the systemic racism that disproportionately exposed communities of color and low-income communities to harmful pollutants and industrial dumping sites and excluded them from decision making regarding their communities. Even now, mainstream environmentalism continues to exclude people of color. Yet, history proves that it is grassroots organizers who have the technical, cultural, and lived expertise of how to address larger systemic issues that impact their communities. They are demanding and creating models for the systems change necessary to address climate change, racism, and poverty, not just their symptoms.
Grassroots organizers have long been developing and implementing strategies that demand the power and resources that are necessary to move into a more just environment. These strategies continue to exist and grow in our own communities and through Climate Justice and Just Transition movements.
Who has power? Who has access to resources? Who is participating? These are all questions that can help bring us closer toward an equitable and just movement. We’ve adapted these into our guiding practices as a starting point to continue to learn and build upon existing strategies, gleaned from our grantees, who are the ones in the communities testing and implementing them in order to build a stronger environmental justice movement in New England.
The Guiding Practices
The guiding practices offer a space to reflect on the values that underlie aspects of the EJ movement - Just Transition, Shifting Power, Equity in Participation, Access to Resources, and Rooted Innovation. These five guiding practices collectively offer a guide and a filter to thinking about how we can best show up to create a just and equitable space within the EJ movement. We believe that “the work” that organizations are doing is just as important as how they are doing that work.
These guiding practices are not static. In fact, these practices evolve from grassroots organizers in their communities and shape ongoing support and strategy building across our grantee network. We believe that these guiding practices can act as a filter through which we can all take a step back to reflect upon the work that we are doing and where we are asking the same questions that we’ve learned from the history of EJ:
- Who has power and how do they have it?
- Who is able to access resources?
- Who is participating and who isn’t? Why aren’t they?
- How are we moving towards a less extractive society?
- How are our solutions rooted in the history, cultures, and lived experiences of our community?