People in Glass Houses

This week’s Association of Charitable Foundations conference on the role every funder has in tackling the Climate Crisis, whether or not our foundation happens to prioritise climate issues, is important and @TenYearsTimeLtd report is helpful in setting out what each of us can do right now:

But we all have a tendency to allow important issues like this to be crowded out by the day to day work, or de-prioritised in favour of more urgent issues or disregarded because of the easier, familiar and comfortable routine of our foundations’ work.

Or we conceive of these issues as too big for us, or someone else’s responsibility (whether that be government, polluting business or the bigger, richer foundations) or intellectually interesting as a conference theme but when’s lunch?

This report from 2010 into the voluntary sector’s role in tackling Climate Change is a good example of this tendency for issues to take their brief turn at the top of our agendas and attention spans – then sink from view with little having changed:

Shaping our future civil society and climate change 2010

Interestingly, almost every reference to climate change in this report could be replaced with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and it would still be valid.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is another example of hard problems that have most of us nodding that “something must be done” but have few of us acting consistently to make things better – as shown here:

And issues such as Climate Change and DEI don’t just face the challenge of inertia – they also face competition from the other initiatives and requirements that all charities have to deal with eg the Code of Governance is about to be “refreshed”, ACF’s #StrongerFoundations 5 other working groups will be reporting individually over the next 12 months, SORP is being updated, etc.

For change to happen widely and consistently we need a framework and a process which links these various themes and initiatives – so that they are mutually reinforcing rather than competitive for time, attention and resources.  Something that enables foundations of all sizes and types to move forward from their own current position and circumstances and sustains them in the process of change over time.

Such a framework might be based on a systems approach as described by organisations like Forum for the Future or Lankelly Chase Foundation:

Creating the Big Shift: System Innovation for Sustainability – Forum for the Future

Philanthropists Working in Systems – Lankelly Chase Foundation

Or it could be based on a movement building approach – such as that developed by the Common Cause Foundation:

Common Cause Handbook

Or on organisational development approach or it could be more focussed on encouraging, supporting and sustaining individual behaviour change by trustees and managers within trusts and foundations and shifting the culture so that pro-climate and pro-DEI behaviour become the default and the norm rather than the exception.

Or it could have elements of all 3 approaches.  But whatever its approach – it should be founded on values because we are, or should be, first and foremost a values-based and values-driven sector:

Living Values – Community Links

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