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Rethinking Scale in Climate Solutions

How grassroots movements create durable and transformative impact

The ecological crisis requires urgent, coordinated, and impactful solutions on a level unprecedented in human history. Yet, philanthropy has often taken too narrow of a view of “scale” when it comes to climate change, focusing on scaling particular strategies, with the goal of creating quantity quickly. In particular, tech donors often prefer fast distribution to the highest number of beneficiaries while overlooking methods that capture complexity and dismantle homogeneity.

However, scale needs to be about more than how fast something can grow or how many people a solution reaches, more than mere numbers. And grassroots movements have sophisticated approaches for scaling impact, which ensure that a multiplicity of strategies will be relevant, resilient, adaptive, and equitable. Because grassroots movements are interconnected groups, led by those most impacted by a problem, they shift power and change culture: Instead of tethering scale only to a result or fidelity to the original template, grassroots movements use methods of scaling that ensure the depth and durability of impact, multi-solving across social, political and economic challenges.

As billions of new funding flow into climate work, it is critical to expand funders’ understanding of scale so they can better understand and resource strategies that are likely to succeed in the long run. The CLIMA Fund, a collaboration across four public foundations supporting tens of thousands of grassroots groups advancing climate justice solutions, has learned a lot about the diverse and powerful ways grassroots movements create scaled impact. Impact from the popular bases they grow to the alliances and coalitions that allow them to build power to win change globally.

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