As we have shared in previous blogs, Imago Dei Fund has been on an intentional learning journey around climate change. Like many of you, we have been struck by the stark warnings and the closing window to mitigate its worst impacts. Indeed, one only needs to look at the news to hear about heat waves, droughts, forest fires, increasingly intense storms, flooding, and other natural disasters. Dig a little deeper and it is clear that many of these impacts fall most heavily on women and girls and frontline communities who rely on the land and ocean to sustain them and their families.
As we have engaged with our grantee partners around this issue, we have heard loud and clear that climate change is a priority for many of them. It intersects with all of the issues we care about – gender equality , poverty reduction , migration and displacement of people, agriculture, girls’ education, health and well-being, and the list goes on. Based on what we are hearing from grantee partners as well as our own understanding of the existential threat climate change poses, we are feeling the urgency to do more and have named climate change as a key priority in our recently completed strategic plan.
Earlier this year, the three of us participated in the online course Climate + Philanthropy: A Compact Learning Journey. We wanted to deepen our collective understanding of the issue, analyze how it intersects with our work, examine how other foundations were mobilizing to address it, and identify opportunities for engagement. Each of us got so much out of the course. On a psychological level, it did a great job of making us feel both uncomfortable and motivated. We learned how we got ourselves into our global climate crisis in the first place and became more aware of things that we can do and fund to be part of the solution. By the end of the course, we all felt energized to be part of the global movement to halve our carbon emissions by 2030 and come as close as we can to a carbon neutral world by 2050.
We want to emphasize that this is not a new issue to Imago Dei Fund. In the early years of the fund, there was a focus on what we called “creation care”: mostly supporting faith-based actors to use their platforms to raise awareness about the environment and the need for all of us to do our part to care for creation. And, while it has remained a thread in our holistic approach to grantmaking, it has not been an explicit priority in our decision making over recent years.
However, as we move into our next strategic phase, more fully defining and expanding our role vis-a-vis climate change is a priority. To demonstrate this commitment, Imago Dei Fund recently signed on to the International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change. What does this pledge mean? For us, it is not only a public commitment to climate action but a framework that will inform how we integrate climate change in Imago Dei Fund’s work. This does not mean that we are abandoning our commitment to centering the needs of women and girls or to holistic grantmaking, rather we are lifting up climate as an essential element to both of these goals.
Before signing the pledge, we looked carefully at the seven pillars for action in the International Philanthropy Commitment’s Implementation Guide. These include: Education and Learning, Commitment of Resources, Integration, Endowment and Assets, Operations, Influencing and Advocacy, and Transparency. Going forward, we will be examining the climate impacts of our grantmaking, operations and investments much more intentionally.
As a faith-inspired foundation that centers women and girls and takes a holistic approach to grantmaking, we know we need to work with our partners to address climate change. We signed the #PhilanthropyForClimate pledge because we are committed to ongoing learning and intentionally driving more resources to combat the crisis. ~ Ross and Emily Jones
Recognizing the urgency of the issue, we have decided to focus initially on our grantmaking as we believe we can have the most impact there in the short term. We will continue to gather feedback from our existing grantee partners, allocate funding to climate related work, and define a climate lens to apply to our grantmaking. In addition, we will look to further mainstream positive impacts on not only women and girls but also on the environment in the investments of IDF’s corpus, which holds the potential to unlock vast additional resources beyond grantmaking alone. Last but not least, we will continue to focus on education and learning to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the issue, can collectively own it, and can think creatively as a team about relevant opportunities and how we can best contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts here in Boston and around the world.
We fully understand that there will be challenges in making this shift and many decision points will be difficult to navigate. After all, we are talking about all aspects of the organization – what we do and how we do it. The questions are many. How do we ensure that our grant dollars are working to support initiatives and programs that are benefiting local communities and are sustainable in both the short and long term? How do we think about travel? How do we take a responsible and thoughtful approach to aligning investments and deploying capital? None of these will be easy and we are not promising to get it all right. However, we recognize the time to act is now and are absolutely committed to making progress, learning with our partners as we go, and sharing our learnings along the way.