Bridgespan Study Identifies Five Effective Ways for Philanthropy to Help Communities Advance Climate Change Adaptation

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Research focuses on efforts to invest in infrastructure projects today that address future climate change impact on vulnerable, low-income communities

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Infrastructure upgrades benefit everyone, but some projects take into consideration the special needs of disadvantaged populations; it is within this context that philanthropy can play a powerful role in supporting adaptation practices

In a just released paper, How Philanthropy Can Help Communities Advance Climate Change Adaptation, The Bridgespan Group reflects conversations with leaders of pioneering climate adaptation efforts and identifies five investment models funders can follow to catalyze climate adaptation practices.

According to Bridgespan Partner and co-author of the paper, Bob Searle, “While climate change discussion amongst policy makers and environmentalists long has centered on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, Hurricane Sandy has changed the conversation, elevating climate change adaption to the public policy center stage.”

Karim Al-Khafaji, Searle’s co-author and a manager at the Bridgespan Group added, “Infrastructure upgrades benefit everyone, but some projects take into consideration the special needs of disadvantaged populations; it is within this context that philanthropy can play a powerful role in supporting adaptation practices.”

The paper identifies five initial investment models for funders that emerged from Bridgespan’s research:

  •     Support local science by local scientists: Local science can scale global issues to the community level and be more persuasive than work conducted by far-off experts.
  •     Invest in neutral conveners: A credible and trusted convener can help reach across political and socioeconomic divides to bring diverse stakeholders to the table and keep them there.
  •     Support community advocacy for change: Grassroots organizations that can mobilize local residents can help to set an agenda and build political will to overcome the status quo.
  •     Build the field to share adaptation strategies: Building a field of practice around climate adaptation will accelerate the progress of local actors through shared knowledge and resources.
  •     Re-frame the dialogue around people and social benefits: Climate has long been narrowly-construed as an environmental interest, but climate adaptation raises fundamental questions of fairness and equity for impacted communities. Philanthropy can help flip the debate from the polarizing politics of climate science to a productive discussion of resilience and reinvestment in our communities.

Searle added, “These five philanthropic investment approaches provide a framework for action, some specifically for place-based and others for national funders, and offer opportunities for philanthropy to lead the way in protecting people and property in harm’s way of future catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy.”

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About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group (http://www.bridgespan.org) is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. We collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. We work on issues related to society’s most important challenges in three primary areas: pathways to opportunity for disadvantaged populations, environmental sustainability, and civic engagement. Our services include strategy consulting, executive search, and leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.

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Liz London
The Bridgespan Group
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