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Starting a groundswell for climate change action

December 06th, 2019

Australia’s first climate focused giving circle has arrived with the aim of co-funding high impact climate advocacy.


Groundswell is the brainchild of Clare Ainsworth Herschell - a founding member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Gen program - and current New Gen member, Anna Rose. The pair have been working on the idea for a year, and have recently joined forces with Arielle Gamble, an arts manager and community organiser who will be Groundswell Manager. 

Groundswell will formally launch next year with a full program of events and grant rounds but is already accepting founding members. 

“Traditionally, giving circles in Australia have been focused around specific places,” explains Clare. “But since climate change affects every single place in Australia, we wanted to create an opportunity for young philanthropists and young professionals to be part of an Australia-wide community who can support strategic interventions in the climate change space - the kind of projects and campaigns that you only really hear about if you’re part of the climate movement.

“We were inspired by The Channel, an issues-based giving circle for LGBQTIA+ projects and campaigns.” 

Clare Ainsworth Herschell, the former (and inaugural) Next Gen development manager at the Art Gallery of NSW, joined forces with Anna Rose, an author and climate campaigner, three years ago when they began taking groups to the Heron Island research station.

 The goal of the trips was for the group to learn about climate science, impacts and solutions, while exploring the Great Barrier Reef at a critical time in the reef’s history. The pair secured the Climate Council as a partner, which enabled the group access to leading scientists and policy experts. Each year, the cohort has grown and from that, a desire was fostered to build the network, spread the message and encourage more people to get involved. Groundswell was the result.

Groundswell promotes itself as “accelerating action and supporting solutions’’ in response to the climate crisis. Its website is live and already has 30 members who have each donated $1000, after a soft launch of Groundswell at the recent Heron Island alumni Christmas Party.

They are now excited to be growing the community and welcome others to join.

Clare and Anna are also members of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, which will be a key partner of the new giving circle. According to AEGN research, only 2-6% of Australian philanthropy goes into the environment. And compared to direct conservation projects that buy and protect land, environmental advocacy is the poor relation of environmental funding – almost 90 per cent of those donations go to just 10 per cent of environmental groups. Advocacy groups, many of them smaller and younger, miss out on that funding. That’s where Groundswell positions itself.

Anna says: “There are so many high-impact, strategic climate groups doing incredible work to build a movement, shift money out of fossil fuels and into renewables, change the story and shift the politics around climate change.’’

“Almost every single one of them is dramatically underfunded, and almost none of them have any fundraising staff. Our vision is for Groundswell to connect small to medium-sized climate groups to funding and other support,” she says.  

It aims to provide an exciting and engaging program of events that offer participants knowledge and hope - the challenges and the solutions - and cover everything from climate justice, First Nations leadership, disaster resilience to the psychology of climate denialism. The funding has a simple formula: each time Groundswell’s pooled funds reach $50,000, it will offer two grants for strategic climate advocacy projects: a major grant of $40,000 and a runner up grant of $10,000. Groundswell’s advisory committee (which will rotate to ensure members get a chance to sit on it) will shortlist the applicants and they will then be voted on by the Groundswell membership. 

Groundswell is a sub-fund of the Australian Communities Foundation and will formally launch next year. 

Visit the Goundswell website here.

Anna Rose & Clare Ainsworth Herschell, Groundswell Co-founders + Arielle Gamble, Groundswell Manager (left to right)

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