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14 March 2014 notes

Isis and Sophie attended the Funders for a Just Transition meeting to represent Edge Fund. Patrick also came representing Network for Social Change, but also Edge Fund. Notes provided by the organisers.

Summary of the Funders for a Just Transition meeting

La Bergerie de Villarceaux, France, 14-16 March 2014

The initiative for this meeting came from the Bewegungsstiftung (Foundation for Social Movements) in Germany and the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation (FPH) in Switzerland and France, working in partnership with the EDGE Funders Alliance.

The aim of the meeting was explore ways of building momentum for collaboration amongst like-minded progressive foundations sharing

“… similar values and concerns, including support for social and citizens movements, critiques of the current model of development based on infinite growth, a critical view on our own internal organisational structures and decision making processes, and an awareness of aligning financial investments with core values of social justice and sustainability”

Fourteen foundations and grant-makers from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the UK and the US accepted the invitation and gathered at La Bergerie de Villarceaux, an ecological farm and retreat-centre west of Paris.

The objectives of the meeting were to:

  • Share and learn from our practices as progressive funders in Europe;
  • Share perspectives and deepen our collective understanding of the global landscape of civil society partners working for a more equitable and sustainable world;
  • Explore potential collaboration among grant-makers interested in supporting new forces and dynamics working on transitions towards deep social and ecological transformation.

Just transition: Although there was no quest for a definitive agreement on what constitutes a “just transition” there was consensus on some essential characteristics. These included identifying and dismantling the oppressive power structures of patriarchy and racism, overcoming corporate control and militarism, and transforming the present systems of production and consumption. Identifying and strengthening grounded alternatives was also seen as vital for a just transition that will need positive narratives in order to progress. It was agreed that democracy is a non-negotiable dimension of a just transition, although the tension between deepening democracy and acting with urgency was noted.

Finding common ground: The discussion of how social change happens and the role of foundations and grant-makers in this process allowed participants to get to know each other and to find common ground. Everyone agreed that a diversity of strategies and tactics needs to be employed to bring about a just transition — from lobbying to direct action, from local to global. There was a strong consensus on the central role of social movements and organised citizens and the imperative to support these movements.Furthermore, there was agreement on the vital role of consciousness-changing “pre-figurative” practices and alternatives.

Collaboration: In the discussion on collaboration, participants agreed that it would be useful to build the community, voice and impact of progressive foundations and grant-makers in Europe. This meeting was just a first step to find common ground. Participants wanted to know more about each other’s work, to deepen the discussion, and explore practical forms of collaboration.

There was enthusiasm for taking the process forward with the ambition of organising a European Just Giving Conference in 2015. Other foundations and grant-makers will be invited into the process, with a commitment to expand beyond Western Europe. In the meantime, there were practical suggestions of how to move ahead and the group committed to six action points:

  • Develop a co-funded project to take process forward
  • Set-up an online forum to facilitate ongoing discussion
  • Map of progressive funders: who they are and what they do
  • Deepen discussions on ethical investment
  • Map of new economy initiatives
  • Study visits to foundations and organisations
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