Time Out is profiling the incredible people who are shaping the future of Sydney in this Future Shaper series. These remarkable individuals and organisations were nominated by a panel of expert judges including editor of Time Out Sydney Maxim Boon, celebrity chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong, head of talks and ideas at the Sydney Opera House Edwina Throsby, NSW 24-hour economy commissioner Michael Rodrigues, CEO of IndigiLab Luke Briscoe, and NIDA resident director David Berthold. Read more about the project here.
It’s not news that our planet is under threat. Scientists and ecologists have foretold the coming disaster of our warming world for more than four decades, and many consider the global biome to already be in the throes of the sixth mass-extinction event – one of humanity's own making. So why then, with this knowledge so ubiquitous and largely undisputed, is our society still sleepwalking towards a bleak fate? Because money makes the world go round, even when that world is facing a climate crisis.
Eco activism is an essential tool in persuading and lobbying our often apathetic power structures to take action, but strategic solutions to such a complex social and ecological emergency can be an expensive business. Recognising that the significant action required equally significant funding, Anna Rose, Clare Ainsworth Herschell and Arielle Gamble founded Groundswell Giving, a philanthropic giving circle with the sole mission of accelerating climate action in Australia by raising money for high-impact climate advocacy.
Each of Groundswell’s three founders brought a vital set of skills to this task. Coming from a background in law, Rose’s writings on how to convince climate sceptics, as well as her co-starring role in the ABC documentary I Can Change Your Mind on Climate Change, made her ideally suited to crafting the most impactful message for Groundswell’s aims. Ainsworth Herchell’s 12 years of experience in not-for-profit philanthropy provided the insight to connect with valuable donors. Gamble’s empathy and vision as an artist, illustrator and curator made her powers of communication, collaboration and creative problem solving essential to assessing and selecting applicants for the grant programs Groundswell supports.
Since first launching in February of 2020, the trio has already raised $650,000 in new funds for climate action, which has supported projects led by 13 diverse advocacy groups, from doctors to farmers to First Nations leaders. Reassuringly, demand for Groundswell’s grants is highly competitive, with more than 40 promising applications under consideration to date. It’s proof positive that Australia has both the will and skill to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.
You can support the work of Groundswell Giving here.
The following answers were compiled by all three of Groundswell Giving’s founders, Anna Rose, Clare Ainsworth Herschell and Arielle Gamble.
All three of you have already spent years individually campaigning for climate action. What sparked your decision to form a giving circle together?
When we launched Groundwell, in February 2020, mega-fires were raging from coast to coast. For so many of us, these fires were a profound wake-up call: we are living on the frontline of the climate crisis here in Australia, and our lives and livelihoods are under immediate threat from inaction.
We started Groundswell to tackle the first and most urgent action scientists are telling us we must take to solve the climate crisis: cutting our fossil fuel use hard and fast, and accelerating a just transition to a decarbonised world. For decades, the fossil fuel lobby has spent millions blocking climate action in Australia. In contrast, environmental philanthropy has been receiving less than 0.5 per cent of all charitable giving.
Us three co-founders (Arielle, Anna and Clare) could see no shortage of passionate people deeply concerned about the climate crisis and wanting to fund action, but many were unsure about how or where to make the biggest impact. We could also see there was no shortage of brilliant climate advocacy work out there, ready to scale up and create impact, but that most organisations were restricted by a critical lack of funding. Groundswell’s theory of change is simple: if we want change, we need to fund it!
What has Groundswell achieved so far, and what do you hope to achieve next?
We are really proud of the impact our community has achieved together since launching in 2020: so far we have raised $650,000 of new funds for climate advocacy, welcomed over 400 new members, built a strong and engaged community, and seen the astounding work our grant winners have achieved with our support.
Every day, more and more people are waking up to the urgency of the climate crisis, and recognising that we each have a powerful role to play in driving solutions, beyond individual action.
Our goal for the next 12 months is to raise and distribute $1 million new dollars in funding for high impact, strategic climate action. We are already $200k towards our target.
How are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices centred in your work?
Groundswell calls on all its members to stand in solidarity and understanding of its open cross-cultural connections and commitment to First Nations communities, and acknowledges our responsibility to centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander presence in our decision-making processes and communications as a community of funders.
Our founding First Nations advisors Tony Albert, Karrina Nolan and Lille Madden worked with us to develop a framework to centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices within the Groundswell Giving community.
In February 2021, we held our inaugural First Nations members roundtable, where First Nations members shared insights, constructive feedback and identified needs, which we have endeavoured to incorporate and to continue building upon and developing as we grow as a committed community, for example hosting a major donor fundraising workshop specifically for First Nations changemakers in May 2020.
In your own words, what does the future of action on climate change look like?
Anna Rose: The future of climate action must involve all of us stepping out of our comfort zone, acting with both urgency and thoughtfulness. The future of climate action will involve millions of ordinary citizens figuring out how they can each use their time, treasure and talent to inspire and mobilise the people in their own circles of influence to get active. The future of climate action involves people rediscovering their power as citizens, not just consumers. The climate movement is the largest global movement in history, but receives less than 3% of giving globally and only 0.5% of charitable giving in Australia. As Larry Kramer, Hewlett Foundation’s President, says: “Philanthropy must stop fiddling while the world burns.”
Arielle Gamble: The future of action on climate change looks bright! I see this future as one that follows the leadership of First Nations people and knowledge, who have been caring for Country sustainably since time immemorial and protecting and defending Country since colonisation. I see this future as grounded in the truth that we are part of nature, not separate from it; that we are vulnerable to it and responsible for it. I see this future as diverse, inclusive, and intersectional. This future recognises that in tackling climate change we must rebuild and reimagine broken and inequitable systems. I see the future of climate action as joyous: what could be a greater privilege than to look after this magical world we are lucky enough to share.
Clare Ainsworth Herschell: The urgency of the climate crisis is such that we require immediate action. The window for any meaningful opportunity to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change is rapidly closing, as we reach irreversible tipping points. So, it’s my hope that climate action in the immediate future begins to reflect the immediacy of the threat. My hope is that vested interests are exposed and that decision-makers begin to respond at the scale that’s required to meet the scale of the climate crisis.