Engagement Lab Descriptions

First Round of Engagement Labs
Time: 9:30 to 10:30 

Since 2006 the Jenifer Altman Foundation has worked with fellow donors to support and facilitate a collaborative grantmaking initiative with a unique consortium of four international networks (Pesticide Action Network, the International POPs Elimination Network, Health Care Without Harm, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives).  Together they have worked with grantees from 24 countries to support efforts including: eliminating toxic chemicals through greener, safer product design; promoting local zero waste solutions and an end to incineration; ending reliance on harmful pesticides and promoting food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture instead; and creating public policies that protect human health and advance environmental justice.

Lab Goals: Participants will gain a better understanding of methodologies and opportunities for working with international networks to expand their reach, monitoring capacity, and “state of the field” analysis.  The benefit of improved coordination among networks with overlapping missions and goals will also be discussed, as well as lessons learned over the last six years of collaborative grantmaking. For those interested in environmental health and justice, this lab will also provide an opportunity for learning about key trends in the field, and opportunities/threats that have impacted the grantmaking focus of this fund.

Facilitated by: Christie Keith, with support from Bjorn Beeler, Josh Karliner, and Kat Gilje
Other participating Foundations/Donors: Jeneifer Alman Foundation, Global Greengrants Fund, other anonymous donors


In 2012, the New Venture Fund launched the International Fund to Amplify Agro-Ecological Solutions (IFAAES), a multi-donor fund committed to supporting local farmers and indigenous communities around the world to sustain viable food systems, promote communities’ economic well-being, and protect the environment from the effects of climate change. It links organizations and movements in different parts of the world to advance agro-ecological solutions locally and globally, and is informed and guided by an on-the-ground international advisory board. Currently in its pilot phase, IFAAES has recently awarded $1 million to six grantee collaboratives for a two-year grant period beginning in August 2012. Over time, IFAAES will grow to include additional donors and provide further grants, based on lessons learned from the pilot phase. Participating in the session will be several of the recipient organizations, a member of the Advisory board, and several of the funders. Click here for more information.

Lab Goals: To increase understanding of the Fund and the potential for agro-ecological solutions; To offer opportunities to other funders to participate in the initiative

Facilitated by: Sarah Hobson, Executive Director, New Field Foundation
Other participating Foundations/Donors: New Venture Fund, The Christensen Fund, New Field Foundation, Swift Foundation


This Engagement Lab will bring together all those that are already engaged in supporting defenders around safety and well-being and stand as a practical working space to discuss specific actions that grantmakers can take together. It will also provide a space to share guidance for grant-makers presented in Ten insights to strengthen responses for women human rights defenders at risk, developed by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development – AWID and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition as well as the American Jewish World Service publication Risk and Responsibility: Protecting Human Rights Defenders.

Lab Goals: Provide a clearer sense of issues grant-makers have been grappling with since the last GWOB conference when supporting defenders safety and well-being; discuss key opportunities over which members can come together and collaborate; provide an opportunity to hear some of the lessons learned from standing with and supporting defenders at risk as presented through publications developed by AWID and AJWS.

Facilitated by: Jelena Djordjevic.
Other participating Foundations/Donors: American Jewish World Service; Heart and Hand fund; Astraea Foundation, Linksbridge LLC, and Channel Foundation.


Second Round of Engagement Labs
Time: 10:45 to 11:45 

We are the Solution! is a campaign led by African farmers to address the food crisis. The initiative, which is currently focusing on Women & Biodiversity in West Africa, involves women’s associations, farmer federations, community leaders, agro-ecology specialists, and local media organizations. Together they are working to improve, promote, and share vibrant agricultural knowledge and practices for a resilient and cost effective regional food system. Twelve rural women’s associations are assuming leadership in the campaign while carrying out community level activities for food sovereignty. They are speaking out in favor of women’s farming practices that have fed their families and communities over generations. They speak strongly against genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers. Their messages are reaching national governments, as well as decision-makers within international businesses, foundations, and NGOs. The initiative is currently supported by Fahamu, European funders and a donor collaborative of six US funders.

Lab Goals: Participants will have an increased understanding of the campaign, We Are the Solution!; and may be interested in joining the donor collaborative

Facilitator: Nikhil Aziz or Sara Mersha, Grassroots International
Participating Foundations/Donors: Arkay Foundation, The Christensen Fund, CS Fund, Grassroots International, New Field Foundation, Oxfam Novib, Swift Foundation


Solidare is an initiative of donors and funders interested in movement-building.  We have two primary goals for this session.  First, we want to discuss the logistics of funding social movements.  There has been wonderful research in the past several years on the ways in which funding can fracture movements, and the ways in which it might help build them.  Our aim is to explore the history of movement-funding, the concept of “movement infrastructure,” and discuss how we might adjust our funding to support contemporary movements.  Secondly, we want to know what it would take to expand the resources for social movements among foundations and donors.  How might we work together, as funders and organizations, for long-term, strategic, systemic change?  What would that look like?  And what might funders need to support them in this effort?

Lab Goals:  As a result of this session, we hope to have explored the theory of change that movements matter, and the claim that they need to be better resourced.  We hope to gain more clarity about how this might happen and be several steps closer to creating a community of donors and funders who are working together strategically for deep, systemic change.

Facilitated by:  Leah Hunt-Hendrix, The Sisters Fund and Farhad Ebrahimi, The Chorus Fund
Other participating Foundations/Donors: Mark Randazzo, EDGE Funders and Sarah Christiansen, Solidago Foundation


The purpose of the project is to explore how multiple, innovative forms of popular and solidarity economics are impacting Latin America, and how their benefits can be expanded on a large scale. Such initiatives include, cooperatives, social enterprises, local loan funds, B corporations, and fair trade ventures among others.  Lessons will be gathered from both the grassroots, operational level as well from government supported policies to build adequate ecosystems and support structures. Brazil and Ecuador, both with solid track records, are leaders are leaders in this growing movement to other nations. For example Cuba, now in a process of economic change, is looking towards these experiences to gather insights on how to maintain the social achievements of its revolution while reforming its economic system to include more non-state enterprise. The project aims to forge stronger ties, both operational and educational, between key players in the hemisphere including Brazil, Canada (Quebec), Cuba, and Ecuador along with other ALBA nations (Bolivia, Venezuela) and make this information available to others. In so doing the project provides a laboratory for testing hybrid economic models. Four years of effort thus far have built strong links with key organizations in Brazil, Canada, Cuba and Ecuador.

Lab Goals: As result of this session participants will be introduced to major concepts of integrated development flowing from Latin American experiences of social and solidarity economics. Innovative examples of private and public sector support for these activities in Brazil and Ecuador will be discussed briefly, leaving ample time for participants to join in a discussion tying in their own experiences from the countries they work in. An expected outcome from these insights is an inventory of ideas on how increased benefits may be obtained throughout the region visavis South- South coordination and inputs on building more sustainable and inclusive economies.

Facilitator: Eric Leenson, Senior Advisor, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation and Sol2 Economics
Participating Foundations/Donors: AVINA  (pan Latin American foundation, headquartered in Panama); Ford Foundation – Latin American program, Mexico City; FUNDESO –  Fundación Desarrollo Sostenido, Madrid, Spain; Halloran Philanthropies, Philadelphia, PA; Cuba Canada Local Initiatives Fund – Embassy of Canada, Havana Cuba;  IDRC – International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada


The lack of US political leadership around climate, both within the global sphere in international negotiations and in terms of a disconnect with public opinion at home points to the need to build far more political power for change. This initiative will build on demgraphic shifts by bringing together engaged funders and donors with key NGO and community leaders, who over the next ten years will build and nurture a bold and activated grassroots movement in critical partnership with governing power, to forge policies and make the investments that are ecologically necessary to move the country to a just and sustainable renewable energy economy.  Though a pooled funding mechanism managed by Solidago Foundation and direct investments by funders joining this new funding collaborative, we will invest heavily in the electoral infrastructure that can activate this new demographic and connect people to power, in ways that will serve as a model and provide concrete wins on climate change at state, regional and national levels.

Lab goals: Participants will have a better sense of how we in the funding community can help forge and assure an ambitious national commitment for a cap and cut on carbon, while transitioning to a renewable energy economy; how we can support state-level strategies and build up a durable electoral majority with progressive values and policy positions on climate change; how such a majority can elect and maintain sufficient clout to hold officials accountable to a national policy platform as well as to responsible international climate priorities. It will address the core question of how we can begin, at last, to win on climate.

Facilitator: Sarah Christiansen, Solidago Foundation
Participating Foundations/Donors:: The Chorus Foundation, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and others