How Change Happens

Social Change from the Ground Up

Lessons on Leadership: How Movements Start

Real and lasting change starts organically. It happens when a collective group seeks to address an injustice. First, they build awareness, then create infrastructure, and eventually they gain enough momentum to create the change they seek. These movements often start small, with a few community organizations or one committed leader, and they spread across and up from the grassroots.

Lasting social and environmental change is our goal. With the right amount of funding and an approach that matches local context and culture, we are building and sustaining social movements. This is why we fund at the grassroots—because grassroots funding empowers local people to make decisions, take action, and create change.

Download the original Global Greengrants Fund PDF: How We Bring About Change.

In addition to our commitment to grassroots funding, we have made it a priority to fund the following proven methods of creating social movements:

Framing and Consciousness Raising

A $4,800 grant to DRCSC funded educational workshops for small farmers in India.

We fund groups that reach out to and educate people, because oftentimes raising awareness about environmental degradation or human rights is the first step. Before a farmer can say “no” to pesticides, she has to understand why they are harmful and what the alternatives are. These educational efforts are “consciousness raising”—they make people aware of and responsible for their environments.

We make grants to:

  • Create and conduct workshops and seminars
  • Perform media outreach
  • Produce creative communications, ranging from pamphlets to documentaries 

In India, Development Research Communication and Services Center (right) is eliminating harmful pesticides by educating local farmers and providing training on organic farming techniques. Learn more…  

Resource Mobilization and the Development of Movement Infrastructure

A $2,500 grant helped Green 'SOS' to pay for an office space and get equipment donated.

Strong organizations are important for creating widespread change. And organizations—be they tribal councils, youth groups, or advocacy non-governmental organizations—need basic infrastructure and leadership. By helping grassroots groups to develop these foundations, we’re creating infrastructure for the social movement itself.

We make grants to:

  • Support office rent and bills
  • Purchase computers
  • Cover costs of travel to connect similar groups
  • Fund training for organization staff and volunteers

Greengrants has been supporting China’s Green Student Forum (right) with small grants since 2000. Back then, this group didn’t have the funds for an office or computers. Today, this center acts as an incubator for university students to start their own initiatives on a variety of environmental projects, from recycling to climate change to monitoring of illegal wildlife trade. Learn more…

Political Opportunities

Small grants play a vital role in enabling grassroots leaders to apply steady pressure on institutions and policymakers—sustained pressure that’s necessary for broad change. Activists need to create opportunities; they often can’t afford to wait for them to open up. Flexibility (including flexible funding) and the ability to respond to events and shift tactics quickly are key strategies for encouraging change.

We make grants to:

  • Fund court cases to secure rights
  • Organize demonstrations
  • Enable travel
  • Facilitate communication with political organizations

For more than 15 years, Greengrants has been working in partnership with indigenous and traditional peoples all over the world to protect their health, lands, and livelihoods. The work of these dedicated groups has resulted in recent successes on behalf of indigenous peoples in Latin America, including landmark court rulings that are setting new standards in protecting traditional lands and cultures. Learn more…