Scaling up climate-smart development

Navigating the climate crisis: insights from funders and grantees in development work

The OECD NetFWD x Impatience Earth learning series on Scaling Up Climate Smart Development brought together funders and grantees to share their journeys of integrating climate change into international development work. This exchange offered profound insights and invaluable advice for those seeking to initiate or deepen their involvement in climate-focused philanthropy

Insights from funders – embrace climate responsibility

Sophie Marple of Gower Street Foundation transitioned from an education-only focus to embracing a wider range of climate solutions, motivated by the undeniable impact of climate change across all philanthropic sectors. In tandem, Old Dart Foundation went from a background funding work on extractive industries to making climate change a strategic priority. In both cases, awareness and knowledge building were vital to their transitions into the climate space. Funders also highlighted the necessity for funding efforts that aim for transformative systems change. This approach targets the heart of economic and governance models, fostering movements, policy change, and strategic litigation as catalysts for systemic shifts and addressing inequality and stimulating climate action.

The need for trust-based climate funding

The decision by both Gower Street and Old Dart Foundations to frontload their funding is firmly centred on the belief that immediate action is more impactful. Their approaches underscore the importance of supporting initiatives that address climate challenges head-on, with an emphasis on accelerating funding to have a greater effect sooner rather than later.

Moving away from traditional, restrictive funding models, both foundations have embraced a trust-based approach. This approach targets the heart of economic and governance models, fostering movements, policy change, and strategic litigation as catalysts for systemic shifts and addressing inequality and stimulating climate action.

Insights from grantee partners – addressing on-the-ground realities

Grantee representatives firmly illustrated how climate change is exacerbating challenges for communities already vulnerable due to socio-economic conditions. Organisations like Afrikids, SAFE Kenya, and CAMFED witness firsthand the deteriorating environmental conditions and their direct impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, and overall community resilience.

These narratives from the field make it clear: ignoring climate change in development work is no longer an option. The interconnectedness of development goals and climate action is evident, underscoring the need for a holistic approach that incorporates climate resilience and sustainability into all aspects of development work.

Key advice for effective climate philanthropy

For funders:

  1. Embrace learning, and dive deep into understanding the climate crisis and its intersections with your current philanthropic efforts.
  2. Connect and collaborate with networks and organisations that can guide your climate philanthropy journey.
  3. Prioritise immediate action alongside education to ensure your funding makes a tangible impact.
  4. Trust your grantees: foster relationships based on trust, recognising that local organisations know their needs best.
  5. Support systemic change by investing in initiatives that promise broad, structural shifts towards sustainability and equity.


For supporting grantee partners:

  1. Understand the inseparable nature of development goals and climate action.
  2. Make decisions in partnership with grantees, respecting their insights and community connections.
  3. Commit to long-term flexible support so grantees can plan effectively and adapt as needed.
  4. Offer more than just funds: access to knowledge, resources, and networks strengthen your grantees’ capacity to tackle climate challenges.


You can access the recording of the webinar series and download the full accompanying report below.