Big changes start locally

Funding on a Finite Planet

Climate Change

Yesterday I hot footed it to a conference of charitable foundations in central London. I picked up a take away coffee en route and grabbed a newspaper I hardly read.

The conference was about the climate crisis. I sat in the opening session looking at my coffee cup with its plastic lid and felt what I often feel about this subject, overwhelmed and guilty.

I found myself thinking, ‘tell me what to do and I will do it, but make it simple!’ With a busy life, the call to change can be hard.

The problem is of course that there is no single behavioural change that will solve this crisis, there is a multiplicity of responses. Each a bit different, vitally so. The desire for a single solution is symptomatic of how I too often relate to our world. With not enough time to listen and an impatience to extract quick knowledge.

For whilst there is no magic wand, there are people in communities all across the world, responding. Responding in ways that reflect their experience and context and which speak to the structures that impact them. Responses from agitators and activists, from politicians and academics, responses from some of the most marginalised in our society and from generations coming up behind my own. This is the strength and the hope, action in many forms, people committed to change.

Yesterday challenged me to leave behind the plastic coffee lids but also to think about what I can uniquely do. How my place in the world leads me to specific action. I thought about my Irish heritage, the lack of trees on that island and considered a new career in re-foresting; I considered my writers pen, my desire to invest more time in writing and considered a suite of poems about our planet; but realised that I start in the here and now. In my capacity as a funder and as a resident of Newcastle.

As a funder, we are focused on supporting local communities to make big changes happen locally. We need to do this in a way that helps people shape neighbourhoods into communities that work for all – socially, economically and environmentally. As a funder we back people’s ideas, we need to do this in a way that allows movements to grow and communities to get on with the vital work they do, supporting them however we can, not just with funding but with non-financial support too. As a funder we can highlight the voices of people working for change. Making sure they are heard and listened to.

As the world gets more chaotic, we get more myopic’ said one speaker at the conference. How true this can be. We need to constantly find ways to break open our perspectives and conversations. Yesterday’s conference helped do that.


Nancy Doyle-Hall

Executive Director

Virgin Money Foundation

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