For Good: A Radical Approach to Climate Advocacy with Arielle Gamble

Our ‘For Good’ series are a set of conversations with talented people behind some of our favourite environmentally conscious organisations. As our team at IN BED continue to work towards our own goals around environmental and social impact we are continuously inspired by others re-thinking what it means to work through a more sustainable lens.

This week we speak to Arielle Gamble, the co-founder of Groundswell Giving. Through her work at Groundswell Giving Arielle aims to not only highlight the climate crisis but to create a far-reaching community of givers in order to fund high-impact climate advocacy.

Hi Arielle, tell us a little bit about Groundswell Giving and how you first got started?

Groundswell was started by three friends – Anna Rose, Clare Ainsworth Herschell and myself – to fund and power climate action in Australia.

We started Groundswell because we could see that there were many passionate people deeply concerned about the climate crisis and wanting to take action at a systems level, but that many people felt pretty overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin. We could also see there was no shortage of climate advocacy out there ready to scale up and create impact, but that many organisations with strategic potential were restricted by a lack of funding. So we created Groundswell to join the dots and connect people with funds to people with solutions.

Our grants focus on climate advocacy to deeply cut carbon emissions in Australia this decade.

At this point in time no matter how many trees we plant, unless we cut emissions decisively before 2030, we will lock in a 2 degree warmer future and catastrophic climate impacts for our kids and generations to come.

Our mandate at Groundswell is to fund strategic, high-impact climate advocacy that changes systems, not just symptoms. Specifically, we fund people and organisations working to shift power and build the political will and implement the legislation we need to unlock greater climate ambition and limit warming to safe levels.

How has the organisation evolved since you first got started?

We first launched Groundswell during the bushfires in early 2020, when the air was thick with smoke from coast to coast. For many people, those fires were a huge wake up call – a realisation that climate change wasn’t some abstract concept or political buzzword, it’s happening here and now, and unless everyday people like us step up, it’s going to keep getting worse.

An early post on Instagram changed Groundswell’s course from a group of friends into a national project, with members signing up from around the country, all united in purpose to accelerate climate action.

In the less than two years since our launch, Groundswell has raised and distributed over $760,000 for climate action, and distributed 21 grants to strategic climate advocacy organisations - from doctors to farmers to First Nations leaders.

This year, our grant winners have ranged from organisers in the Torres Strait fighting for climate justice, to workers in Hunter Valley coal communities planning for a just energy transition, to Indigenous leaders advocating for justice at COP26, to strategic litigation taking on government agencies and big polluters, to industry leaders in Central QLD planning for energy futures to ensure no worker is left behind.

There is no silver bullet to tackling the climate crisis – it is going to take a broad, diverse, and well resourced movement. There is so much brilliant work out there that needs to be scaled and unlocked, and the Groundswell community is so proud to be helping to fund the change we want to see.

Since launching, our community of donors and First Nations changemakers has grown to 500 people from all across the country who take part in shortlisting grant applications and voting each grant round through our democratic processes.

It’s been incredible to see so many people new to this world stepping up and creating such powerful waves of impact. Collective action is how we change systems, and together, we are powerful.

There is no silver bullet to tackling the climate crisis – it is going to take a broad, diverse, and well resourced movement.

Image by Isabella Moore

Groundswell Giving is focused on Australia but engages in work that has the potential to create impact around the world. Can you talk a little bit about your vision for the organisation on both a domestic & international level?

The climate crisis is here, now. Without urgent intervention, our current trajectory of rising emissions will result in the Earth's climate reaching irreversible tipping points, eroding the foundations of human health and food security, and causing devastation at home and around the world.

Australia has become one of the last major blockers to climate action on a global scale.

Far from being a small fish, we are the world's largest exporter of coal, and the second largest exporter of gas, with one of the highest per capita emission footprints worldwide. What we do here, particularly in the next 8 years, matters a great deal.

By continuing to dig up and export gas and coal around the world, we will blow what’s left of the global carbon budget, locking in deadly consequences for people worldwide. Conversely, if we become a frontrunner for climate action, we stand to become leaders in the new global economy, creating a better future for people and planet.

As one of the wealthiest, sunniest and windiest countries on earth, and home to the world’s oldest living culture, we have the potential to be global leaders in the clean energy transition – building a better future in partnership with Australia’s First People, and seizing the myriad economic opportunities of the renewables boom at our fingertips.

We have the solutions to the climate crisis, and the technologies for a clean energy transition. What we need now, is the political will and the laws to implement them. The pressure for greater climate action is growing across our country and the world at large, and the climate movement here in Australia is ready to scale up.

Our mission at Groundswell is to connect passionate people with funds to passionate people with solutions, mobilising a huge new wave of climate action donors funding strategic, high-impact climate advocacy right across the country.

How are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities included as part of your work?

As leaders in the resistance against colonial degradation and mismanagement of land and seas, and as people who experience the impacts of climate first and worst, it is crucial that First Nations people are at the forefront of decision-making around climate advocacy solutions and funding.

From the very beginning, Groundswell has been guided by a community of incredible First Nations people and advisors. When Groundswell was just an idea, friends such as artist Tony Albert, Original Power ED Karrina Nolan and Lille Madden - now our First Nations Director – developed a strong framework for inclusion of First Nations people in all of Groundswell’s decision making processes. Nearly two years on, Groundswell is proud to include a phenomenal group of First Nations changemakers from across the country as our members, and to learn from their leadership and activism in our collective work towards climate justice.

Some of these processes are that we encourage First Nations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander changemakers to join Groundswell with gratis memberships, and we pay honorariums for their time and knowledge. We also aim to ensure that, at any given time, First Nations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold 10% of our membership places and comprise at least two of the six members participating in each shortlisting session for our grant rounds. First Nations members’ participation and oversight is fundamental to the success of Groundswell’s grantmaking process and funding decisions.

Lille Madden, our First Nations Director, curated a terrific educational program around climate x First Nations justice throughout 2020, and has been building relationships and laying strong foundations through 2021 for some very exciting new developments into 2022.

From the very beginning, Groundswell has been guided by a community of incredible First Nations people and advisors.

Lillie Madden photographed by Daniel Shipp.

Are there any projects that you’ve worked on that you are particularly proud of?

Watching the ripples of our funding turn into waves of national impact is enormously exciting. A few fantastic organisations we have supported so far are:

Seed Mob have now won 2 major $40k grants in successive years for their crucial work building the power of Aboriginal people to protect their Country and stop dangerous and polluting gas fracking. Right now, over 51% of the NT is covered in gas licences. If these gas basins are opened up and exploited, we blow the worlds carbon budget. Seed’s work in mobilising and building the power of communities on the frontline of both climate impacts and fossil fuel extraction in the NT has both national and international significance.

In November 2020, our $40k grant to Farmers for Climate Action enabled them to increase their organising capacity across the entire east coast of Australia, and to use their trusted voices as farmers on the frontlines of climate impacts to build pressure on the National Party and the Coalition as a whole for greater climate ambition. They are gaining enormous traction and we are chuffed with their progress.

Another exciting project we funded this August was Hunter Jobs Alliance – these guys are a newly formed group organising within coal communities of the Hunter Valley to make sure workers get on the front foot of the inevitable energy transition, reap the economic opportunities knocking on their doors, and ensure no-one is left behind.

Image by Isabella Moore

How can individuals and businesses get involved with Groundswell Giving?

It’s easy – just head to our website and sign up as a member for $20 a week or $1000 a year. All donations are 100% tax deductible, and all donations go directly to climate action grants.

Members get to learn about the climate crisis and its solutions, take part in the shortlisting process at our regular grant rounds, and vote for the winners of our climate action grants! Our members know that the time has come to do all that we can, while we can, to be part of the change we want to see. We don’t all have heaps of time, but many of us can chip in funds each week to power the people with the expertise and solutions.

For those who can invest at a higher level, we have set up a $10,000 lifetime membership. The reason behind it: we have less than 10 years left to solve the climate crisis, and every dollar spent today will have a greater impact mitigating climate change than that spent in 2 or 5 years. Our philosophy for lifetime members is to spend down now, because there’s no use having money in the bank while the world we love is lost.

In a very new development, businesses can now sponsor their own climate action grants through Groundswell - we are just pioneering this model with an amazing B Corp business called Future Friendly, and are keen to build a new pipeline of funds to climate action this way through businesses committed to climate leadership.

Where do you see the future of climate activism heading and is there anything specific to Groundswell Giving’s future that you’re particularly excited about?

The next 12 months will be critical for making progress on climate in Australia. At Groundswell, we are hoping to double our membership and double our impact in this coming year to meet the challenge and accelerate climate ambition.

There is so much at stake, but we know there are so many people who care and want to get involved. We are excited and look forward to welcoming a huge new wave of Groundswell members in commitment to climate action.