A Deep Dive Into Impact Investing in the Creative Economy

The creative economy in communities across the United States is ripe for impact investment—but where should funders start? As outlined in Callanan’s article, Upstart Co-Lab views the arts “as a way to tackle sustainability, to make communities strong and vibrant, as a rich source of new business ideas and quality jobs, as a money-making and do-gooding proposition.” There is a clear role for artists to play as social entrepreneurs, community leaders, asset builders, and job creators as part of the booming creative economy. This includes a focus on art, culture, entertainment, media, and innovation, within innovative businesses in fashion, culinary arts, architecture, game design, industrial design, and much more.

While philanthropy has a key role to play in continuing to encourage growth in the creative economy - “the sort of job-creating, wealth-building business activity that naturally occurs in creative places” - arts funders have not yet connected with impact investors to engage their capital and scale a creative sector that is inclusive and equitable. But there is a significant pool of capital to tap into. According to Foundation Center’s aggregate data made available at the time of the original article, “the arts receive 5 percent of US philanthropic giving, roughly $17 billion annually. If the arts got just 5 percent of all the investment assets of US foundations, that number would be $43 billion. And if the arts got just 0.5 percent of all the investment assets under management in the United States, that number would be more than $200 billion.”

Connecting arts and culture to impact investing will not just unlock new sources of capital - it will also ensure that as the creative economy grows in strength and importance to the U.S. economy, values of equity, sustainability, and inclusion will be embedded within it so all may benefit. Abstract handrawing of brain with half in black and white, and half colorful.

As foundations and other arts funders increasingly align their investing with their missions, impact investing in the creative economy is a way to ensure increased support for arts and culture and the communities they serve while also maintaining equitable practices. For example, the Nathan Cummings Foundation recently announced a 100% commitment to their mission, citing that “capital markets have to change to drive sustainable and inclusive growth that will create long-term value for people, the planet, and the economy.”

In the upcoming discussion about impact investing in the arts, Callanan and Torres will expand upon potential actions arts funders can take now. These tools give way to unleashing more capital for creativity and ensuring equitable practices.

  • Educate social entrepreneurship funders about artist social entrepreneurs. Most social entrepreneurship funders just do not know that many artists have a social practice. Share with program officers focused on innovation and entrepreneurship — at your own foundation and beyond — the compelling examples of artists who are working to reform the criminal justice system, tap the resident capacity within communities to solve challenges, spread health and fellowship, and steward the environment, like Gregory Sale, Ebony Noelle Golden, Robert Karimi, and Aurora Robson.
  • Engage colleagues leading impact investing at your foundation. Foundations actively investing for impact are already tapping their program officers on issues like environmental conservation, clean energy, sustainable food, community development, women and girls, and education. Program staff have thematic expertise and understand what approach aligns best with their foundation’s mission, values, and theory of change. Starting talking with your investment colleagues, familiarize them with investable creative placemaking opportunities and social-purpose businesses in creative industries. Help shape their thinking as new opportunities to invest in the creative economy become available.
  • Use grant funding to build the enabling environment for investing in the creative economy. Foundations like Rockefeller, MacArthur, Heron, Omidyar, Case, and others built the enabling environment for impact investing. They did this through grant support, thought leadership, and convenings long before they made impact investments. The creative economy and the investable segment of creative placemaking need the same sort of nurturing now. Even if your foundation has not yet committed to impact investing, your grantmaker tools can be effective at creating the conditions that connect impact investors to investments in the creative economy. A strong future for the entire arts sector depends on it.
  • Diversify your grantee pool.  Arts philanthropy practices have traditionally been modeled on creating a robust western European focused arts culture in the US. This has come at the cost of excluding many peoples' art and cultural practices. Funders should be intentional towards efforts to expand opportunities for inclusion and invest in African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) organizations. They should focus efforts on heightening effectiveness and advancing racially equitable practices to make a significant positive impact on challenging other discrimination-based injustices and unlocking resources. And as many impact investors target capital to entrepreneurs of color, funders need to get creative entrepreneurs of color ready by enhancing capacity and providing resources. Funders can do the following:
    • Provide networks for learning, sharing, and resources about ALAANA organizations
    • Provide connections to learning communities, mentorships, technical assistance, financial, and governance power structures
    • Invest money; intentional funding programs that build capacity both artistically and administratively, support artistic growth following capitalization recommendations of general operating support, and fully support of programs and necessary over-head and salary costs
    • Create visibility
    • Facilitate power-sharing opportunities and working in partnerships

Editor's Note: Laura Callanan, Founding Partner of Upstart Co-Lab, and Eddie Torres, President & CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts joined Foundation Center to host a free webinar on why impact investing has a critical role to play for the arts and culture sector as another lever for arts funders to use to advance their missions. Watch the webinar recording for free here.  

“How to Invest in the Arts without Buying a Picasso” is an article by Callanan that originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Grantmakers in the Arts’ GIA Reader, a national publication dedicated to the field of arts philanthropy. Check it out to learn learn more about this conversation. GIA’s position on racial equity was also a part of the discussion on social impact investing, offering suggestions and strategies for an equitable investment process.

Transformation at the Intersection How public-private partnerships changed Pittsburgh into a thriving arts district

Looking at Pittsburgh’s Cultural District today, the strip clubs and massage parlors that once populated those 14 square blocks seem like a distant memory. Energized by a unifying goal, leaders from across sectors worked to transform the Cultural District into a hub of arts and entertainment accessed by residents and visitors alike. These public-private partnerships and investments provided a strong foundation for change and were crucial to the success of the transformation.

The city of Pittsburgh was not always a bustling metropolis. At the outset of the cultural revitalization project in the early 1970s, the city’s economy was struggling as the steel industry began to collapse. Morale was low and the downtown was offering no support to the city’s coffers and no places to live. City residents and visitors alike avoided the area--not an ideal characteristic for a downtown. Formal and informal city leadership agreed that something needed to change. Jack Heinz, CEO of H.J. Heinz and Company, longtime resident and civic leader of Pittsburgh, and original chairman of the Howard Heinz Endowment (which later became part of the Heinz Endowments), took the lead in mobilizing this effort. As Grant Oliphant, current president of the Heinz Endowments, says, the focus on the arts in particular played a pivotal role in the success of the transformation. “This town was on the verge of death,” says Grant, “and art is part of the story of what saved it.”                                                                

Visitors to Pittsburgh’s Cultural District roam the streets of the 14 square blocks at all times of the day. 

The Pittsburgh Symphony was the first domino in cultural revitalization efforts, as it very much needed a permanent performance hall. And so the metamorphosis to make Pittsburgh’s downtown a place that welcomed all residents began with the purchase of Loew's Penn Theater, which opened as Heinz Hall in 1971. While this gave the symphony a home, the location--in the middle of the red light district--was deterring traffic to the theater and preventing any expansion. Backed by the community, Jack Heinz put forth a daring plan: dedicate this entire neighborhood to arts and culture, and create a thriving area that citizens could enjoy. “He began to dream and dream of building a cultural district around Heinz Hall,” remembers Carol Brown, first president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust which was created to act as an organizing and implementing entity throughout the transformation. “That was the beginning of our Pittsburgh Cultural District and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.”

Community-based leadership was an important aspect of this project’s success. “It matters in community change work that you have people in significant roles step forward and embrace their public visibility,” says Grant. Heinz was one of those people, as were the late Paul Jenkins, then president of the Benedum Foundation, and several other prominent philanthropic leaders, but in this systemic community change work, leadership is not a standalone changemaker. This initiative showed how philanthropy, public dollars, and corporate support all have a distinct and essential role. “The project was this wonderful melding of local government, state government, federal government, corporate dollars, and philanthropy,” notes Carol.

Accessibility was another important factor for successful public and private engagement. “What was unique about Pittsburgh and what made it an exciting place to be at the time, was the openness of the people, both in the public and the private sides,” says Robert Pease, then executive director of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “You could reach a CEO simply by making a phone call and they would step in enthusiastically to help solve problems.”

Government support of the Cultural District was profound and included a $17 million urban development action grant given in 1984, which helped fund the purchasing of property for development. Grant acknowledges that access to these financial resources is more limited now, but that governments at every level remain “the greatest sources of power and change.” He shared that the decision of Heinz and others to collaborate with government was in recognition of their unique power. “They have regulatory power. They can set policy, they can set regulations, they can drive practice in a certain direction.” In community change work, this can be a linchpin element to a project’s sustainability.

This urban development initiative also led to interesting collaboration opportunities between private and public actors. “When the Benedum Center Theater was being rehabilitated, we were able to get some federal funds by trading some air rights over that theater to the office center, so the office building could be built a little bit higher,” explains Robert. “Here was an interesting partnership that allowed for the success of the project.”

Corporate funding for a philanthropic vision can also be vital, as corporate dollars add to the needed pool of funds and leverage prominent household names to draw attention to that vision. The value proposition for a corporation is often different than calling upon the community loyalty and public responsibility that motivates private philanthropy and government funding. As Grant explains, “you have to make the case for why it’s in everybody’s best interest in order to gain support from all parties.” In this revitalization effort, corporate involvement provided another level of support. Corporations “bring stature, resources, and thinking to the table that is helpful to foundations trying to move a big agenda,” Grant adds.                                                                             

Heinz Hall, the first building of the Cultural District. 

With “one of the largest concentrations of philanthropic wealth in the country,” Grant explains that most of Pittsburgh’s philanthropic giving is community-focused. Private philanthropy was a large contributor to the project, and came from people living in the community. While Heinz was one such investor, the support of many other foundations, such as the Benedum Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Buhl Foundation, was critical in making the project a success. “Heinz saw the importance of having partners in this type of work,” explains the late Paul Jenkins, former president of the Benedum Foundation. Grant shared that this involvement was largely inspired by the leadership’s ability to “leverage unusual loyalty” to the downtown region. Private philanthropy, unlike corporate and public actors, has flexibility to pursue projects outside of the traditional mold, while rallying support from all sectors. There are of course, limitations to working at the intersection of public, private philanthropy, and corporate influence, and Grant asserts that “the best partnerships are the ones where there is a clear alignment of interests” as this can help smooth over any bumps and ensure long-term sustainability. In the case of the Cultural District, there was a lot of engagement from all sides to transform the downtown into a usable, profitable, enjoyable space.

This transition to a functioning downtown was rolled out under the guidance of a master plan, which prioritized capital investments. The process was streamlined with the formation of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in 1984, which acted as a vehicle to solidify and organize the overarching plans, coordinate between parties, and begin implementation. “I began to try to tell our story and to try to formulate a finite plan of how we would achieve this incredible goal,” shares Carol. “To do this we put together a team of planners that represented the cultural community, the public sector, outside consultants.” Grant explains, “Part of what Jack Heinz and the Cultural Trust did exceptionally well was to argue that for Pittsburgh to be a functioning, worthy city in an increasingly competitive national and global environment, it had to have a functioning downtown.” The Cultural Trust began to buy the property around the standing cultural buildings and for several years, these properties were held and rented until the Trust was ready to restore another building and fully absorb it into the District. This provided a source of revenue for the Trust, which it could then direct towards arts in the District. Thirty years later, the partnerships amongst sectors remain and help the Cultural Trust navigate their continuing plans for transformation. “This was a team approach,” says Carol, and it remains so today.

Then, as now, the plan for the District was not simply about renovating buildings, but was a holistic approach that addressed everything from green spaces to parking garages. “We needed things that would put people on the streets without having to buy a season ticket for the Symphony,” remarks Carol Brown. Art installations in pockets of grass mean that art is available to all, not only to those who walk through the doors of the theaters and galleries. Outdoor parking, rather than garages, encourages strolling the streets. The development of an apartment building in the area, that has been fully rented since opening, adds another element--the District is now a place people want to visit, and they want to stay. Comprehensive in its offerings, the District has something for everyone whether they be visitors to the city or Pittsburgh born and raised.

Today, over four decades after the outset of this project, the Cultural Trust still has plans to continue development, and is excited to carry on the work with intention. “This has been a 40 year process so far, and we’re not done yet. There’s still a significant chunk of the District to be converted from parking lots into something useful,” Grant says of the project. “I think this illustrates one of the core lessons of philanthropy: In this age of instant gratification, we need to remember that results at a meaningful level can take a long time. The role of philanthropy, not just as risk capital but as patient capital, is extraordinarily important.” In the future, Grant hopes that the Cultural Trust will eventually be able to go beyond the District to expand the impact of arts in Pittsburgh more broadly.

This ongoing effort to garner cross-sector support to strengthen the city will be most successful if truly everyone has access to it. Since the belief in art as a means of transformation, healing, and connection is at the core of the Cultural Trust’s values, it hopes to grow the accessibility of the District in the future for those residents who currently can’t visit the programs and spaces. “It's important not to neglect the cultural life of the community,” shares Carol. This mentality will hopefully allow for the benefits of the District and the arts to ripple even further out into the community, spreading positive change, because, as Grant states, “Art and creativity may be at the very core of what helps us survive hard times.” 

This case study was developed as one of five companion pieces to stories shared through the Pittsburgh Philanthropy Project. The Pittsburgh Philanthropy Project, in association with the University of Pittsburgh, showcases the rich and varied narratives of giving in the region through comprehensive storytelling techniques, giving insight to the philanthropy landscape and approach for residents, researchers, and practitioners. Please visit storyline.gspia.pitt.edu to explore further.

About the author(s)

Former Knowledge Services Fellow
Foundation Center

Putting Grantees in the Spotlight

Even though #GivingTuesday is still very new, I've always been a big fan of the movement. I love the creativity and collaboration that this special day inspires in nonprofits across the country.

When I came onboard to direct social media for Foundation Center in 2014, I was super excited to sink my teeth into designing a #GivingTuesday campaign for our organization. We do so many cool things to support the social sector, so it would be a piece of cake to drum up some donations to support the work we do, right? As it turns out, our legacy, size, and the nature of the way we contribute to the sector may actually work against us in this unique fundraising space. So where do we fit in on #GivingTuesday? I finally realized: Foundation Center is a leader in supporting the growth and sustainability of thousands of organizations across the globe. Instead of fundraising for ourselves on #GivingTuesday, why don't we use our influence to uplift organizations that are doing great work? Eureka!

So, for our 2016 “campaign,” our marketing, development, and knowledge services colleagues came together to design “Elevate Your Cause,” a contest where five nonprofits — and their fundraising campaigns — would be featured exclusively on our @fdncenter and @pndblog Twitter feeds on #GivingTuesday. We received more than 2,300 entries (wow!). The randomly selected winners were an awesome group of organizations from across the country, who tackle issues like reducing the high school dropout rate, providing safe shelters for women and children, and increasing awareness about a rare disease. Spotlighting these five organizations amplified their passion for their missions, and made me smile all day. We may have not raised any money this year, but the “return” we got this #GivingTuesday was rewarding in a way that we hope to build on for many years to come.

The takeaway: You can strengthen your community and enrich your work by being a megaphone for those connected to you. Are you elevating your grantees' voices? We'd love to hear about it! Tweet us and tell us about how you're weaving those connections into the larger fabric of your work.

See you online.

This letter originally appeared in today's GrantCraft newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter and special alerts, register for free. 

And...there's more! The newsletter also shared a recent blog post ,"The Out in Ohio Immersion: Increasing Social Capital and Grantee Inclusion" by David Moore of the David Bohnett Foundation. The blog is part of an ongoing series detailing experiences from Out in Ohio: An LGBTQ Funders’ Immersion Trip in Cleveland, which took place on September 8-9, 2016 and was sponsored by the national affinity group, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and led by local LGBTQ funding ambassadors Kristi Andrasik, The Cleveland Foundation and Brian Schultz, Foundation Center Midwest.

Also, Foundation Center recently released a new dashboard entitled "Southern Trends Report: Philanthropy in the Southeast Region". This dashboard provides an at-a-glance overview of institutional philanthropic information for the Southeast Region and its composite states. Explore how foundations are supporting grantees and communities in the Southeastern United States, learn more here.

About the author(s)

Community Content Manager
Foundation Center

Changing the Status Quo: Inviting Artists to the Philanthropic Table Using Flow Funds

What would happen if more people had the power to decide what money was spent on? How would this change the traditional power balance within the world of philanthropy? What would happen if these new decision makers were artists? What unusual projects, creators and ideas would be supported if grantees and awardees were at the wheel? And, importantly, what ripple effect might all of this have?

We’ve noticed that all too often traditional philanthropic approaches don’t allow the flexibility, room, and spirit of experimentation that make space for exploring and answering these important questions. Similarly, grantees and the communities they work with and within are often left out of funding decision-making altogether, deepening the schism between those with power and those without.

There is no shortage of analysis and commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the world of philanthropy and charitable giving at large, and sweeping generalizations rarely hold up to scrutiny. However, one thing that does seem certain is that philanthropic giving operates with power dynamics not dissimilar to other systems of resource provision: power rests with a select few. At worst, this power imbalance can materialize as corruption and what may be termed as charitable-colonialism. At best, it means that decisions are fashioned by the situational, political, and social lenses decision-makers inevitably carry. Furthermore, there is some degree of merit to the argument that profits gained through the status quo are likely to be distributed in manner that maintains the status quo. It therefore seems only logical that a collaborative and democratized approach toward giving is the healthiest approach, and in order to do this more people need a chance to be at that decision-making table.

This is an issue that has been on our minds for a long time and while we’ve always strived to ensure that our grantmaking programs and processes worked to level the often imbalanced power dynamics between funder and grantee, we have wanted to push the boundaries of this to the next level. Kindle Project has been experimenting with Flow Funding since our founding in 2008. Essentially, Flow Funding is very simple: move the decision-making process to others who are outside of traditional philanthropic institutions, like artists, organizations, or individual changemakers, and empower these Flow Funders with funds to be reallocated to communities and organizations of their choice. Flow Funding allows resources to move to unlikely and unusual places—places we can’t always reach or even know about when we (the funders) are the only ones making the decisions.

Recently, we decided to give this approach expanded berth and see where it takes us. We have called it Boomerang. Echoing the fluid and somewhat unpredictable movement of a boomerang, this program releases an opportunity, allowing unlikely and unusual partners and projects to return with solutions and initiatives that address issues we didn’t have on our radar, that voice what we weren’t listening for, that shift the spotlight to those we weren’t seeing. And in doing so, more individuals are empowered with resources to be changemakers in their own right. In order to continually address the creep of imbalanced power dynamics in the funding world, we need to take a whole systems approach to our grantmaking. Flow Funding in particular requires trust, great relationships, and a spirit of experimentation. In order to maintain any of those things, it is important to have a ‘beyond-the-money’ approach to grantmaking. This means learning from one another through meaningful dialogue and being open to risk and uncertainty. It’s an experiment that we’ve crafted with the care and engineering of a boomerang which we’re now tossing to the winds to chart a new course in grantmaking.

This year Boomerang is a collaborative effort with our seven 2016 Makers Muse Artist Awardees. We are offering them each a Flow Fund to recommend be reallocated to an organization or project of their choosing. As excited as we are to be sharing Flow Funds with artists, we are equally as excited to have conversations with our artist Flow Funders beyond the subject of money. We encourage participants in the Boomerang program to stretch their imaginations beyond what is expected in the funding world and we’re thrilled to do the same, in partnership.

One of the ways this imagination stretch is taking place for Boomerang is through our focus on storytelling. For nearly a decade we have been passionately promoting the unique stories of our grantees on our Nexus space on our website. However, for our Boomerang participants we are using this platform to put the focus on storytelling around the questions and themes that are central to our efforts in reframing what support and experience beyond money can look like.

So often, the stories of how funding decisions are made are left out of the public conversation in philanthropy. We think that diversifying decision making is critical to democratizing philanthropy and the storytelling of those experiences is core to moving that needle. We are taking this head on by working with both our Makers Muse artists and the groups they recommend to share their perspective on the Flow Funding experience. We are asking the artists to reflect on the experience of being in the position of philanthropic leadership. In turn, the nominated grantees are invited to highlight what it meant for them to be nominated by an artist to receive support from Kindle Project. A recent interview with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a new grantee that came to us via a Flow Fund, shows just how powerful this experience can be for everyone involved.



Why do we think it is important to stretch our imaginations? Because it all comes back to that fundamental premise: if we don’t actively and consistently seek to reimagine our approach (our optics so-to-speak) of decision making, we risk falling into a ‘power dynamic rut’. This rut in turn can contribute to the very problems we seek to address. So it is part of a larger mindset, a purposeful shaking up of our perspectives that can really only be achieved by encouraging participation by a wider variety of people at this decision-making table. We’ve seen through our work and through the work of our Flow Funding friends and collaborators that the ripple effects of this process are worth the extra time that this approach takes, and the acceptance of risk and uncertainty that it requires of us. It is encouraging to hear that this approach has resonated with other organizations as well. Here is a great article by RSF Social Finance which delves into the topic further and reaches many of the same conclusions.

What do you think are the possibilities of giving artists power with resources? We’d love to hear from you and be in conversation! For more information on Boomerang or Kindle Project drop us a line at: [email protected]Tweet at us: #boomerang #flowfunding @Kindle_Project

About the author(s)

Communications Director
Kindle Project

Dancing to the Top: How Collective Action Revitalized Arts Education in Boston

This case study of the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion (BPS-AE), a program supported by Barr Foundation and others, examines the expansion of quality in-school arts instruction as a means to increase equity of opportunity in Boston Public Schools.


EdVestors, Boston Public Schools

Through IssueLab, the Foundation Center is working to more effectively gather, index, and share the collective intelligence of the social sector by providing free access to thousands of case studies, evaluations, white papers, and issue briefs.

60 Seconds with Courtney Harge Applying for a fiscal sponsorship

We asked Courtney Harge, of Artspire, to share an 'aha' moment she has experienced in her career. In this video, Courtney shares a few key qualities that make a strong candidate for a fiscal sponsorship.

60 Seconds with Theresa Hubbard Fiscal sponsorship

We asked Theresa Hubbard, of Fractured Atlas, about an "aha" moment she's experienced during her career. Hear what she looks for when selecting an applicant for a fiscal sponsorship.


Ecosystems Approach Using Indigenous Worldviews to Guide Programs

Ecosystems is another funding approach that reflects the indigenous worldview that all life—human and nonhuman—is interrelated. This approach often results in flexible program areas that show fluidity and appreciation for different interpretations of an issue. The International Development Exchange (IDEX) incorporated the idea of an ecosystem into their theory of change. “We wanted it to address the complexities in which IDEX and our partners work, so we looked to nature to help us put our theory of change into perspective,” said Katherine Zavala, at IDEX. The IDEX theory of change is based around concentration areas that have emerged from a ten-year inclusive and participatory evaluation process with grantee partners and leaders in philanthropy.These include community self-determination, organizational resilience, and global solidarity.

As part of this strategy, IDEX supported an organization in Chiapas, Mexico to convene a learning exchange on the cross-cutting issue of agro-ecology with other indigenous groups in Central and South America. Since indigenous peoples do not distinguish ‘nature’ as an external factor in their lives, traditional agricultural practice is usually sustainable and aligned to cycles in nature, such as planting according to moon cycles. This nexus where agriculture and ecology meet aligns with IDEX's ecosystems theory of change. “These strategic events serve to move forward our theory of change and our partners' work," said Katherine.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Funding Indigenous Peoples.

Traditional Knowledge Utilizing Ancient Wisdom of Indigenous Communities

Some foundations are promoting indigenous traditional knowledge as an important contribution for human survival. Traditional knowledge refers to technical information, innovations, and practices of indigenous peoples developed from centuries of experience. It tends to be collectively owned, and can be transmitted through stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, rituals, customary laws, languages, agricultural practices, and resource collection.

“To end the climate crisis, to solve global poverty, our indigenous partners are our greatest teachers,” said Rajasvini Bhansali, executive director of the International Development Exchange (IDEX). “More than ever before, the concepts, ways of being, and lessons learned from indigenous experimentations are relevant.” Others see the long experience of indigenous communities, such as their close observation and adaptation to weather changes over millennia, as critical insights to solving the myriad problems facing the world.

The Tamalpais Trust initiated the launch of a collaborative fund dedicated to promoting and harnessing this traditional knowledge, called the Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning Fund. The fund, supported also by The Christensen Fund, the Novo Foundation, and the Swift Foundation, disbursed its first round of grants at in early 2015. “Traditional knowledge and native science are being recognized as successful contributors in addressing problems of climate change, food security and sovereignty, protection and care of Mother Earth, and revitalization of indigenous languages and culture,” notes Jaune Evans, executive director of the Tamalpais Trust. 

Ken Wilson, former executive director of The Christensen Fund, sees a trend toward recognition of traditional knowledge in academic disciplines. “We are moving away from linear, mechanistic thinking to systems thinking,” said Ken. “There’s now a great deal more productive connection between indigenous knowledge and environmental science.”

The Christensen Fund’s support to promote the acceptance of traditional knowledge at the highest levels of policymaking includes grants for a Traditional Knowledge Institute at the United Nations University, a global think tank and postgraduate school based in Australia. The university works with leading universities and research institutes in UN Member States, and functions as a bridge between the international academic community and the United Nations system. In addition, both The Christensen Fund and the Ford Foundation have made grants to the Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment, which documents traditional knowledge of climate change. The highest scientific authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,recognized such indigenous climate observations and adaptation measures as “the way forward” to the world’s thinking on climate change in the future.

Increasingly, organizations are taking note of issues through which indigenous peoples are funded. In 2015, Foundation Center updated its widely-recognized taxonomy to include terms such as traditional knowledge, food sovereignty, and sacred sites, which will improve tracking of funding trends related to indigenous peoples.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Funding Indigenous Peoples.

Sustain Arts A Portrait of the Cultural Ecosystem