Why The Solutions Project Is Funding Renewable Energy Innovation with Women and People of Color, by Carolyn Fortuna, Clean Technica, Feb 23 2019
How the media covers issues like renewable energy, climate justice, and energy equity matters. It really does. The media influences how people think and what they aspire to achieve. Media coverage of climate change issues and renewable energy innovations is important, as the fossil fuel industry is fantastically well-financed and is putting lots of emphasis on positive press coverage as investors increasingly fear that they’ll find stranded assets in their portfolios.
A new analysis by The Solutions Project uncovers how women and people of color are underrepresented in media coverage of clean energy and climate issues, despite the fact that they so often lead robust renewable energy actions. Across the US, nonprofits directed by women and people of color are on the forefront of developing innovative solutions to climate change, but they are severely under-funded. 95% of all US philanthropy dollars go to white-led organizations, and 70 to 80% of these are led by men.
So, when women and people of color are on the front lines of clean energy, yet aren’t getting adequate media coverage, it’s time we speak up and act out.
What were the sources of the articles? Articles came from national and state outlets, as well as online and trade publications.
What was the purpose of the research? The purpose of the research was to understand how the media covers renewable energy, in particular to determine if funding gaps in climate philanthropy are also leading to a gap in media coverage of local leaders and innovations.
To what extent would articles quote women as spokespeople, reference issues of equity, or talk about communities of color?
- The study found that 65% of the articles sampled were solutions focused or positive about renewable energy.
- Only 21% of the articles quoted a woman as a spokesperson.
- Communities of color, despite being disproportionately impacted by climate change and fossil fuels, were referenced in only 7% of articles.
- 10% of the articles referenced issues related to equity and justice.
- Local leaders and their organizations are having outsized impact in the renewable energy space, especially relative to the funding they receive.
Using Data about Media to Inform Climate Action Funding
Approximately 95% of each year’s $60 billion in US foundation funding goes to organizations led by white people. Half of all climate funding is concentrated in just 20 organizations.
Acknowledging that a significant lack of coverage echoes disparities with climate-affected communities, the Solutions Project is taking the lead on clean energy innovation through philanthropic support. On February 19th, 2019, the Solutions Project unveiled a groundbreaking new funding strategy designed to address racial and gender inequities in climate philanthropy.
Embracing a 100% Commitment to Justice, the Solutions Project is celebrating racial and gender justice. To do so, the grantmaker has committed to investments of 95% of its resources in innovative frontline leadership of color, with at least 80% going to organizations led by women. The organization also invites the US philanthropic community to follow its lead by reexamining their own funding strategies and allocations to these groups.
The Solutions Project and Its Inclusive Outreach
The Solutions Project is a grantmaking, storytelling, and capacity building organization that is accelerating the transition to 100% clean energy for all by championing a movement that is more inclusive, more collaborative, and more celebratory.
The Solutions Project funds frontline leaders of color and provides media support for diverse leaders who empower communities from the ground up. In New York, for example, PUSH Buffalo’s Rahwa Ghirmatzion engaged neighbors in a low-income community of color to turn an abandoned school into solar-powered affordable housing for seniors and a community center. This was the first solar project in New York to offer discounted energy entirely to low-income subscribers.
We had the chance to interview Ms. Ghirmatzion this week as well, and so look for that interview, too, on CleanTechnica.
Other grantees of The Solutions Project include the Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, SC, who is engaging community groups across the South in the Justice First movement’s push for 100% clean energy, forest protection, and environmental justice. The California Environmental Justice Alliance and its leader, Gladys Limon, are ensuring Sacramento’s commitment to 100% clean electricity by 2045 benefits every California community. Nathaniel Smith and his Partnership for Southern Equity are making sure that equity is at the center of Atlanta’s efforts to meet its commitment to 100% clean energy.
#CleanTechnica Interview: Sarah Shanley Hope of The Solutions Project
It seems that three camps — positive, neutral, and negative — came out of The Solution Project’s “Renewable Energy Analysis Report.” Why do you feel that is there such divergence among media perspectives about the power and place of renewable energy?
I think that experience matters a lot. The diversity of experience that is coming forward with the commitment to 100% renewable energy means that there are a lot of different perspectives that are driving this transition. And that is reflected in the coverage, and I think the data supports this. Community voices are not covered enough, especially with regard to the effects of dirty energy. In the last 5 years we see the most democratic and participatory leadership coming out of the climate change action community.
Why does The Solutions Project have such an overt commitment to underrepresented groups and their leadership within renewable energy fields?
I am the founding executive director of the Solutions Project and have a masters in business administration. With this background, there are 2 things I’ve learned: first, diverse teams outperform in all contexts, and there’s literature to match that.
Second, the messenger matters. The vision of 100% clean energy needed to move from laughable to possible, so it had to reflect the diversity of this country. The Solutions Project is helping to make that diversity in clean energy more visible.
Approximately 95% of each year’s $60 billion in US foundation funding goes to organizations led by white people, while 70 to 80% goes to organizations led by men. Half of climate funding is concentrated in just 20 organizations. Please tell our readers, as an expert in the field, why these statistics are so skewed.
Anybody who cares about climate action, yet alone racial and equity justice, should be alarmed by these numbers. The climate action movement is in worse shape than our democracy! We have breakthrough women and people of color being elected. I hope your readers will think about the distribution problem in the climate action community. We need to infuse more resources into the clean energy movement and to distribute these resources to communities who are directly impacted.
The Solutions Project affirms that, if we look to the frontlines of the climate action movement, we’ll see that it’s possible to achieve 100% with equity and justice for everyone. What confluence of research and activism leads The Solutions Project to make such a statement with confidence and determination?
Experience matters. I am from Buffalo, New York where, remarkably, you can meet someone working in every green job imaginable. If you come to Buffalo, you can see the transition underway.
PUSH Buffalo is led by a woman of color. It’s not just the first community solar project; it’s a project to serve senior community members. They’re taking those stories of success and taking those neighbors to Albany as part of dozens of organizations in a coalition to define what’s at the forefront of clean energy.
There are so many examples: democratization of co-ops. Leading in the south on community solar projects. The Miami Climate Alliance won a groundbreaking municipal bond measure to finance affordable solar housing. There are a dozen examples of organizations using and winning groundbreaking energy policies that have equity as its core. Their (small) total budgets are returning multi-million dollar policy victories.
These are the kinds of stories that could cause lots of excitement of hope and possibilities to adopt and even build upon these innovations. It is the role of climate philanthropy and the media capacity to get these stories told far and wide.
The Solutions Project hopes to influence other philanthropists to take the same funding approach and has already gained support from environmental philanthropy leaders such as Justin Winters of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Shamar Bibbins at The Kresge Foundation. What advocacy did the Solutions Project engage in to bring along these well-known and influential philanthropic funders?
We do issue a call for action for philanthropists, new and old. They may not declare themselves climate funders initially. Within the last 5 years, we’re seeing them become part of the moment. I was convinced to join the Solutions Project with the idea that renewable energy has 2 important parts. Think of it as, ‘They’re who’s on your roof and also who gets a voice.”
A dollar for the Solutions Project is a dollar for the field. Investment in that vision with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, for example, is growing. Our trustee committee works together, and we’re really lucky to have this innovative team of stakeholders.
The Solutions Project argues that feminine leadership is characterized by cooperation, collaboration, empathy, and bottom-up decision-making — and it is exactly this approach that is required to solve the climate crisis. What contributions to you feel that feminine leadership can offer specifically to renewable energy innovation?
From the ground up, organizing and listening to community members is part of a feminist perspective. Another Solutions Project grantee project in Brooklyn has ground up, feminine leadership. Feminine leadership is not just exhibited by women, because, as we know, gender is inclusively defined. Atlanta’s Partnership for Southern Equityhas made sure that equity is at the core of the 100% energy commitment, from the ground up, with a diversity of voices bringing the vision forward.
We are inspired not just by who is leading but how they are leading. Management research and climate science shows that women’s leadership outperforms in times of crisis. Hawkins talks about results of investment in women and girls when matched with renewable energy.
I hope we can reinforce the hope that we have in our grasp climate leadership and solutions that we are calling for, like the Green New Deal. It really is about creating the space and investing in a much greater diversity of resources.
Unless otherwise attributed, images are courtesy of The Solutions Project.