Past project

The Future of Philanthropy for Biodiversity

The Future of Philanthropy for Biodiversity, concluded in 2023, was one of Unearthodox's three projects under the umbrella theme 'The Future of Conservation' (2021-2023). These projects culminated in the Unearthodox Learning Festival in October 2023. For insights and information on each exploration, please visit our Resource Library.

Aspiration: A diverse set of stakeholders from the philanthropic and environmental sectors collectively take forward a vision for how new and radical ways of giving and thinking could lead to systems change for people and nature to flourish as one.

For societal and biodiversity resilience and regeneration, Unearthodox is exploring the possible futures of philanthropy. What paradigm shifts are occurring that will shape ways of giving in the future? What are the new paradigms and models of funding/giving and beyond that that could increase net-positive outcomes for nature and people? For this exploration, Unearthodox is conducting background research and interviews, and plans to use the emerging themes and questions to form a state of knowledge report and spark a conversation with a diverse range of stakeholders, including philanthropists, grantees, people at the forefront of community-led conservation, and NGOs from the Global South and North.

Key Themes:
  • Power and Legacy
  • Interdependence and Inclusivity
  • Communication and Narratives
  • Operational and Funding Models
emotionpicture / AdobeStock

The Future of Philanthropy and Biodiversity: perspectives and pathways

This collaborative enquiry gathers diverse perspectives on key questions that get to the heart of how philanthropy impacts biodiversity and how new paradigms and alternative approaches could generate the best outcomes for nature, including people.
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Now more than ever, a paradigm shift is needed in philanthropy if it hopes to contribute to more durable solutions to the world’s most complex challenges. Power dynamics between grantors and grantees, donors and communities have always been an inherent part of philanthropy. In the past decade, growing awareness of economic inequality and racial disparities has begun to make these often unspoken undercurrents much more visible.  There are also issues that need exploring, such as human rights or siloed funding that create trade-offs and impede systemic impact.

In concert with this push towards philanthropic models that centre justice, equity, and diversity, there have also been repeated calls to identify and fund indigenous and community-led models and ways of conservation. While there are signs that private and institutional funders are paying attention, there has been a lag in engineering and designing systems that convert intentions and pledges into new funding mechanisms and giving structures. Creating hybrid spaces where stakeholders across geographical, power, and sectoral divides can incubate and test bold initiatives will be integral to fostering this vision of a more democratic and just form of philanthropy.

Latest highlights

Wirestock-Exclusives / AdobeStock
October 2023
In this interview, philanthropist and co-founder of Synchronicity Earth, Jessica Sweidan, imagines revolutionising conservation philanthropy and explains that the Indigenous and local communities closest to biodiversity are often the best resources for regenerative methods and practices.
Empowering Indigenous Voices
Wirestock / AdobeStock
November 2022
A passionate advocate for African-led and -born initiatives, Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli speaks about why philanthropic resources in Africa need to start empowering local models and partners and ultimately generate their own capital.
How philanthropists can be better allies to Indigenous Peoples
September 2022
Sufina Ahmad MBE, Director at the John Ellerman Foundation, asks the hard questions funders will need to answer in order to effect systems change for people and the planet.
To create systems change, philanthropy first needs to change itself
August 2022
Kathy Reich, director of BUILD at the Ford Foundation, shares her thoughts with on why philanthropy needs to become more humble and the mindset shift that gets us there.
“Philanthropy needs to become more humble”
June 2022
Insights from Jessica Villat, Head of Communication at the Luc Hoffmann Institute, on why any reimagining of philanthropic models must emerge from a wider systemic overhaul that addresses issues of equity, power, and diversity.
What is the future of philanthropy?
Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden
May 2022
A state of knowledge report is commissioned from lead author Benjamin Soskis, Senior Research Associate at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.
February 2022
Students Marija Jurcevic, Nebat Kasozi, Gal Zanir, and Christina Meister from the Masters in Conservation Leadership programme at the University of Cambridge, focus their innovation challenge project on the Future of Philanthropy. They put together an initial internal report on ‘The future of philanthropy in nature conservation’, drawing from desk research, a survey within the nature conservation sector, and interviews with a handful of people in the philanthropy sector. The report explores potential paradigm shifts that could help conservationists obtain the necessary funding to support biodiversity projects across the world.
January 2022
The themes from the Future of Conservation NGOs project are tied back to the Future of Philanthropy seedling and the idea enters our innovation pipeline with an initial small ideation budget. Chairman of the MAVA Foundation and Luc Hoffmann Institute Advisory Council member André Hoffmann calls for innovative sources of funding that better balance the needs of nature, social and human capital.
André Hoffmann on strategic philanthropy for nature regeneration
Fokussiert / Adobe Stock
December 2021
The Future of Conservation NGOs project begins to hone in on themes including operational and funding models; communication and narratives; interdependency and inclusivity; and legacy, power, and principles.
The Future of Conservation NGOs
The Future of Philanthropy begins as the seed of an idea from conversations at the Luc Hoffmann Institute in 2020.
The Future of Conservation NGOs

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