The Urban Movement Innovation Fund (UMI Fund) works to connect, align and strengthen people power for a more socially just, zero carbon future.

We draw together and amplify the efforts of NGOs working on technical solutions, or working with policy makers, with those of campaign or grassroots groups and movements working to increase citizen engagement and activity. We try to build and strengthen ‘connective tissue’ between these communities, and support innovative projects in critical locations worldwide.

Our goal is to dramatically accelerate humanity’s transition to a zero carbon world.

The opportunity:

We believe that people-powered movements are critical to creating a zero carbon world. They generate the drive and popular support necessary for huge political, cultural and technological shifts. Strong, practical and systemic breakthroughs for a sustainable future need to be supported by grassroots organisations, campaigns and movements rooted in real places.

There are many disparate local movements, individuals and community organisations who care about the same and intersecting issues and that have immediate challenges they want to address, such as cleaner air, safer streets, more socially just energy supplies or tackling waste.

These people and groups often need more resources, visibility and to grow strength in numbers – but given the support to connect and combine they are the most passionate and effective campaigners for a resilient future.

There has been substantial investment in technical, business and policy solutions, and the political setting of targets and intentions; but change in the real economy is difficult, and often contested by vested interests. Without a much greater investment in civil society, in sustaining movement leadership and the creation of social license for change, there is a risk that the essential political, social and economic shifts we need, will not happen.

Movements have the collective power to push and implement brave and practical climate solutions. For big public mobilisations to gain strong support, for global campaigns to become highly visible, and for potential tipping points to become iconic successes, the climate movement must grow in scale and impact, at all levels. We must nurture a whole ecosystem of progressive action that’s healthy, well nourished, and connected from its roots to its highest reaches.

Our response:

At UMIF we harness the energy, knowledge and expertise of civil society, in critical locations globally, combined with strategic insight into politics and opportunities, to drive movement and campaign impact towards the systemic scale the world needs.

We do this in three ways:

1. Facilitating new and unusual partnerships and collaboration, particularly between movements, organisers and people from business, technical and policy arenas. This makes all parties more powerful: aligning plans, working in complementary ways towards common goals, and delivering breakthrough change.

2. Funding climate-focused, people-powered projects, for both project level and collective impact. We seek to enable all partners to deliver immediate progress, experience success and share learning.

3. Investing in the capacity, skills and knowledge of civil society groups working to increase citizen engagement, and connecting them to co-create innovative, disruptive strategies for change. We work with a full spectrum of actors: from individual activists and small groups to place-based organisations working with informal sector workers or communities; from local or regional activist movements, such as clean air networks, to those with international reach; and from city or country-level mobilisation organisations to global organisations and networks.

Our approach:

Our work begins with collaborative scanning for opportunities that might otherwise be missed. We bring together multiple perspectives and unusual allies to identify where civil society has strong potential leverage to tackle climate challenges, especially by working in collaboration with policy-makers or technical experts.

Building trust between a diverse range of funders and the field is critical if we are to nurture a strong ecosystem for change. We have a successful and developing track record of connecting partners and hosting vibrant, motivating events (now also online) where participants establish supportive working relationships, generate new ideas and co-create strategies.

Collaboration and co-creation can lead to new insights or proposals. Our role as a fund is also to invest in the strongest of those proposals and to collaboratively assemble programmes of work that combine projects to become greater than the sum of the parts. We seek to underpin the programme of work, and support our partners, with resources to build capacity or amplify their impacts. We also strive hard to increase direct and aligned funding from more philanthropies to the field.