Below you can find a mix of blogs from the early days and overflow text
from later trustee reports which we thought might add to the
picture of who we are - and which serves to remind us where we started.
12th December 2019
Initially the below formed part of the 18-19 Trustee Report but ultimately we felt it made the report a little…wordy! So, read on to find out more about our 2018-19 year.
Initially, the board chose to place greater focus on familiarising itself with the LGBTI+ landscape, which is a smaller setting with fewer organisations than the environmental landscape.
Following a number of workshops and discussions with key players in this field, it became evident that funding for LGBTI+ children and young people is not only lacking but also where focus needs to be placed, if long-term solutions to inequality and discrimination are to be identified and sustained.
Whilst LBGTI+ support in schools historically formed part of a broader agenda (anti-bullying campaigns for example) there has been considerable reluctance to engage in direct approaches. A number of reasons have been cited for this, ranging from the belief that such action is not needed, to fears that children will be ‘turned’ LGBTI+ and even a dated view that associates LGBTI+ people with paedophilia. In many instances, parents’ fear of ‘recruitment’ is greater than their appreciation of their children’s rights or potential need for support.
The lack of research and data, which together generally help to get funders on board, has also been an issue. Many children’s rights organisations know that they’re working with LGBTI+ children but don’t explicitly address the issue. This may be because laws prevent specific questions being asked of young people and children but it could also be because doing so is uncomfortable. In some cases there may be a fear of losing funders. However, without direct approaches, impact is harder to measure, which in turn hinders a systems approach and the ability to refocus the target of intervention. Consequently, funders have to work partly on their belief that a need exists and partly on the data that does exist, often sadly collected too late; suicide rates, the average age at which trans people in the UK leave home (13), the high number of young homeless people that identify as LGBTI+ and so on.
Gender norms and (often subconscious) gender bias are at the heart of many of the challenges LGBTI+ children and young people face.
Despite an interest in supporting projects internationally, where the consequences of being openly LGBTI+ are often graver than in the UK, for reasons of logistics and experience, the Trustees chose first to enter into a partnership with a UK organisation, Lifting Limits, who seek to impact gender equality through education. The Foundation gave core funding that went largely towards a pilot scheme in five schools, the results of which will hopefully see the model adopted throughout the UK. In addition to the extremely professional nature of the organisation and scalability of its concept, there was the added advantage of a positive impact in areas beyond LGBTI+ rights, such as the gender pay gap and on equality and diversity.
THE CLIMATE CRISIS
At the same time, the Trustees began to develop their understanding of the climate crisis and possible ways to engage in this arena; ranging from the protection and growth of carbon sinks to the human behaviour aspect of the climate problem; ultimately ways of burning fewer fossil fuels.
The Foundation’s initial two areas of focus (the climate crisis and human rights) come together in climate justice; examples being the protection of environmental defenders (which if successful should result in protection of biodiversity and the environment), health implications to the general public, or the rights of those migrating as a result of natural disasters. The Foundation will continue research efforts to better understand these dynamics and projects focusing on these interplays may well feature in future grantmaking.
The Trustees found Ariadne (Global Dialogue) to be an excellent source of learning. Ariadne’s network of European funders (who support human rights and social justice) and numerous educational workshops and events provided a strong early feel for the state of funding and potential areas in which the Foundation might most effectively play its part.
The Trustees increasingly saw the link between the climate crisis and human rights; arguably reflected in the shift in public perception, with less emphasis on individual species at risk (e.g. polar bears) and more on human migration, the rise of grassroots student protests and so on – in effect, the human and political side as opposed to purely the environmental one. This learning is helping the Trustees develop the Foundation’s strategy.
During the year, the Trustees began to explore a range of impact investment areas, with a view to focussing on possibilities in the environmental sphere, so as to mirror the Foundation’s grantmaking focus.
Some of the better deep impact options were not asset-backed but rather enterprise-orientated, making these higher risk. In addition, because of the nature of these funds (often £50m+, run by small teams unable to manage hundreds of smaller investors) buy-ins were £1m+, which the Trustees felt represented a prohibitively high risk for the Kreitman Foundation to consider.
The Trustees heard the argument that some ‘safer’ investment vehicles are made to appear as though they’re helping companies to reduce their environmental footprint but are in fact designed to improve profitability or achieve a lower cost of capital (greenwashing / social washing). These safer options, such as green bonds (the Trustees were warned of fee leakages), could be considered as only making a small dent on a bigger problem that would be better addressed by the higher risk models like, for example, those which fund self-sustaining enterprises with direct benefits (e.g. greater biodiversity on solar farms, community owned ventures where surpluses go back to the organisation, not private investors and so on).
The mature, asset-back options were mostly bricks and mortar and some renewable energy.
Generally, the key challenges in the more impactful options appear to lie in the due diligence and experience required in assessing such financial opportunities (especially environmental finance in the UK which perhaps has less of a track record).
12th May 2019
A very hot topic at the moment, awareness of impact investment is growing among funders and charities, even if they remain cautious about committing. As a charity with a historically traditional investment model, we’ve found challenges in jumping straight into this arena.
In principle, we like the argument for impact investment. With the traditional model, the money you invest in equities (which themselves have no link whatsoever to your grant area) produces an income (target 5%), which you then spend on your charitable objectives. These are usually companies whose primary focus, alongside making money, are not necessarily charitable in nature.
By contrast, investing that same amount in an organisation whose primary focus, alongside making money, is charitable in nature, means that every penny of your money is having a charitable impact.
Some charities are so happy with the impact investment concept that they don’t even expect an annual return. They almost look at such investments as grants. For others, a return may be needed, for example where suitable investment opportunities may not exist in their grant field. That said, impact investment returns can obviously outperform traditional ones. Some organisations have a target percentage of their funds that they intend to move to impact investments by a certain date.
This concept really forces us to ask ourselves whether sticking with an entirely traditional model is always, charitably, the best approach.
In exploring further, one of the challenges we’ve encountered as a smaller organisation is due diligence. Many of these investment opportunities are grant-like in nature, in the sense that they are not yet regulated, quoted liquid investments; one cannot always rely on research carried out by a ratings agency as there may have been none. Our sense, largely from the seminars we’ve attended with other similar foundations, is that some traditional charities are immediately put off by this and take their research no further; but increasingly more do.
So the grant-like nature of a direct impact investment means an increase in pressure. When you make a grant, you hope it goes well (and do all you can to ensure success) but you don’t expect your money back if things don’t go as planned. The consequences of losing capital are obviously far greater.
As such, we’re asking to what extent impact investment might be something for larger organisations with dedicated impact investment teams, who themselves often have experience in the investment world? ‘Responsible’ opportunities for smaller organisations are arguably fewer.
Sticking with the more traditional, regulated opportunities, fund managers can tweak portfolios, but in order to meet the strictest of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) requirements they must accept an exceptionally limited pool of options. To a traditional fund manager, this also appears to be high risk and expensive. On this note, what sort of criteria makes something an impact investment? In discussing options, a fund manager might say that Diageo has an astoundingly strong ESG policy and rates highly on their ESG list. To what extent, however, does impact investing mean investing in a company whose business purpose itself has a social/environmental benefit?
Green/impact investment funds and bonds allow smaller amounts to be added to larger pools, where the due diligence has largely been taken care of. But then the argument arises as to whether ‘impact’ will be diluted. Is our purpose not to get our gloves off and hands dirty, à la grant-making? Is it the responsibility of smaller charitable foundations to invest in companies that don’t necessarily have a track record (and so might be perceived as high risk) but which might stand to greatly benefit society/the environment, in much the same way one might argue that smaller foundations should make grants to similarly ‘higher risk’ projects (which wouldn't obtain funding elsewhere)?
In other cases, larger organisations are happy to ‘carry’ smaller ones, allowing them to hang on the coattails of a more experienced investment team and grow expertise…but not all.
We have been attending a number of events on this theme (some interesting organisations we’ve been in touch with are below) and are examining in earnest the possibilities that impact investing represents…watch this space!
26th Aug 2018
EXPLORING NEW AREAS: CLIMATE CRISIS AND LGBTI+ YOUTH
Having created a strong platform on which to decision-make, we turned our minds to future grantmaking and a reassessment of the charity's focus areas.
Marine conservation was our starting point and something we felt, and continue to feel, passionate about. The health of our oceans is undoubtedly important. They contain a glorious abundance of life, provide for us by way of food and livelihood, but perhaps most importantly they play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate.
As we began to explore the best ways to fund marine conservation, a larger question arose; should we be focussing on this area to the exclusion of any other? We are now considering to what extent the health of oceans might improve as a byproduct of improved care for the climate in general? It may (or may not) be that we could better serve our initial interest by doing our small bit to help address the climate crisis and improve human behaviour. Continued research is to be undertaken on how these areas are currently funded, the use of natural resources, the effects of human population growth, reef destruction, global heating, ocean acidity and other connected factors.
We have also decided to hone our human welfare interest and are looking more specifically at LGBTI+ rights, especially in young people for whom the consequences of exploring or embracing their gender or sexual identity would be grave.
Initial thoughts are that LGBTI+ specific support for children and young people is met with a lot of resistance. In 2017 here in the UK a teacher made national headlines by coming out at school assembly (a largely welcomed action but provoking some objections from parents). That such an action drew so much media attention only serves to demonstrate what progress has yet to be made. Needless to say the scenarios are very different in the many countries where same-sex relationships are criminalised or in some instances punishable by death. In researching, we've also become more aware of the specific challenges faced by trans and intersex children and young people and the overarching need to address gender norms.
Worldwide philanthropic funding of this area has been increasingly well documented, in part thanks to the Global Philanthropy Project, among others. Interpreting these results however is another matter and one which we are beginning to do in earnest.
We intend to look at this more closely both here in the UK and globally.
In both instances, we will need to consider what resources to commit and the types of projects best suited to the size of such grants.
As ever, the mindmap continues to evolve...! KF MINDMAP
In a keynote address at the Human Rights Council panel discussion on climate change and the right to health, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director-General, Margaret Chan, said climate change is the defining issue for public health in the 21st century.
"Climate and weather variables affect the air people breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the chances that they will get infected by a disease".