Three Communities to Receive Eight Years of Funding to Build a Just Economy

November 30, 2015

The Chorus Foundation is pleased to announce that it has identified three frontline communities to receive eight years of grant support to speed a just transition to a regenerative economy that works for people, places, and planet.

These communities—in Alaska; Richmond, California; and Buffalo, New York—serve as inspiring examples of how communities across the country are building a new economy based on the principles of broadly shared economic prosperity, democratic governance and ownership, and climate justice.

Anchor organizations in these three communities will join grantees in Eastern Kentucky as recipients of long-term support from the Chorus Foundation to advance a transition to a low-carbon economy that is equitable. In 2013, Chorus made a ten-year commitment of grant funding to Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), and allied organizations working to create a better future for the region.

“Creating political and economic change on a large scale requires sustained partnerships over time,” said Farhad Ebrahimi, the founder and chair of the Foundation. “That’s why the Chorus Foundation is committed to providing long-term support in a select number of places that have been adversely affected by our extractive economic system.”

Anchor organizations in Alaska, Richmond, and Buffalo will receive eight years of general operating support. In addition, the Foundation will support other allied organizations and activities in each region. Our commitment to each community is, at minimum, $500,000 per year in grants.

The anchor organizations in each community include:


Richmond, California

Buffalo, New York

What is a Just Transition?

Our country is in the midst of a great transition ushered in by the confluence of at least three interconnected crises—a political crisis characterized by civic disenfranchisement, an economic crisis characterized by severe inequality, and an ecological crisis characterized by escalating climate change.

The transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable, but its character is still to be determined. Will the transition bend towards justice? Toward greater voice and participation by those who have been disenfranchised? Toward shared prosperity for all Americans? And toward sustainable development that recognizes ecological limits? Or will the transition simply reinforce the current political and economic structures that have led us into the current crises?

The Chorus Foundation recognizes that the communities that have been most severely affected by these crises are best situated to respond to the triple crisis, since these communities understand that they must struggle across all three of these domains—political, economic, and ecological—simultaneously, not separately, to identify a pathway toward a just transition to broad political engagement, shared economic prosperity, and ecological sustainability.

The Three Grantee Communities

Chorus has identified these three communities from among many allied communities across the country that are leading the way to such a just transition. These communities have been feeling the impacts of the triple crises for decades, but they are also demonstrating what a pathway towards justice and equity might look like.

Alaska; Richmond, California; and Buffalo, New York—each uniquely serves as an example of how communities across the United States and the world are beginning to build new models that respect people, place, and planet:

  • Indigenous lifeways remain largely intact in Alaska—more so than in any other part of the country. Alaska is also the home of the largest coal and oil deposits, the largest virgin forestlands, and the largest commercial fisheries in the United States. Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are working together in new ways to develop structures for managing land- and water-based renewable resources that integrate the deep knowledge base and unique perspectives of Alaskan Native cultures and communities.
  • Richmond, California, is the site of one of the largest oil refineries in the country. In its shadow, a low-income community of color faces disproportionate levels of poverty, asthma, cancer, and other public health impacts. Yet local progressive politicians have been able to win control of the city council against oil-industry-backed candidates who were able to spend ten times as much money on their election campaigns, and community activists are growing new economic models for local clean energy and food movements. In Richmond, low-income communities of color are creating new pathways to political and economic power.
  • Like other post-industrial cities, Buffalo, New York, has experienced decades of disinvestment. Today, Buffalo is the third poorest city in the United States, with over half of its children living in poverty. For the past seven years, the Buffalo Green Development Zone has executed a plan to reduce carbon consumption, promote renewable energy expansion, and generate green jobs in the city’s low-income neighborhoods. In addition, the Zone promotes neighborhood development without displacing the very residents who have established the character of the neighborhood.

Each place offers examples of ordinary citizens joining forces to create a more just and hopeful future. Each, we believe, needs sustained funding to build on the hard work of frontline groups and individuals and to create long-term, systemic change.

“Throughout the process of identifying these three communities,” said Farhad Ebrahimi, “Chorus had the privilege of learning about many other communities that are engaged in similar work. This work is both too broad and too deep for any one foundation to fully support, and so the Foundation has also committed itself to the task of organizing the larger philanthropic community around the values and the work of just transition.”

About the Chorus Foundation

The Chorus Foundation works for a just transition to a regenerative economy in the United States. We support communities on the front lines of the old, extractive economy to build new bases of political, economic, and cultural power for systemic change.

We envision an economy in which everyone can find meaningful work; an environment in which everyone has access to clean air, clean water, and a stable climate; and a democracy in which everyone has a say.

The long-term plan is for the Foundation to spend out our principal in its entirety—or to “sunset”—by 2024. We believe that the climate crisis is simply too urgent for us to do otherwise. In addition to making grants, the Foundation is committed to identifying opportunities for investing its principal in ways that support frontline communities.

The Foundation does not accept unsolicited requests for support.