As a compliment and counterpoint to large, top-down approaches that emphasize institutional answers to the most pressing issues facing our world, we believe that there is significant untapped wisdom and power in solutions that grow from the bottom up.
Since 2014, we have built a diverse community of nearly 5,000 grassroots volunteer leaders in 116 countries working on projects spanning every major social issue, including 822 grants in 64 countries expressly focused on animal welfare and farmed animal activism. As a vegan organization, even those projects that are not directly working on animal welfare cannot in any way, directly or indirectly, contribute to the suffering of non-human animals. This is part of our ongoing commitment to compassion consciousness, which you can learn more about in this video.
Through TPP, these leaders access seed funding through our daily microgrants program, ongoing capacity-building support, and connectivity with others in their geographic or focus area. Our community is predominantly made up of leaders who could not access funding from traditional foundations, many of which view grassroots efforts as too small, diffuse, risky, or labor-intensive.
Embracing grassroots efforts offers a meaningful opportunity for intellectual diversity and lasting impact. This model works because organizations do not build movements – people do. Those who are closest to the problem itself are the ones who are the most invested in seeking solutions, and they are familiar with and able to mobilize local resources, relationships, and networks in a way that is simply out of reach for outside actors.
We believe that there is value in keeping power and agency at a local level. When communities are encouraged to solve their own challenges, they are more resilient, sustainable, and able to catalyze enduring change. Investments in grassroots work, free from constraints of administrative overhead and bureaucracy, often goes further than other interventions.
The authenticity behind these efforts garners community trust, creating networks and a critical nexus of alignment that anchors and amplifies the work itself. Simply put, a groundswell of support simply cannot come from a top-down approach.
Many projects that receive seed funding from The Pollination Project go on to become significant forces in the animal advocacy movement, proving that even large-scale change often begins at a grassroots level. A few stories and examples include:
Material Innovation Initiative
Stephanie Downs, a highly experienced entrepreneur, and Nicole Rawling, a lawyer with over 13 years of experience in the plant-based food industry, combined their skillsets and founded the Material Innovation Initiative. The first nonprofit of its kind, MII connects entrepreneurs and scientists with retailers and consumers to bridge the gap between those creating and those distributing next-gen materials- plant-based alternatives to leather, down, and other materials. These women imagined and are creating a world where “the sustainable option is the default one,” and animal products are replaced by plant-based and lab-grown alternatives.
Upon receiving their first seed grant from the Pollination Project, MII built a top-notch website. They created a space that was not only beautiful, it was effective at highlighting the uniqueness of their work. The website allowed them to get their message much further out into the world to connect with people and connect the right people to one another in order to create a solution that is comparable, if not better, to animal products.
In 2014, Toronto-based photo-journalist Jo-Anne McArthur received a grant from the Pollination Project and created the “We Animals Humane Education Program, an initiative consisting of a series of humane education presentations for youth and adults. The purpose of the program was to foster awe, curiosity, and critical thinking about our relationship with animals while instilling reverence, respect and inspiration in people to become agents of positive change for animals in their community and around the world.
Jo-Anne McArthur founded the We Animals project which was an archive of photographs about the often complex and difficult human-animal relationships of contemporary society. The We Animals project has been featured in over 100 campaigns and publications worldwide. McArthur decided to create the “We Animals’ Humane Education Programs” as a branch of We Animals in order for the stories to reach a broader audience, specifically youth. McArthur’s vision was that programs would play a role in shaping more empathic citizens.
Equalia is an organization working to generate change in society, improve the quality of people ́s lives and protect the environment and animals. They focused on implementing a new law in Spain to equip all slaughterhouses with closed recording circuit cameras in order to prevent animal abuse.
With the Pollination Project grant, Equalia invested in a corporate outreach expert believing that meeting with companies and institutions would result in quicker policy agreements and social support. The goal was to affect political change at the regional and national levels. In addition, they launched undercover investigations while having meetings with politicians and companies and asking labor unions and consumer associations for support.
Their campaign, “Right to information – Install CCTV in all slaughterhouses” launched in November 2018 requesting mandatory CCTV cameras to be installed in every Spanish slaughterhouse. After 1 year and 9 months of campaigning, more than 70% of all slaughtered animals were being slaughtered with the surveillance cameras. This measure impacted 637 million farm animals per year in Spain.
In addition, Equalia passed Non Legislative Motions in 4 autonomous communities: Navarra, La Rioja, Madrid and Baleares. This would not have been possible without the undercover investigations that the organization released. For the first time in Spain, images from a worker going undercover in a slaughterhouse and installing hidden cameras were published and gained global media attention while reaching 20 countries and 143M readers.
Forum Animal, an animal rights group in Brazil, seeks to protect animals across the country, regardless of species. While the seed grant from The Pollination Project in 2018 was for a project to end donkey slaughter, they have gone on to become one of the main organizations working on farmed animal advocacy in Brazil. Sônia Peralli Fonseca founded the organization in 1998 and has been leading the way in the development of animal advocacy and protection ever since. From speaking with companies in an effort to have them commit to not using eggs from hens raised in cages to training educators in Brazilian municipalities in the Humanitarian Environmental Education course in Animal Welfare, Animal Forum is leading the way in animal advocacy today.
If these stories are inspirational to you, visit thepollinationproject.org for more examples of meaningful change sparked by grassroots community leadership. And if you have a project you would like our advisor team to consider for funding, apply online quickly and easily at the link on our homepage. Together, we can create a kinder, more compassionate world for all beings!