The Pollination Project’s global community of 4,000+ grassroots volunteer leaders in 120+ countries is comprised of individuals who have deep ties to their communities, experience organizing resources around a defined need, and the desire to serve their neighbors.
Many times through our organization’s history, we have seen this network of leaders redirect or adapt their work to respond to an emergency in their respective community. Through civil unrest, natural disasters and public health crises, we have seen many examples of ways in which bottom-up responses unfold more quickly, demonstrate greater flexibility, and illustrate intimate knowledge of the locally particular needs of complex and diverse communities.
Perhaps the most large-scale example of this happened in March 2020, when we activated over 300 changemakers in 42 countries to rapidly respond in the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of what value is a small seed grant in the face of such a threat, you may wonder? A review of the work that was supported at that time found that each project served an average of 1,049 humans or non-human animals and mobilized 150+ hours of additional volunteer service. The projects varied greatly but all served a need brought on by the pandemic. Some representative examples include:
- A retired agriculture teacher who advises the Future Farmers of America at a high school in the midwest. Using his deep knowledge of how to grow food, he mobilized student volunteers and used a 40 acre land laboratory to grow thousands of pounds of food for local food banks, who faced reduced donations at a time when food insecurity was at a peak. With $660 in seed funding, this group bought seeds and materials to grow cucumbers, beans, radishes, and lettuce, among other crops, that will feed thousands of his neighbors;
- A doctor in Kolkata who recognized how vulnerable the urban slums in his hometown were. He read the WHO’s gold standard hand sanitizer recipe, and realized the ingredients could be purchased for minimal cost. He applied for support through The Pollination Project for a project to train 2–3 marginalized youth in each slum to produce the hand sanitizer and then distribute it to families in their slum. This way, it could continue even during lockdown, eventually serving 2,500 families with a seed grant of just $900. This is possible because of his existing ties, volunteerism and passion for the community, and the cultural knowledge that guided his program design;
- A social worker in India who found a way to deliver rice, cooking oil, and dal to 150 vulnerable families on the brink of disaster, providing them enough food for a full month with just $650;
- A doctor in Nigeria working to bring COVID-19 education, masks and hand sanitizer to crowded prisons, helping to protect thousands of inmates who otherwise may have been forgotten.
Our philosophy of giving means we can be agile and act quickly, without bureaucracy and red tape. It means we can support projects built on the deep roots and existing networks that individuals have within their communities, and supercharge direct responses with the power that can only come from the depth of concern people have for the communities they love. Suddenly, there is no red tape: direct and immediate relief flows to individuals who have a vision of service for their neighbors. And the speed and extent to which change happens in this model is astonishing.
We have chosen to make the Resilience and Recovery Fund an ongoing, permanent resource. We will open this fund when the scale of emergency warrants the activation of our network, and when we have enough support from our donors to fund a reasonable proportion of anticipated requests.