Programs


The Christensen Fund pursues its mission mainly through place-based investments in a small number of regions with exceptional cultural and biological diversity. The focus on specific regions reflects both the practical value we see in supporting the efforts of locally-recognized community stewards and custodians, as well as a belief that the regions selected are important to the long term future of diversity on the planet. Approximately three quarters of Christensen’s grantmaking funds is focused within five regional programs. For information about how we selected these regions, and our theory of change, see: Our Regional Approach.

To learn about the themes and priority landscapes in each of the regions, please click below:

African Rift Valley  /  Central Asia  / US Southwest  /  NW Mexico  /  Melanesia  /  Northern Australia

In addition to our regional programs, we fund international efforts to build global understanding and advance policy change, and to connect the work of our grantees in these regions with others from around the world. This work is the purview of the Global Program.

Our Regional and Global Programs focus on specific issues that fall within four main programmatic themes:

  1. Sustaining Foodways and Livelihoods within Biocultural Landscapes and Seascapes
  2. Ensuring Socio-ecological Resilience of Landscapes and Seascapes
  3. Celebrating and Revitalizing Cultural Expression
  4. Promoting Knowledge Systems and Biocultural Education

Additionally, the following elements are interwoven throughout all of our programs:

  • Rights and representation
  • Gender Equality
  • Leadership development
  • Creative practitioners

Given our location in the San Francisco Bay Area, Christensen also connects locally with organizations in this creative and forward thinking community, and in particular with diaspora from our priority regions and with the indigenous Ohlone, Miwok and other communities. This work is undertaken through our San Francisco Bay Area Program. We also maintain a tradition of Bay Area Charitable Giving and make occasional grants to support community recovery from major disasters.

Christensen also supports the efforts of the philanthropic community to advance indigenous, international and biocultural grantmaking through various Grantmaking Associations.

Time Frame and Co-funding

The Christensen Fund takes a long-term approach to its work, recognizing that change on the issues related to biocultural diversity can only happen at the speed of the landscape and cultural processes themselves, namely on inter-generational timescales. Furthermore, it takes time to build institutions, and for institutions like foundations to learn about what approaches work best in different places.

For these reasons, and to maintain the Fund at a broadly similar scale and long-term effectiveness, the Trustees have decided to manage the fund at a steady state level, especially given that challenges for biological and cultural diversity will doubtless continue.

The structure of The Christensen Fund’s programs reflects the tensions between our belief in long-term, slow processes of change, and the fact that one of our primary motivations is to open up new issues and regions to attention and support.  We do not want to create a situation where our grantees are overly dependent on our funds, unable to advance their own resilience and sovereignty and never able to move to a scale of change bigger than we can fund. We hope to be able to phase out support for one set of exciting institutions to enable another region or issue to gain support and similarly flourish.

However, increasing the availability of funds in the regions and issues we have selected is not easy, given the paucity of funding for holistic and bottom-up approaches and for Indigenous communities.

Consequently we work with many other funders considering giving this kind of support, and actively strive to enable our grantees to create or find their own sources of financing and grow beyond our initial investments. In other words, we work with an exit plan even as we engage long term. We seek to support the ability of these societies to solve their own problems, and to sustain biocultural diversity and their landscapes in perpetuity without depending on a single, small foundation.

One measure of success in this regard is for local communities to develop their own re-granting organizations or trusts with their own funding base; institutions innovatively rooted in local social systems which can then complement existing western NGO models.  In such endeavors we increasingly find new funding partners for this work who are excited by the potential of backing locally-driven change in all its cost-efficiency and complexity.