The Christensen Fund pursues its mission mainly through place-based investments in a small number of regions with exceptional cultural and biological diversity. Approximately three quarters of Christensen’s grantmaking is focused within five regional programs:
In addition to our regional programs, our Global Program funds 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.
All of our programs focus on specific issues that fall within four main programmatic themes:
- Sustaining Foodways and Livelihoods within Biocultural Landscapes and Seascapes
- Ensuring Socio-ecological Resilience of Landscapes and Seascapes
- Celebrating and Revitalizing Cultural Expression
- 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 the location of our headquarters, Christensen also connects with Native Californians working to restore their cultural connections to the land through our San Francisco Bay Area Program.
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 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 are likely to 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.
Consequently we work with many other funders 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 rooted in local social systems which can then complement existing western NGO models. 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.