The India Climate Collaborative (ICC) hosted a donor convening from 28 August to 1 September 2023, at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, focused on building India’s next generation of climate leadership. In this update, we discuss key takeaways from the convening.

The Bellagio Center’s magic is said to lie in creating opportunities to bring diverse voices together to find solutions, experiment by considering diverse experiences, and build trust through personal connections. This magic was once again afoot on the shores of Lake Como, Northern Italy, as 20 climate scientists, researchers, photographers, and philanthropists gathered for a first-of-its-kind donor convening to build India’s next generation of climate leadership.


Here are a few key takeaways from the convening:


1.A nuanced climate lens

A big priority was to enable attendees to develop a shared foundation for their climate journeys — through a nuanced Indian lens of climate change and its solutions. They heard from experts like Dr. Johan Rockström (Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) on his latest scientific research about climate impacts and planetary boundaries, and Navroz K. Dubash (IPCC author and Professor) on India’s climate and development landscape. Arati Kumar-Rao (National Geographic explorer, environmental photographer and writer) wove urgency and the need for equity into the climate narrative, through her visual storytelling session. She showcased her groundbreaking research to capture the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, drawing from her new book ‘Marginlands: Indian Landscapes on the Brink’.


By reflecting on how climate change impacts their work, attendees discussed how climate is no longer a sector, but a lens impacting decision-making across mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, across industries. They were able to appreciate the intricacies that make climate action so complex, given differing political, cultural, and socio-economic contexts across India, and diverse agroecological zones.


Furthermore, as solutions differ based on each region’s needs, there emerged a consensus that it is critical to think about building climate capacities of diverse local actors, focusing on subnational climate action.


2. The ideal role of philanthropy


Having dwelled on how to shape their climate lens, attendees were excited by the shared promise of philanthropy: its catalytic power and how it can strategically boost inclusive climate action. It can build




climate and institutional capacities of local actors, disseminate critical knowledge to stakeholders, support data and evidence building, de-jargonise the climate conversation, and, importantly, provide risk-free capital to early-stage innovations till they can attract private finance.


Recognising these opportunities, this convening presented a unique platform to integrate learnings from the Global North into India’s evolving climate lens. Dr. Kristian Parker (Trustee, Oak Foundation) and Elizabeth McKeon (Director of Planet, IKEA Foundation) shared crucial learnings from their extensive climate philanthropy in the Global North. To enable a better understanding of the ideal role of philanthropy in addressing India’s specific climate problems, the ICC team shared critical lessons from our research on the ecosystem, and our mapping of priorities and solutions for the climate ecosystem; Jennifer Kitt (President, Climate Leadership Initiative) also shared innovative possibilities for climate investment.


Vidya Shah (Executive Chairperson, EdelGive Foundation) and Mirik Gogri (Sustainability Investor, Spectrum Impact) also reflected on lessons from traditional and climate philanthropy to illustrate success stories for the benefit of attendees who were at the beginning of their climate or giving journeys. During formal sessions and intimate discussions, other attendees also shared their personal journeys, and motivations for embracing philanthropic leadership. This was instrumental in helping us lay a foundation for trusted networks and a community of next-generation philanthropists that can leverage each other’s expertise and networks.


“Being at the beginning of my philanthropic journey, I came to Bellagio with a sponge-like mind, ready to absorb from some of our country’s greatest minds the direction they see climate action in India progressing towards and how businesses and foundations can chart this path forward. I left feeling enriched, inspired, and ready to put into action some of the themes we had discussed- enriching our innate climate resilience, raising awareness towards how climate change is touching our lives in every way- health, nature, and more, and the power of collaborative thinking.” — Rishika Reddy, Co-Founder, The Mend Packaging


As the ICC also hopes to amplify Indian leaders’ perspectives on climate and not just their giving, United Nations High-Level Climate Champion Razan Al-Mubarak emphasised the need for better representation of Indian philanthropy on the global stage — at events like the UNFCCC’s COP28 later this year.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, located on the shores of Lake Como, Italy © Gaurav Gupta

Attendees gather for a discussion on the grounds of the Bellagio Center © Gaurav Gupta

© Gaurav Gupta

3. Simplifying climate communication


Climate communication is often complex, abstract, and removed from local cultural context. How do we get the average citizen to care about climate change and make a positive impact? Recognising cultural barriers to awareness and action, attendees discussed this question, and the need for climate change information and data to be socialised through


different means — such as traditional knowledge, Indian or regional storytelling, and without jargon, to reach different audiences.


The ICC’s first such convening saw great excitement to learn about the latest science, physical climate risks, and promising solutions — a hopeful foundation for the hard work ahead, and a start to deeper collaborations across the Global North and Global South.


Stay tuned for updates, as we enable philanthropic leaders in India to helm our collective climate aspirations and chart a climate-resilient future!


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