Foundation awards $4.5M including new Accelerator grants to advance data-driven climate solutions

Categories: Announcements , Climate + Data

New grants include the 2022 Accelerator Grant Program recipients who will receive technical support and advanced analytics with the Foundation’s data services team

BOSTON – The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation has named 10 climate action organizations around the world to the 2022 Accelerator Grant Program to advance their use of data and AI for impact, as part of its $4.5 million commitment to climate action.

The Accelerator Grant recipients will receive data support, tools, and expert guidance from the Foundation’s in-house Direct Data and AI Services team for a data project, as well as $100,000 in this innovative philanthropic-nonprofit collaboration. Another $3.5 million in grants has been awarded to 11 more organizations for climate action innovations including a World Emissions Clock, a Natural Climate Solutions Roadmap, and an open-source Surface Temperature Data Set.

“To meet the urgent challenges of climate change, we need to deploy data science and AI in new and innovative ways,’ said President Vilas Dhar. “The Accelerator Program coupled with our climate grants will empower nonprofits to gain deeper insights into the solutions needed to build a more equitable and sustainable future.”

“Artificial intelligence and big data have brought computing, medicine, and agriculture into a new era of precision — and they can do the same for conservation. Addressing the climate crisis will require the greatest mobilization of resources in human history, and emerging technologies will help us make smarter, higher-impact investments,” said Conservation International’s CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan. “This generous grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation will put Conservation International on the leading edge of innovation. We look forward to partnering with the Foundation to reshape how conservation programs are planned, executed, and monitored.” 

The 2022 Accelerators are a group of global nonprofits working from New Jersey to Honduras to India on a range of environmental issues, including wildlife and marine conservation, land management, wind energy, and soil carbon sequestration. A number of the projects will focus on the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this diverse group of nonprofits as the next cohort of Accelerator partners,” said Claudia Juech, the Foundation’s Vice President of Data and Society. “Each of these organizations is at a different stage of data maturity, and we are looking forward to working with them to strengthen their capacity to test and deliver on their data experiments around the world.”

Many of these organizations have been developing the ideas for their data experiments for some time, said Nikita Japra, senior manager of the Accelerator program, and they’ve needed more than funding to test their hypotheses. “The Foundation enables the selected nonprofits to be able to take a risk on these proof-of-concept data projects, and, at the same time, helps them establish the building blocks of a more advanced culture of data use.”

Throughout the yearlong Accelerator Program, the Foundation’s Data and Society team will guide the projects with technical support, training on advanced data analytics platforms, and data management best practices. The model emphasizes shared learning – including documenting and setting an example for how other nonprofits can advance nonprofit data maturity in an impactful, responsible, inclusive way.

“There is a great opportunity to shed light on climate change’s impacts on artisan populations around the globe,” said Rebecca van Bergen, Founder and Executive Director of Nest, one of the Accelerator grant recipients. “With the support of the Accelerator Program, we’re looking forward to receiving expert guidance and tools as we analyze a robust data set from our artisan communities that shares both the impact of climate change on their communities, as well as their creative solutions.” 

The Foundation has expanded its support for climate action, with new and renewed grants for organizations around the world. The grants support opportunities to address climate change with a diverse group of climate actors focused on building data infrastructure to inform interventions and policy. 

“The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is playing a crucial role in supporting the work of earth defenders around the world who are seeking to use technology and data to protect critical ecosystems,” said Emily Jacobi, Founder and Executive Director of Digital Democracy. “Last year, we launched the Earth Defenders Toolkit thanks to the Foundation’s support. Now, we are thrilled to extend the work of the toolkit and expand access to new communities who are on the frontlines of local efforts to fight climate change.”

“With the support of the Accelerator Program, we’re looking forward to receiving expert guidance and tools as we analyze a robust data set from our artisan communities that shares both the impact of climate change on their communities, as well as their creative solutions.”

Nest Founder and CEO

The 2022 Accelerators include: 

Centro Para la Biodiversidad Marina y La Conservación, A.C. generates scientific knowledge and facilitates its integration into conservation processes and decision making throughout Mexico. Their research covers topics relevant to Mexican society such as fisheries management, protection of biodiversity, as well as the contributions that the use of natural capital generates to social wellbeing. Their Accelerator project will develop spatial models that can help fisheries adapt their resource management strategies to extreme environmental events.

Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) works closely with governments, businesses and civil society to build an open, joined-up, data-driven government contracting ecosystem to fix problems and deliver results. Through this grant, OCP will collaborate with CivicDataLab to develop an intelligent data model that combines fiscal, geospatial and demographic data to improve the equitable distribution of flood preparedness and relief infrastructure, goods and services in Assam, India.

International Institute for Urban Development partners with policymakers to provide applied research, technical assistance, and capacity building for sustainable urban and regional development. Their AI Climate platform will use machine learning to identify socially vulnerable areas to predict and track flooding hazards, landslides, and land values in Honduras.

Earthrise Media encourages the protection of the planet by democratizing data through online investigations and data dashboards. This grant will be used to index Earth observations for monitoring, reporting, and verifying plastic waste sites with satellite imagery.

Point Blue Conservation Science advances climate smart solutions, ecosystem science, partnership, and outreach to protect birds and other wildlife. This project will develop data-driven approaches to determine optimal placement of offshore wind farms to maximize energy production and minimize biodiversity impact.

Nest supports the growing creative engagement of the artisan economy to strengthen gender equity and economic inclusion This grant will support a first-of-its kind analysis of the impact of climate change on local artisan communities and livelihoods.

The Rutgers University – New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center and NJAES Office of Research Analytics work to help New Jersey adapt to climate change through research, the development of tools and technical guidance, and stakeholder engagement. This grant will support the further development of a climate hazard data visualization and mapping tool to determine the needs of populations most vulnerable to health inequities caused by climate change.

The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation works to ensure the survival of Africa’s remaining chimpanzee populations and their habitats. This grant will support the use of machine learning on camera trap videos to better automate accurate species detection across Africa in order to efficiently  monitor animal populations in the wild.

Pecan Street Inc. leverages big data and innovation to drive advances in emission reductions, climate resilience, and quality of life. With this grant, Pecan Street will strengthen its machine learning capacity to refine soil carbon models that will enable better estimates of soil carbon sequestration and the promotion of regenerative farming practices.

UNICEF is the United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. This grant will be used to refine weather-related displacement data models to generate deeper insights into the needs of children who are uprooted in the context of climate change.

“Addressing the climate crisis will require the greatest mobilization of resources in human history, and emerging technologies will help us make smarter, higher-impact investments.”

Conservation International CEO

The climate action grants include:

American Forests protects existing forests and tree canopy, and works to improve tree cover to promote social equity and slow climate change. This grant will support the use of machine learning and AI for their Tree Equity Score to estimate tree canopy data across U.S. cities. ($250,000)

The Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) works to conserve biological diversity, promote sustainable development, improve ecosystem conservation and restoration policy, and strengthen the capacity of the government and non-government organizations to use the best knowledge and data to solve conservation and restoration problems. This grant will support the launch of a program to strengthen the ecoinformatics infrastructure for state-of-the-art eco-analytics. ($150,000)

Climate TRACE is a global coalition of nonprofits, technology companies, and universities catalyzing climate action. This grant will enable the upgrade of a publicly available dataset to include estimates of emissions from hard-to-track sectors. ($175,000)

Climate Interactive is a global nonprofit think-tank that envisions a thriving world where greenhouse gas emissions are falling rapidly. Rooted in the fields of system dynamics modeling and systems thinking, Climate Interactive creates and shares tools that help people see connections and drive effective and equitable climate action.  This grant will support the development of the En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator, an online and open access model for global political and business leaders. ($175,000)

World Resources Institute partners with government, business and civil society to research, design and carry out practical solutions that simultaneously improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. This grant will strengthen WRI’s Data Lab’s capacity to support researchers across the organization to harness the full power of the data revolution and modern technology to solve today’s most pressing issues. ($500,000)

World Data Lab (WDL) develops datasets and web tools to track the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in real time to help people and organizations developing data-driven solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges. With this grant, WDL will create and deploy a World Emissions Clock in the leadup to COP27 and the G7 in 2022. This new global data-model would support the climate community by presenting real-time estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by country, sector and type of emissions. ($200,000)

WattTime offers technology solutions that make it easier for individuals and organizations to achieve emissions reductions. The grant will support the advancement of emissionality through increased global coverage and publicizing partnerships. ($500,000)

Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) advances policies that deliver spectacular improvement to the speed and scale of environmental progress. This grant will expand the EPIC tech program to equip local, state and federal agencies to utilize digital infrastructure and innovations to meet critically important environmental stewardship goals. ($250,000)

Conservation International tackles climate change by protecting, managing and restoring nature. This grant will support the Exponential Roadmap for Natural Climate Solutions, a science-based decision support system for governments and global actors, and development of an institutional strategy for leveraging technology to amplify and enhance protection of nature. ($750,000)  

Berkeley Earth is an independent climate science and communications group that produces original climate data products, data visualization, climate policy research, and scientific communication. This grant will support its open-source Surface Temperature Data Set to inform the global conversation around climate change for policymakers, academia, and other key stakeholders. ($100,000)

Digital Democracy works in solidarity with marginalized communities to use technology to defend their human and environmental rights. This grant will support Digital Democracy’s work around the globe, as they provide hands-on programmatic accompaniment and expand the Earth Defenders Toolkit, a collaborative space for earth defenders and their allies. The toolkit provides approaches to using technology that support local autonomy and ownership over tools and data, reduce reliance on outside support, and amplify Indigenous community efforts to protect their critical ecosystems. ($500,000)

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is a global 21st century philanthropy bridging the frontiers of artificial intelligence, data science and social impact to create a thriving, equitable and sustainable future for all. The Foundation’s work focuses on bringing together academia, practitioners, and civil society to pursue the potential of AI and data science to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges.