Today, the Just Transition Fund is excited to kick off our blog, From The Frontlines. Over the next several months, we’ll hear from social entrepreneurs, community leaders, and workers on the frontlines of the transition.
Before we say more about the blog, first, a bit of background about the Fund and who we are...
Three years ago, President Obama launched the federal POWER program, providing the first-ever national funding to help communities affected by the changing coal economy. To help communities access federal dollars—and to jumpstart national philanthropy’s investment in economic transition—we created the Just Transition Fund. The Fund builds the capacity of frontline communities and helps create economic opportunity in places hit hard by the energy transition. Since 2015, we’ve helped ensure workers and communities aren’t left behind, and frontline communities have the resources they need to transition away from coal.
Across the country—from the Appalachia to Montana to the Rust Belt—communities face tremendous economic challenges. Job loss, declining local government budgets, and reduced funding for schools and health services—caused by an eroding tax base—are realities for communities affected by closures. For decades, coal plants and mines have been the economic engines of the local economy. As our country reduces its use of coal, these communities most acutely feel the resulting economic shocks.
At the Fund, we're influenced by a decade of investment in on-the-ground Appalachian transition, which shows the most sustainable strategies are driven by communities. Solutions must be responsive to the needs of those affected. They must also be equitable. We recognize the health of people and communities matter. At the Fund, it's not the economy or the environment. It's both.
We’re also driven by the desire to solve a problem. When we launched, the United States was at the beginning of the great energy transformation. We recognized the transition was creating new and different problems for communities—and that they needed both resources and access to specialized assistance to respond. Neither alone is sufficient. Intentionally designed as a hybrid—part grantmaker, part catalyst—the Fund provides both direct investments and technical assistance to the field.
From the Frontlines...
In our new blog, we’ll relay stories of our grantees bringing 21st century jobs—and new community economic development models—to coal country. Our partners are launching creative wrap-around worker retraining programs, supporting entrepreneurs, and advocating for necessary investment and infrastructure policies. From Appalachia to the Southwest, communities are moving away from coal toward clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and even to new tech and the creative economy. We’ll bring you their stories.
In future blog posts, we’ll also highlight successes, feature guest bloggers, and provide reflections from our perspective in the field. You’ll also read about new strategies and trends, like the changing nature of work. As automation displaces traditional jobs—and the knowledge and gig economy become more relevant—we’ll talk about how “work,” traditionally defined, is evolving and how local innovators are adapting. Like us, we hope you’ll be inspired by the big and bold ideas emerging from the field.
At the Fund, our ultimate goal is to build resilient communities. To do this, we must build bridges between communities and across regions. We must also engage both the public and private sectors. The potential for collaboration—and the magnitude of collective impact—is unlimited.
We welcome your feedback and ideas, and invite you to join the conversation.