River Network’s Climate Justice Flow Fund Circle

The River Network Climate Justice Flow Fund Circle is a community of people and organizations that are working with flow funds distributed by River Network, inspired by Flow Funding philanthropy principles. As the initiator, River Network seeks to fund people and projects that are typically outside of the traditional proposal-based grantmaking structures while examining the privilege and power inherent in typical philanthropic efforts. River Network is giving money to four Flow Funders to support Flow Fund Recipients in their communities on projects that address the impacts of climate change and promote social and water equity. 

From October 2021 to June 2022, four Flow Funders formed a leadership circle to share experiences, ideas, successes, and challenges in doing this work. Find their stories and reflections below, meet the fund recipients, and check back often for details on the next iterations of this work.

Meet the 2021-2022 Flow Funders

  • Arthur Johnson Chief Executive Director, Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED)
  • Daniel Wiley Managing Director, The HUUB
  • Monica Lewis-Patrick Co-Founder, President, and CEO, We the People of Detroit
  • Teresa Davis Director of Government Affairs and Community Engagement, Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience


July 13, 2022: As the first year of flow funding comes to a close, hear from Lisa Runkel and Renée Mazurek, as well as clips from the Flow Funders themselves, reflecting on the experience. Click the play button below to listen and read the full transcript here.

Meet the 2021-2022 Flow Fund Recipients

Flow fund recipient, Dr. Bernard Singleton, and students participated in the 8th Annual HBCU Climate Change Conference on April 13, 2022. Photo courtesy Dr. Bernard Singleton.
Teresa Davis and Flow Fund recipient, Bridgette Murray from ACTS, meet to discuss their flow funding partnership, and receive a coincidental sign from their waiter that they're on the right path. Photo courtesy Teresa Davis.

Leona Tate Foundation for Change, funded by Arthur Johnson
Bernard Singletonfunded by Arthur Johnson
Flint Development Centerfunded by Monica Lewis-Patrick
The Junction Coalition, funded by Monica Lewis-Patrick
Idlewild/Lake County Merry Makers, funded by Monica Lewis-Patrick
ACTSfunded by Teresa Davis
“Orange Patches” by Haile Bennett, funded by Daniel Wiley

River Rally 2022 Plenary Panel – Getting Unstuck: Stepping Into Power with Philanthropy

As River Rally 2022 approached, we knew trust-based philanthropy would be a powerful, important, and timely topic for a plenary panel. Panelists Mike Harris (a Flow Fund recipient), Melanie Allen (The Hive Fund), Teresa Davis (a Flow Funder), Arthur Johnson (a Flow Funder), Tyeshia Wilson (Philanthropy Together), and moderator Ronda Chapman (River Network board member) encouraged us to rethink our relationships to wealth and community and shared inspiring stories about novel approaches that both democratize philanthropy from the ground up and use trust as a vehicle for shifting power. If you missed the panel at Rally or weren’t with us in DC, we’re thrilled to share the panel in full, free for all to watch and listen to.

We hope you use will use the recording of this plenary panel as a catalyst for conversations in your own organizations and communities and want to point you to these resources from Trust-Based Philanthropy to serve as an additional resource. Whether you are a community-based or non-profit organization or a funder, we invite you to let this conversation challenge you and change the way you think about philanthropy. This is a deep and heart-felt conversation – we encourage you to take a walk, sit in the sun, go to a nearby park or body of water, tend to your garden or any other activity that brings you peace and allows your mind to truly focus and absorb the content so you can bring your perspectives and reactions fully to any follow-up conversations you may have.

Don’t have time to watch the full panel? Check out the panel’s intro video and this video of panel highlights.

Flow Funders and River Network staff share closing reflections after our January 21, 2022 Climate Justice Flow Fund Circle meeting. River Network staff and board members supporting this initiative include: Lisa Runkel, Renée Mazurek, Nicole Silk, Diana Toledo, and Rhonda Chapman.

“…it’s a model for our young people…and, our not so young people, of staying the course. [There were] a lot of challenges to get where she is now… as we see around this country, [the movement for] showing equity and inclusion and involvement and not giving up even when things are not always going our way.”

Arthur Johnson, speaking about Leona Tate (one of the first four students to integrate New Orleans schools) and what she’s been able to accomplish in the Lower Ninth Ward through the Leona Tate Foundation

“Moving with two Black women from the community, that know the community better than anyone else, to have them as recipients and be able to teach other folks how to connect with the land, it was more important than having someone come in with an idea that necessarily is great, but doesn’t connect with the people.”

Daniel Joseph Wiley, speaking about selecting his recipients

“There is a desperate need not only for a new workforce around water, but a desperate need and understanding the human right to water and all of the places where public health and Community interest are touching water.” 

Monica Lewis-Patrick, speaking about the Flint Development Center

“…as I believe in a bottom up approach, they have a lot of community-led activities which tells me that they really value community participation and community input, which is major to all of the work we do, because I don’t believe in doing the work without the folks that we’re trying to service. They have to be included.” 

Teresa Davis, speaking about Flow Fund Recipient ACTS