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Upcoming Research: How Digital Rights and Climate Justice Intersect

Forthcoming research commissioned by the Ford Foundation, Ariadne and Mozilla will explore grantmaking strategies that can address both issues.

In October 2021, Mozilla, the Ford Foundation and Ariadne kicked off a new research project exploring how digital rights and climate justice intersect. The research will better equip digital rights funders to craft grantmaking strategies that maximize impact on both issues. This effort sprang from a session at Mozfest 2021.

Interim findings from the research will be released in the first quarter of 2022.

Commissioning Funders

  • Mozilla (Michelle Thorne, Sustainable Internet Lead): “The internet is the world’s largest fossil-fuel powered machine, and as funders in the digital rights field, it’s our responsibility to assess and mitigate the internet’s harms not just to human rights, but also to the environment. Examples of harms that come to mind are carbon emissions, extractive industries, and environments and communities impacted with a lack of accountability.”
  • Ford (Michael Brennan, Senior Program Officer): “We believe that digital rights and environmental justice networks are often siloed from each other, despite being inextricably linked. And so we need to set a grantmaking agenda that connects these issues today, rather than retrofitting the field years from now. That starts with understanding how we, as digital rights funders, can better approach climate and environmental justice.”
  • Ariadne (Julie Broome, Director): “This research will sit within a larger convening effort among funders and practitioners to develop shared understanding and strategies to grow our movements’ understanding of these issues, to invest more impactfully and take more effective action together.”
  • with support from Fieke Jansen and Maya Richman.

Research Scope

Specifically, the scope will consist of:

  • a landscape analysis of major existing research at the intersection of digital rights and environmental justice issues
  • a network mapping of civic actors, public interest technologists, and individuals working on this intersection
  • a set of needs and capacities of civic actors within the ecosystem in order to amplify and accelerate work at this intersection
  • an initial analysis of the most impactful/strategic interventions in the short- and medium-term defined by the different stakeholders
  • and a set of recommendations for funders, particularly for those focused on digital rights, that supports civic actors working at this intersection.

Research Partners

The research will be conducted by The Engine Room.

Additional deep dives into specific issues by:

  • Association for Progressive Communications
  • BSR
  • Open Environmental Data Project

Community Calls: Hosted by the Engine Room

The Engine Room kicked off their research with two community calls in November and December, which aimed to discuss preliminary research findings, hear from practitioners working on environmental justice and digital rights issues, discuss challenges, and try to identify opportunities for greater collaboration.

Next Steps

This work will complement Mozilla’s existing Sustainability Program and build out Mozilla’s capacity to explore emerging issues. This work also reflects the priorities of the Technology and Society team at Ford Foundation to understand and address social justice issues at the intersection of tech, climate and the environment.

We also seek to learn alongside other funders interested in this intersection and share the results of this research with them and with practitioners.


If you are interested in this project, please contact Michelle Thorne, Sustainable Internet Lead at Mozilla (michelle at mozillafoundation dot org).