Please note that the Garfield Foundation does not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry or proposals.

Collaborative Networks

The Garfield Foundation’s Collaborative Networks program supports the development of highly strategic networks of diverse stakeholders working on complex sustainability issues. The Foundation continues to apply lessons learned from over a decade of experience with the RE-AMP Network, and the recently launched Cancer Free Economy Network.   The Collaborative Networks program uses a systems approach to support advocates and funders interested in co-creating collective impacts beyond what has been possible with traditional funding and nonprofit practices.  

We believe the underlying reason for the lack of significant social change is that systems evolve towards equilibrium or balance, which make them stubbornly resistant to symptom-level interventions.  This is not to say that the urgency to address symptoms doesn’t have its place or that any change-agent consciously chooses to address symptoms at the expense of fundamental systems change.  It means we must also work collaboratively to develop a complete set strategies that go beneath the symptoms to address root causes.  Only then will we effectively shift any complex system to a new resilient state of equilibrium.

Implementing a full set of interconnected strategies requires a diverse set of committed stakeholders engaging in coordinated actions, simultaneously influencing key stakeholders, based on shared understanding of the system and its dynamics.  The Garfield Foundation’s Collaborative Networks program is committed to convening and facilitating emergent networks of diverse stakeholders working together to create an equitable, resilient and vibrant future for all.   While each emergent network has its own distinctive characteristics, generally the Collaborative Networks model unfolds in the following phases:

Phase 1

Invite a set of diverse stakeholders to collectively map their understanding of the system to be reformed. Agree on a long term goal for the system (North Star).

Phase 2

Organize working groups to develop strategic interventions with key stakeholders, focused on shifting significant areas of the map. Connect and arrange all the strategic interventions and lead stakeholders to reinforce positive change that will build the power to shift the whole system towards the long term goal.

Phase 3

Co-design and implement synchronized collaborative actions, support teams of diverse and multi-sector stakeholders to build capacity, network infrastructure and tools for collaborating, communicating, learning and driving change in different parts of the system.

Phase 4

Cultivate network leaders, organizations and projects in different parts of the system to maximize the power of network effects. Maintain a minimum amount of distributed infrastructure that allows network participants message, organize, learn, adapt and grow power together.

The Garfield Foundation’s support includes the engagement and expertise of our Collaborative Networks team, who designed and co-created the RE-AMP and CFE Networks, and access to a variety of systems and network development consultants, in addition to grants for establishing the network leadership, strategic action agenda, and distributed network infrastructure.


The RE-AMP Network emerged recognizing the pivotal role that the Midwest plays politically and economically in shifting the United States toward a clean energy future. In 2003, the Garfield Foundation co-founded the RE-AMP network with 20 of the region’s leading climate and energy foundations and advocacy organizations. Today the network is 175 organizations strong located across Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The collaborative network is guided by the shared goal to reduce global warming carbon emissions 80% by 2050 (from 2003 levels) and to transition to systems that produce and use clean, healthy, safe and affordable energy sources. Creating good jobs and increasing regional energy independence and security are central to the RE-AMP Network’s strategies. The Garfield Foundation has been supporting the Network through grants that the build its capacity to think systemically and act collaboratively and to RE-AMP’s re-grants pooled fund the Global Warming Strategic Action Fund.

Learn more about RE-AMP’s history, structure and accomplishments.

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Cancer Free Economy

The Cancer Free Economy CFE is a rapidly growing collaboration of diverse organizations and funding partners seeking to solve the linked problems of pervasive toxic exposures and surging cancer and other disease rates. Put simply, CFE Network participants want to align and expand existing efforts into a shared system-wide strategy to get poisonous chemicals out of our bodies, our homes, workplaces, and communities – by getting toxic chemicals out of our economy. The Network is working to shift the current culture of risk reduction to an upstream, primary prevention approach.

The network reflects the diversity of America’s environmental, civil rights, public health and labor movements, and the complexity of chemical use across every sector of our domestic economy. CFEN also reflects the promise of emerging green chemistry, industries and other innovations that can simultaneously provide health, economic and environmental benefits for all.

CFE Network Goal

The CFEN goal or “North Star,” is deliberately huge: Within a generation we will lift the human burden of cancers and other diseases by driving a dramatic and equitable transition from toxics to effective, clean and safe alternatives.

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Community Revitalization

The Garfield Foundation believes that a healthy business sector is necessary for invigorating local economies that create jobs, income and wealth for local residents. The Foundation supports innovators and their projects that:

  • Support the development and expansion of neighborhood commercial corridors that generate positive outcomes for communities that have been traditionally marginalized by development processes.
  • Accelerate the development of inclusive business and industry sectors in distressed urban communities that have the potential to invigorate local economies.
  • Utilize collaborative stakeholder and community engagement processes that address systemic barriers to community revitalization.

While the Garfield Foundation’s intent is to support innovative approaches wherever they may be, geographically the Foundation prioritizes projects in the older industrial cities of New Jersey and Massachusetts as well as projects that integrate environmental sustainability.

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Environmental Sustainability

The Garfield Foundation’s environmental grants support solutions-oriented, innovative and collaborative projects addressing: the materials economy, excessive consumption and the waste it produces; rising levels of toxic pollution in our bodies, homes, workplaces and communities; and, America’s disproportionately out-sized contribution to global warming.

Production & Consumption

The current system for how (and how much) we extract, process, consume and dispose of goods and resources is unsustainable and having devastating and disproportionate impacts on our environment, our health and even collective levels of happiness. The Garfield Foundation’s sustainability grants support projects that build a strong, diverse, and decentralized cross-sector movement that aspires to transform the systems of production and consumption to serve ecological sustainability and social well being.

Grants awarded within the Sustainability portfolio support projects that:

  • Advance understanding, foster collaboration and strengthen the field of practitioners who can influence the systems of production and consumption toward greater sustainability.
  • Support advocacy for research, public policies and regulations that can help citizens, institutions, and places make better consumption decisions that consider the full take, make, waste cycle.

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Mercury Source Reduction

Mercury is one of the most toxic and persistent heavy metal pollutants known, yet it is used in myriad products and production processes. Garfield Foundation grants focus on comprehensive source reduction to end the intentional use of mercury, eliminating exposure to and toxicity resulting from mercury pollution.

Projects supported under the Mercury Source Reduction grants portfolio:

  • Educate the public and policymakers about mercury pollution, its toxic effects, and how exposure can be eliminated before mercury ends up in the waste stream;
  • Advocate, in the United States and globally, for policies and incentives that eliminate mercury use and release including supporting the process to ratify and implement the international treaty to control mercury pollution; and,
  • Activism that can influence the market, especially for mercury-containing products and processes with viable alternatives.

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