Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving In Real Life series features Elodie Read, Program and Community Partnerships Lead at Subak, the first global non-profit tech accelerator dedicated to combatting the climate emergency.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I’m pretty early on in my career so this is quite a tricky question to answer. At university and grad school, everyone is full of conviction, zeal and a healthy dose of naivety about how the world is and how it should be. When you start working, it can be easy to get bogged down in reality, but I think it’s important to remember why we got into this kind of work and to keep working with our values and goals at the front of our minds.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
At Subak, making sure we find and fund the most impactful people and organizations is one of the biggest challenges. Although we give relatively small grants, we provide a solid network of resources, training and mentoring. This puts us in a unique position where we can make riskier choices when it comes to choosing organizations, and also allows us to support those that might not otherwise get funding from bigger grants.
We have incredible potential to uplift and supercharge neglected interventions from anywhere in the world, so the main challenge is finding the very best and brightest minds out there, especially those who might not typically enter the climate, data or tech worlds.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
I run the Subak Accelerator, which is the world’s first accelerator for climate startups. What makes us unique is our exclusive focus on nonprofits, which means that our cohort are trying to maximize impact, rather than profit.
Our members are showing that starting a climate nonprofit can allow you to earn a decent living, work on fascinating climate issues and make genuine impact through your career. I also support our Fellows, who are individuals conducting one-off data projects. We’ve got some incredibly smart and talented Fellows in our network already, from PhD students to mid-career corporate professionals.
The best thing about my job is that I get to work at the heart of this incredible network of smart and driven people who all share the same mission, to tackle climate change.
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
While not binary or universal, gender shapes the way all of us exist in the world. I’ve always been a feminist, and when I started my Master in Philosophy (MPhil) Degree in Development Studies, I originally wanted to focus exclusively on gender equality. But after I read about the tragic murder of Berta Caceres, an environmental rights defender, I became really interested in the intersection of gender and environmental justice. I ended up going to Honduras to study conservation, land grabs and indigenous rights.
I think, as a woman, you really notice when spaces are diverse and when they’re not. There simply aren’t enough women or people of color in the climate space. At Subak, we’re trying to make climate work inclusive, accessible and attractive for people from all backgrounds, especially those with lived experience of climate change. One of the ways we do this is through our Fellowship program; no matter what your background is or what you’re working on, Subak can help to amplify your personal impact on climate change.
5. How can philanthropy support gender equity?
There can be no gender justice without climate justice, and we need systemic change to achieve both. This requires mass mindset and behavior change, as well as policy and market shifts.
The climate crisis represents an opportunity to build a more just world. For example, Subak members may have climate as their core focus, but they’ll also be helping to create decent work, healthy communities, better public transport, food security, etc.
Climate sits at the nexus of so many urgent equity and justice issues, which makes it all the more devastating and destructive, but it also gives us an opportunity to solve multiple issues at the same time. Helping the planet helps society, which is why gender justice and climate justice go hand in hand.
6. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equity movements taking us?
The climate crisis is exacerbating existing disadvantages, be that gender, race, poverty, etc., so women and other marginalized groups are bearing the brunt of climate breakdown.
However, these women, especially women of color, who are on the frontline of climate change are finally starting to get the attention they deserve. Movements like Chipko in India, COPINH in Honduras and the Standing Rock protests have effectively highlighted intersectional responses to climate change, racism, wealth inequality, and other social issues.
It’s time for us to seriously listen to these voices. I guess the ultimate hope is that these movements won’t have to exist in future, as humanity will have built sustainable and equitable systems that move beyond extractivism, exploitation, and destruction and instead repair, restore and regenerate the planet’s ecosystems and societies.
More on Elodie Read:
Elodie Read is Program and Community Partnerships Lead at Subak, the first global non-profit tech accelerator dedicated to combatting the climate emergency. She runs the Accelerator. The Accelerator’s unique four-stream curriculum covers data, policy and mass-market consumer targeting, and business fundamentals, whilst also providing hands-on support to organizations as they build, test and scale their ideas. A large part of Read’s role involves assessing the impact potential of organizations or individuals, and selecting top candidates to receive Subak’s funding and support.
Before Subak, Elodie graduated from Oxford University with an MPhil, after which she advocated for her passions all over the globe. She has worked in gender equality, sustainability and refugee rights in programs at NGOs in the UK, Spain, Indonesia and Kenya. In past roles, she has worked on monitoring and evaluation for governments and United Nations agencies, and advised high net worth individuals about the most effective giving opportunities and solutions to the most pressing global challenges.
She chose to focus her career on climate in order to simultaneously tackle the multiple intersecting justice issues that cut across climate change.
This interview has been minimally edited.
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