Questions for Rainmatter Foundation (Running Thread)

We do get asked a lot of questions about our theses, partnerships, focus, learnings, take on climate issues etc. We’re happy to take and respond to questions in a public space, and will also try compile into FAQs every once in a while.

Please do NOT use this for proposals and pitches - either for submission/follow up. Those will be ignored or deleted :slight_smile: Please also do NOT use the space to rant against orgs, the government etc - we’d love for this to be a constructive space and we work with a collaborative mindset and assumption.

Fire away!


Hello! Thanks for putting this question out.

My first question would be more general about how the foundation looks at youth involvement in ecological restoration, active citizenship, shifting behaviours and also challenging systemic polluting+socially unjust practices. In this regard, what kind of youth-focused interventions are you willing to support?

Are you open to supporting completely youth-led organisations like mine (Youth For Climate India) where fundraising is led by a 21 y/o? Especially considering that along with financial aid, some bit of technical advice is also what groups like ours need.

Third, are there any plans on supporting non-Phd level research on say domains of urban transport, climate education, women’s role in ecological restoration etc?

Hope these are relevant questions and not too many.

How to gauge the likelihood of a project being supported by Rainmatter Foundation?

Hi Nagaraju, adding my inputs before @sameershisodia shares his opinions -

  1. If you are working broadly on one of the focus areas listed in the website and are thinking of scaleable and replicable models for interventions for climate related issues, that is a great place to start

  2. Would also like to add that we are mostly agnostic with any specific sectors in climate. So if you are working on anything long term (3-5 years) and have drawn up a plan, you can share it with us at [email protected], our team will review the ideas and get back to you with feedback and comments.

Hope this helps understand the support decision steps.

1 Like

Hi Srijani,

We are absolutely happy to support all teams working in the climate space as long as there is alignment in focus areas as I noted down for Nagaraju in the response above.

You can share a detailed note with us at [email protected] and we’ll get back with any questions or feedback and confirm how we can be of help.

Hi Srijani!
Thanks for the pertinent questions.
So far, the Foundation has had multiple paths to engage with young and not-so-young groups - through civic capacity building organisations such as Reap Benefit (do meet @KD_SolveNinja1), for inter-generational knowledge transfer and exploring livelihoods with the Solega tribal community via @Punarchith, and more recently to embed climate and intersectionality with a coalition of youth groups called Vartaleap Coalition. Much of the restoration/conservation engagement indirectly involves the youth by design via organisations such as NCF & ERA, ATREE, CWS, SayTrees, etc.

@rishabh.lalani and I have been in touch with you and Vijay, and are exploring ways to support the valuable work that Youth for Climate India is doing.

At this juncture, the Foundation is unable to meaningfully commit support for structured academic programs. We do try to explore and co-evolve fellowships with individuals though.

Inviting @sameershisodia and @rishabh.lalani to add their thoughts as well.

1 Like

Hi @sameershisodia, I appreciate your outreach on the public forum. Rainmatter’s organizational grants for non-profits are commendable. I have a question: Are these grants available only for new non-profits or can mature non-profits launching new areas also apply?

At Villgro, after a successful three-year pilot, we are launching our gender inclusion vertical. Our strategy focuses on supporting women-led climate enterprises and creating livelihood opportunities for rural women by building synergies with livelihood-generating climate enterprises. This aligns well with Rainmatter’s focus on localised production and consumption. While Villgro’s 20 years of incubation experience plays to our benefit, we do require the support of donors such as Rainmatter to enhance our organisational capacities and build relationships in this new area.

1 Like

Thanks. At the outset - we would want to like this thread not to become primarily around funding related Q&A but largely around the thesis, our partnerships, gaps in these and where collaborations/more attention might help with the overall chase of making a large dent in the climate problem.

That said, to your question - we fund irrespective of size and age of the org - the only bias is around the ambition and audaciousness of the approach, the willingness and ability to introspect, learn, pivot and partner, and chase end goals more than supply side metrics which often lead to “success” without truly moving needles. Climate is an urgent problem and we’re trying to think of the net effect of the work across the network together, not piecemeal, and in a mainstream way.

The other one we’re starting to look out for rather hard is the intervention problem. Of course, we understand that oftentimes these are journeys that, if individuals and orgs are willing to take them, we’re happy to support.

Villgro has done really great work in livelihoods, and I think we’re engaged with the team, btw. Of course, let’s take that offline :slight_smile:

@sameershisodia Absolutely resonate with this thought. Lately, it’s good to see climate change being tackled in forces - companies moving beyond just solving one value chain problem but looking towards overall empowerment and capacity building of rural communities to tackle climate change (for example one might offer a farmer a subsidised solar dryer to make premium dry products, but if he/she can’t access the market to sell it, the product gives no value to him/her)
In fact, in the last few years, we have expanded our scope beyond just being an incubator to a value chain enabler in sorts after seeing ground realities and talking to communities, understanding their needs.
Also, I connected with my team and am glad to know that we’ve talked before. We would love to connect with you again - now that we have our questions set that we wish to answer in the coming years to create the impact we envision. I’ll drop in a mail to you. Looking forward to it!


Hi Pragati,

We are in talks with Anant from Villgro, Please feel free to connect offline to take those discussions forward

1 Like

Hi Sameer, We at GormalOne, are leveraging our tech platform “NITARA” to transform the dairy ecosystem primarily focused on cattle, small farmers, vets, dairies, banks etc. Keen to explore a collaborative alliance with your foundation as well as foundation supported start ups to aggressively transform livelihoods of 10 crore people including farmers associated with dairying. Manish Jain

@sameershisodia - would love to know more about Rainmatter’s thesis on veganism as a climate solution, specifically in the Indian context, given dairy is such an important part of our culture, diet and farmer livelihoods? Is this something you have been thinking about given the shocking statistics globally on animal agriculture’s / fisheries impact on deforestation, land use, water pollution, antibiotic and chemical use, etc, etc?

Not sure we have a take on this as a Foundation. Personally, I live in the greys of life and this is there too - large factory farms like in the west are surely a huge issue. Smallholder livestock, especially native, with natural feed and part of a strong carbon cycle, less so. Also, it’s a logical choice in certain landscapes (veganism in the steppes or vast grasslands would be tough).

At the Foundation, we’re aligned with a few principles that might inform this, of course. Local context and whatever is sensible with that in mind, and an overall bias towards answers coming from biology than from mining-derivative processes that need higher energy. Also, accounting for total lifecycle costs including landscape management, soil quality and sequestration and the water security etc that spring from it.

Applying these, if livestock in grasslands helps manage grasslands better, provides food, reduces migration, and overall transport and processing/packaging and storage linked footprint, it could likely make more sense. But these are complex calculations and there’s no clear black/white answer.


As we complete 3 years of the foundation, we’re doing a relook at our role, structure, mode of operation for the coming 3 years. There have been many learnings, some wins and much to ponder about and work on.

Am jotting down the evolving summary of these ongoing discussions here.

Doing, And Our Programmatic Approach

We are looking to bring mainstream change towards the following shifts and principles. We’re also taking on “doing” responsibilities towards trying to make these happen as the larger identity, and the funding part of the RM identity is to support these chases. In essence, we’re funding a strategy, not just “good work” in itself as an end.

The Core Principles - the What

  • Dencentralized Production (and linked consumption) Systems. This has become a very core part of our thesis and chase - climate change and the ecological collapse we see are a 2nd order effect of many bad trade-offs we make collectively, and in our food systems, production systems and consumption choices. This has other impacts as well wrt health, loss of natural assets, migration etc, and the strengthening of the cluster economy and production is a major response to these.
  • A Biodiversity/Ecology/Circularity/Regenerative Bias in everything - economy, urban planning, construction, industry, energy. Without this, even the above risks bad-trade-offs.
  • A Place Lens. Solve, measure through Lived Experiences of ppl (incl equity, gender, age relevance in soln design) and while finding balance across various parameters that matter to a place. Again, better trade-offs are possible when we think of this from the pov of the place, and the people there, over time.

Additionally, we have discussed in depth some How principles that must guide our actions:

  • Mainstreaming : we will bias/push towards approaches and ideas that are/can go mainstream. Solving in a small way without striving to at least find pathways to the larger change needed ignores the real problem, and sometimes the design for the larger context differs from what’s needed in a POC.
  • Collaboration/partnership models are key to this - mainstreaming is beyond one org/actor, and will often need coalitions, ecosystem level infrastructure and most importantly, a common consensus on a few goals and the framing of the problems.
  • Bioregional context : this is critical for better trade-offs, and finally, no one size fits all. Finding answers from the bioregion to the extent possible, or that a good fit there, is important for change that sustains.
  • Community Up : Need discovery, solution identification must happen ground up at the smallest unit of governance and community. And truly so, not just in letter. So responding, and not intervening (except at a meta level to arrive at this) is a directional push.
  • Urgency & Dissatisfaction : In such complex problem solving, the acknowledgement of the pending part of the problem, the counter currents that actually make things worse, the inadvertent and unintended consequences of one’s efforts eventually add up to more than the outcomes of one’s efforts. Even as wins are celebrated, it’s important to introspect, ack these and find pathways that truly move needles rather declare success in a final sort of way. We do not want be easily satisfied with “we did X” without a strong sense of what’s pending or not moved, or regressed
  • Coordinated change with policy & governance : Unless decision making changes in mainstream ways, the changes are not really going mainstream. We have to seek alliances, participate in coalitions and actively learn how to do this.
  • Diversity of (redundancy in) approaches : We can’t say that only approach A will work, and certainly not in every context. Like any good and large ecosystem, competing as well as complementary ideas need to exist and we will support and work with ideas that might even seem at odds with each other.

Stay tuned. There’s also a discussion on reimagining RMF more as a platform than an org. Will keep posting here as this evolves over the next few weeks.


Hi Sameer

I came to know through one of the recent baseline studies in western Ghats (Coorg, Hassan and Chikmagalur) coffee growers are slowly moving towards intensive application of chemical fertilizers on one hand where as huge volumes of Farm Yard Manure is imported from far away locations like Tumkur and other districts of Karnataka. First part is adding to land degradation while second part is evidencing a big opportunity to create a livestock (incl small ruminants, backyard poultry) based local livelihood for the tribals who can help the people in serving milk as well as required vegetables.

While people are growing Coffee, Pepper, areca in larger quantities in this belt l, majority of day today consumption products are imported from other parts of state/country.

On the other side of story, huge plastic is generated at home stays which is evident across the locations and it’s a big threat for the rich soils.

Would like to know if anyone is working in alignment with your first two principles.

Many orgs are working on BRCs, and there’s a consortium creating a platform to make the info and help/training available for this and other such knowhow across India. The agroecological world is also looking to create a larger adoption of soil friendly practices and finally GIZ + CEEW along with other partners are bringing a huge focus, incl in govt, on soil health as a cross cutting indicator.

WRT the W Ghats, aditional huge threats : the rampant usage of herbicides and also of brush cutters, leaving a fine layer of plastic across the landscape.

On the principles, unless we have #3 happening, and people intrinsically value (baseline, periodically assess) their places, we will not make the better trade-offs we need as a country. The biggest tactical push is really a larger dialogue that gets people to realize the value of secure and better natural assets wrt their future, resilience and prosperity.

(This comes up a lot in conversations, so thought I should try capture this here as well.)

The 3 Large Focus Areas for Our Support and Partnerships

  1. A Different Conversation / A Sense of The House / True Ownership and Trade-off Management

A core belief is that we cannot really get great climate outcomes without better trade-offs in everything we do, and this requires a collective ownership of our places - villages, panchayats, wards, cities, forests, rivers etc - with a better, multi-dimensional understanding and custodianship. For e.g. how does a choice in livelihoods or energy impact long term assets for the community? We’re happy to support orgs with social capital at some scale who’re either working towards this direction, or exploring it in serious ways. This does require a deep trust bank with the community because the process of ownership, taking responsibility and understanding and making trade-offs is a complex one, and not always without friction.

  1. The Response Platform / Being Available to Help - Responses not Interventions.

We believe that, as communities take charge of their places, understand their issues, strengths etc, those needs and the responses required will be granular and diverse, as opposed to “programmatic” approaches where pre-decided solutions come bundled with funding for them and are rolled out in pre-selected geographies, but are not available outside the programme areas and scope, even in the same region. We’re supporting a consortium coming together to create this large ecosystem of help available for changemakers, and happy to have a conversation with anyone working in this direction.

  1. Decision Making, Policy & Governance, Narratives

For the above changes to happen, it’s important that government, philanthropy and decision makers move in sync along the same directions. Work that furthers these directions, or the core principles as part of them as outlined earlier, is of deep interest to us. Happy to explore.

We also recognize that the above are beyond what an individual org or actor can really push in a meaningful way, and constant look for ways to bring collaboratives, consensus and ecosystem approaches to on ground action to enable this.


Our Rural Thesis, in a nutshell:

Farmland is the largest land use in India, and directly linked to livelihoods, nutrition security and quality and at one point of time was the mainstay and core of the rural economy, which also included a lot of linked production, livelihoods and rich production and consumption. Over the years this has broken down - assets depleted in terms of soil, biodiversity, knowledge, most of the livelihoods have disappeared and the village buys most of even its daily needs from elsewhere. A huge cost is paid in a direct economic loss, the erosion of asset quality and value, of agency, health and nutrition, unnecessary transportation, packaging and the accompanying footprint and even the viability and livability of our places.

We believe that a rural resurgence, with a stronger ownership of our places driving it, is key to the whole puzzle.

For this, we’re looking at partners who’re focused on playing a role in one or more of the following:

  • Ownership & Sense of the House in the community
    – Basket of Needs → Livelihoods

You are an org (or coalition) with significant trust and social capital at some scale, and already do or are looking to explore deeper how the community might be able to better understand its own situation and assess strengths and gaps, and arrive at a plan from there rather than be a passive recipient of top down programs and schemes alone. You then look to assist with these through helping find the best of breed solutions from anywhere - be it in farming, or livelihoods, or water management, or health, or waste or other needs the community identifies and wishes to solve.

  • Service availability on platform
    – Coalitions and sandboxes

You are a solution provider or expert for specific areas or domains, and are keen to take your impact wider in your region or elsewhere beyond project bounded geographies, through platformizing the help and problem solving you assist with, and responding to realized needs through the above process.

  • Shift Policy & Govt, Political Economy and Philanthropy & CSR

You have inputs or identified needs for policy or directional shifts and want to engage with thinktanks or with governments, or influence philanthropy or CSR to enable the same.

We believe that many orgs play these roles implicitly, and a slight shift in the architecture of changemaking could create non-linear impact and change across rural India way beyond what a project led approach might be able to. We’d love to collaborate with you and work on the same. You co either be a lead partner to develop idea, or a key execution partner and roll out emerging frameworks in your regions and help improve and refine them.

1 Like