Climate Breakthrough Project

Program Highlights & Frequently Asked Questions

Program Overview

  • The Climate Breakthrough Project (Climate Breakthrough) is an initiative of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in partnership with the Oak Foundation and Good Energies Foundation.
  • Climate Breakthrough was created in recognition of the fact that current strategies to address the climate crisis are not commensurate with the scale of the problem, and that we need to look at bolder and more innovative approaches for arresting climate change. Climate Breakthrough is looking to support potential breakthrough ideas that could result in significant GHG emissions reductions, including high-risk, high-reward concepts.
  • The program is looking to make investments this year in 1 to 3 exceptional individuals or teams of 2-4 people (as opposed to institutions) who can identify and pursue scalable breakthrough strategies for emission reductions. We are conducting a global search, and potential candidates needn’t be English-speakers.
  • The Climate Breakthrough will provide the selected individuals or teams with $2M over three years to develop and launch their strategies.
  • Awardees can remain at their current institutions if they so choose or they can set up shop elsewhere.
  • The focus of the Climate Breakthrough award is on scaling strategies, not institution building. As such, awardees are encouraged to consider re-granting a portion of their award to help resource other mission-critical collaborators whose support will be instrumental to the success of their strategy.

Who and What We’re Looking For

  • Climate Breakthrough is looking for leaders from around the world who have bold and ambitious ideas and a demonstrated ability to create something where there was nothing, and who are highly strategic.
  • Climate Breakthrough is also looking for bold, ambitious strategies that are unlikely to be able to access traditional philanthropic funding, not because they’re not good ideas, but because they’re seen as unproven or risky or outside the scope of the funders designated focal areas. (We want the hard and multidimensional, not the impossible or extraordinarily unlikely.)
  • Although it may be counterintuitive, we’re not necessarily interested in hearing about the people you think are doing the “best” work in the climate space. Many of the “best” in our sector are doing great, but not breakthrough, work. We are looking for individuals and teams who
    • Think big. Have bold ambitions. Who come up with out-of-the-box, systems-change ideas.
    • Solve problems by creating solutions previously unconsidered. And whose solutions overcome or entirely circumvent seemingly intractable barriers.
    • Are willing to reject conventional wisdom and typical approaches in the field.
    • Are able to create complex strategies with many stakeholders, participants, and tactics.
  • Our focus in initially identifying candidates is more on finding the right person or team than the right idea to invest in. We believe that if we find the right people and give them some space for big picture thinking, they can come up with a powerful strategy to pursue.
  • That said, we are looking for strategies that present significant emissions reduction opportunities and demonstrate significant scaling potential. Strong potential strategies might leverage culture change, political or policy change, or economic change to combat the climate crisis. Here are a few examples of ideas within those types of categories that would, and wouldn’t, hit the mark for our program:
    • Cultural Norms
      • Hits the mark: A multi-pronged marketing campaign to reduce beef consumption in China and prevent a transition to more heavily meat-based diets.
      • Misses the mark: Bicycle education programs in the Philippines at the elementary school level
    • Finance and Markets
      • Hits the mark: Buy out and wind down of US Fossil fuel industry
      • Misses the mark: online platform for shareholders to be more engaged in climate-related shareholder activism
    • Policy
      • Hits the mark: Capping oil use in China
      • Misses the mark: Capping oil use in Costa Rica
        • Small countries aren’t off the table, but work there would have to be structured to have an outsized impact and be scaled up to affect emissions in additional countries
      • It’s unlikely (though not impossible) that the program would support a for-profit or revenue generating idea for two reasons: (1) there are other pools of money that exist to support socially responsible enterprises—and if the idea’s a good one, investors will be interested— and (2) the scale of Climate Breakthrough’s resources is also much smaller than traditionally required for largescale for-profit growth.
      • Climate Breakthrough will not fund R&D or technology development. However, strategies that would pursue widespread implementation of existing technologies or systems that dramatically reduce emissions would qualify.


  • Is this something that an NGO could apply for?

No. The Climate Breakthrough experience is designed to support people, not organizations or institutions. Individuals and teams who are housed at an existing NGO are welcome to apply; however, the program intends for the money to follow the awardee if they choose to leave their home institution and set up shop elsewhere.

  • Are you looking for technological innovations?

No. While technological innovations are essential to fighting climate change, Climate Breakthrough is focused on social change. We’re looking for ideas that reimagine consumer behavior, public policy, financial markets, cultural and political norms, etc.

  • When does the program decide on the award?

There is no concrete deadline or timeline for granting the award. The program is focused on finding the right person or team, as opposed to hitting a specific deadline. We hope to make one award in the first half of the year, and one or two additional awards by the end of 2018.

  • I want to recommend a candidate. How do I do that?

Please contact our Scout at chris@chrisallan.info to talk about your ideas, or someone you think would be suitable. Climate Breakthrough accepts nominations from designated Scouts. We do not accept self-nominations or nominations from people other than Scouts.