Jennifer Astone: The Connection Between Indigenous Peoples, Biodiversity, and Climate Change [Ep. 61]

If you only have two minutes, click here for a highlight from the interview.

Jen Astone joined the Swift Foundation as Executive Director in 2011. Swift Foundation provides grants and investment capital to promote cultural and biological diversity with a focus on land stewards and agroecology.

Through this work, Swift funds organizations led by or focused on Indigenous and other communities involved in advocating for land and resource rights, investing in traditional knowledge systems and creating alternative economic models.

Jen leads Swift’s work with two sustainable agriculture collaboratives: the AgroEcology Fund and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. She also supports Swift’s initiatives with First Nations and civil society in the Sacred Headwaters region of Northwest British Columbia, and with food sovereignty advocates in the countries of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Prior to Swift, Jen served as the first executive director of the Firelight Foundation and as Africa program officer with the Global Fund for Women, two foundations focused on grassroots grantmaking to community-based and human rights organizations. She has a PhD in cultural anthropology based on fieldwork she conducted on women’s home gardens in Guinea, West Africa.


In our conversation, Jen and I discuss a wide range of topics, including:

  • United Parcel Services (or UPS), and why the foundation was started

  • A company called Native American Natural Foods and how it is aims to use a traditional Lakota recipe to break the economic isolation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

  • The top 2-3 challenges that most foundations face

  • The debate about whether foundations should “sunset” or remain in perpetuity

  • Tips on what most people miss when writing a grant proposal to a foundation

  • Some of the thought leaders in this space that Jen looks to for inspiration

  • Why “Homecoming” by Yaa Gyasi is her favorite book of the moment




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Ryan Honeyman is a Partner at LIFT Economy and author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm whose mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @honeymanconsult or email him