Solomé Lemma is the executive director at Thousand Currents, where she works to bolster funding and support for organizations led by women, youth, and Indigenous people working to advance food sovereignty, climate justice, and economic empowerment in the Global South—and to make philanthropy more equitable along the way. Lemma and her team help harness the power of grassroots groups and community-led movements to effect social change, while understanding that philanthropic giving is not just about the allocation of funds; it is about mutual accountability, transparency, justice, and solidarity.
Previously, Lemma worked with Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), Global Fund for Children, and Human Rights Watch in New York. She received a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a bachelor’s in international relations from Stanford University. Her work and writings have been featured in Forbes, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Inside Philanthropy, among others, and she has been a guest on NPR, BBC, and Al Jazeera.
About Thousand Currents
Thousand Currents believes the answers to the most entrenched societal challenges around the world rest in the hands of directly affected frontline communities. As a public foundation funding grassroots groups and movements across Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America, Thousand Currents serves as a bridge builder that connects donors in the Global North with leaders and solutions in the Global South through relationships of solidarity, trust, and respect—not charity.
Learn more about Thousand Currents here.
When you look back in five years, what do you hope you and your organization have accomplished?
Over the next five years, we will have moved at least $100 million in flexible support to grassroots groups and movements in the Global South. We will have launched our Center for Transforming Philanthropy, which will produce movement-informed research and training on climate, food, and economic justice, as well as transformational philanthropic practices. By 2027, we also hope to have played a significant role in shifting perceptions about the causes, consequences, and solutions of climate change, so that frontline communities are no longer on the sidelines of climate resources.
Why does this matter? We know when movements receive the resources they need, they can shift systems. They can manage natural resources to keep carbon in the ground. They can cultivate farming methods that not only feed people with dignity but preserve soil. They can build solutions to the climate, social, and economic crises we face today that are not only effective but also just and equitable.
How is the changing climate impacting your work?
Climate is a pain unifier. No matter where you live, everyone on the planet is affected. Yet, in the Global South, a climate tragedy of unequal proportions is unfolding. Parts of the world that have contributed least to the crisis are experiencing its worst impacts. Take Pakistan, a country that has contributed less than 1% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which now finds itself confronting an epic humanitarian disaster: over $30 billion in losses, a third of its lands underwater, and over 50 million people displaced.
Sadly, this story is repeated in many parts of the Global South where our partners operate: loss of livelihoods, displacement, land devastation, ruined crops, and food and energy crises due to droughts and flooding. They are being forced to survive disasters, adapt to changing conditions, and reduce emissions to avert further catastrophic harm to our planet. While there is an intellectual debate in the North between mitigation and adaptation strategies, there is no dichotomy for the communities we serve in the Global South.
Movements working across a spectrum of issues from gender justice to human rights to economic justice are all integrating climate strategies in their work. A decade ago, when our partners in frontline grassroots groups and social movements rang the alarm on climate change, Thousand Currents transitioned fully into adopting a climate justice lens as a global systems change opportunity. We see this crisis as an opening to amplify, advance, and scale intersectional community-led solutions that cool the planet while generating well-being for all.