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National climate leader Shamar A. Bibbins promoted to managing director of Kresge’s Environment Program


The Kresge Foundation announced today that Shamar A. Bibbins has been promoted to managing director of the Environment Program. After joining the foundation in 2014, Bibbins will celebrate a decade of service with Kresge as she transitions to the position effective September 30.

“As a native Detroiter, this is a full-circle moment for me. When I joined the foundation in 2014, it was an extraordinary opportunity to return to the city that made and raised me while bringing the passion, commitment and rich experience I had gained working across the country on equitable climate solutions to deepen Kresge’s work at the intersection of climate change and racial justice,” Bibbins said. “I am incredibly proud of the program that the Environment team has built over the past decade alongside our incredible grantee partner organizations. I’m honored to step into this role to continue the critical work of ensuring that equity and justice are centered in climate change policies and investments, and that we are caring for and investing in the health and wellbeing of bold and courageous leaders who work tirelessly to ensure that our cities and neighborhoods can thrive in the face of climate change.”

A career committed to climate solutions, heath equity and racial justice

Shamar Bibbins stands behind a podium with The Kresge Foundation sign on it giving a speech.
Shamar Bibbins became a program officer for the Kresge Environment Program in 2014.

Bibbins joined Kresge in 2014 as a program officer to manage a new grantmaking strategy designed to fund equity-focused, nonprofit organizations to deepen their expertise on climate change. In 2018, she was promoted to Environment senior program officer.

As a philanthropic leader and partner to movements advancing economic, environmental, climate and racial justice, Bibbins collaborates with nonprofit organizations, change agents within the public and philanthropic sectors, and community and grassroots leaders to influence local, state and federal policies. Her work aims to directly benefit communities of color and low-income communities disproportionally impacted by climate change and historically underrepresented in policy development and implementation.

“Shamar is not only a leader of profound compassion, insight, experience and humility, she is also someone who has helped forge Kresge’s deep embrace of equity as an unshakable and robust ground wire into our community partnerships,” said Kresge President & CEO Rip Rapson. “She is an ardent champion of working at the tight intersections of social justice and environmental activism. She believes strongly in the power of community engagement and the necessity of multi-sector engagement in addressing systemic barriers to equity, opportunity and justice. We are absolutely delighted, and so very fortunate, to have her step into her new role.”

On June 3, Kresge announced Lois DeBacker, current managing director of Kresge’s Environment Program, will retire effective September 27 after serving more than 16 years with the foundation and 33 years total in philanthropy. Before retiring in September, DeBacker will assist Bibbins in her leadership transition.

Kresge's Shamar Bibbins, Rip Rapson, Lois DeBacker and Anna Cruz at a 2018 grantee convening.
Kresge Senior Program Officer Shamar Bibbins, President & CEO Rip Rapson, Environment Program Managing Director Lois DeBacker and former Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation Managing Director Anna Cruz at a 2018 grantee convening.

“Shamar is that rare person who can attend to details while always holding the vision of the change she seeks to drive,” said DeBacker. “She has a keen sense of strategy, recognizes the interplay across issues, and is deeply committed to both climate action and racial justice. Shamar excels at building relationships with nonprofit leaders, issue experts and philanthropic colleagues, and she is widely admired for her knowledge, her work ethic and the graciousness she brings to her interactions with others. I am excited to see how the Environment program evolves under her talented leadership and so happy she is moving into the managing director role.”

Benjy Kennedy, Kresge vice president of programs, added: “I’ve worked alongside Shamar for a decade and have always admired her strategic brilliance and unwavering commitment to mission. Moreover, Shamar is conscientious, kind and inclusive. In my mind, she is precisely the leader we need…our planet needs…now and in the future.”

Leading the charge for environmental sustainability, policy change and economic inclusion

Bibbins’ grantmaking has supported national efforts to advance diversity, equity, racial justice and inclusion in the environmental nonprofit and philanthropic fields.

Most recently, Bibbins oversaw the implementation of the foundation’s Climate Change, Health and Equity (CCHE) initiative, a $23 million, multi-year national partnership between Kresge’s Environment and Health programs that addresses the intersecting impacts of climate change on human health.

A large group photo of the Climate Change, Health and Equity initiative grantees in a conference room.
Grantees of the Climate Change, Health and Equity initiative met for a Spring 2023 convening in San Diego, California.

Launched in 2019, the CCHE initiative focuses on mobilizing equitable climate mitigation and adaptation action by healthcare institutions, health practitioners and community advocates. It is one example of efforts Kresge has historically supported that thread together climate action and public health.

“Climate change is affecting our physical and mental health in real ways right now. Air pollution, high heat and more extreme weather events are making people sick, causing significant trauma and shortening lives,” said Bibbins. “Our opportunity and ability to thrive – as individuals, families, communities and a country – are in danger because of the increasing instability of our climate. The grantmaking strategies we’ve developed at Kresge are working to combat climate change threats, and we’re seeing tangible solutions through the work of our grantee partners.”

Shamar Bibbins (second from left) launched the CRUO initiative that included 15 nonprofit organizations that focused on influencing local and regional climate planning and policy development to better reflect the needs and priorities of low-income communities.

Bibbins also led the 2014 launch of the foundation’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity (CRUO) initiative, a five-year, $29 million effort that supported the capacity of advocates and organizers in urban communities to advance the climate-resilience work of importance to them.

The CRUO initiative affirmed the significant value that community-based organizations grounded in equity bring to climate change work, Bibbins noted.

The organizations achieved meaningful policy wins in their local communities and regions and at the state level. Collectively, they contributed to a shift in how climate-resilience work is framed by expanding the range of issues recognized as relevant to climate resilience and elevating the profile of equity within the climate resilience field.

Interconnections of race, class and environmental policy

Before joining Kresge, Bibbins’ served as director of national partnerships at Green for All, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in science, technology and society from Vassar College where she received distinction on her senior thesis, The Environmental Justice Movement: Race, Class & Environmental Policy. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Japan, where she conducted field research on the environmental and social implications of unprecedented mercury dumping in Minamata Bay in Kyushu, Japan.

Bibbins also recently completed a graduate program in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she received a master’s degree in public administration.

As a trusted community partner, Bibbins has influenced organizational and field-building strategies that deepen social change outcomes. She currently serves on the board of directors of Community Wealth Partners, a mission-driven consulting firm, and is a Philanthropic Trustee to The Solutions Project. She previously served on the steering committee of The Climate and Energy Funders’ Group, a community of funders unified in their commitment to combat the global climate crisis. Bibbins was also an advisor to The Rallying Cry, an initiative that aims to shift resources and narratives to support women entrepreneurs in Zambia and Kenya in scaling powerful solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.