As I write this, Winrock staff just finished a series of briefings for new (and a few current) Board of Directors members. Despite the fact that Winrock staff and board members are working remotely all over the world, the dedication and impact of our work shone through. All of our programs – agriculture, energy, domestic economic development, counter-trafficking, carbon mitigation – presented information about the state of their portfolios, with a special emphasis on how each has responded to the COVID-19 crisis.
The collective impact of these presentations was overwhelming. In the words of one of our board members, it’s inspiring to survey “the remarkable scope of Winrock’s work. Honestly, I can’t imagine any organization could be more effective in the areas where Winrock devotes its resources.”
But the remarkable impact of our work starts, endures and ends with one resource, more powerful than a global pandemic and more durable than the geopolitical forces sometimes arrayed against us. It’s our people, scattered across the globe yet woven together in a generosity of spirit and application of technical know-how that never ceases to amaze. From efforts to prevent traffickers from preying on the dispossessed in the Rohingya migrant camps in Bangladesh, to the life-changing skills taught to fisher people on the coast of Senegal, to the women entrepreneurs with newfound confidence and business acumen in El Dorado, Arkansas (and that’s el doe-RAY-doe for you non-Arkansans!), to the thousands of small farmers across the world who now know how to increase yields and gain market access thanks to U.S. agricultural volunteers we help deploy through the Farmer-to-Farmer program, Winrock staff deliver impact and results that advance the spirit and values of the American people. And we have been working through all of this while acknowledging our own challenges to be an inclusive and equitable workplace.
These last few months have been challenging. Winrock is an organization in perpetual motion, whether it’s educating girls in Mali, boosting shrimp farmers in Bangladesh, empowering women in Malawi or catalyzing markets in Myanmar and the U.S. (all stories you’ll read about here). Our energy and optimism fuel our movement. So after the shutdowns forced on us by COVID-19, that energy transferred from the physical to the intellectual. Now, ideas and plans are vectored around the world via technology — technology actualized by our superb IT staff — so that it now seems as if we’ve never been busier. Perhaps that’s because we have never been busier. Crises distill for us what is essential. The trainings are now virtual, the demonstrations of best practice conveyed by video rather than in person. Partners in the field have also stepped up, becoming ever more important in the tapestry that is Winrock. They are vital parts of our success.
We are grateful to our many funders, who have provided us with flexibility and encouragement to meet the imperative of the moment. Our foundation and private sector partners have encouraged us to pivot as necessary, and many have explicitly changed the terms of our engagements to allow us to do so. And special recognition must be paid to our friends who work for our U.S. government funders, who demonstrate a depth of commitment and tenacity in advancing the mission of their agencies in the face of tremendous difficulties and obstacles. We are deeply honored to be their partners and compatriots and work every day to reward their faith in us.
It’s humbling to work for Winrock, because all of us know that this is an organization whose sum is exponentially greater than its parts — and its parts are extraordinary. Great organizations rise to difficult occasions, and Winrock’s people have more than risen — they’ve soared. Somewhere in the world right now, a Winrocker is helping someone improve their agricultural yields, remove a ton of carbon from the atmosphere, transition a child from the field to a classroom, or help a woman harness her own economic and intellectual strength. A million thanks to those who deliver as well as receive the life-changing services of Winrock International. Your strength and fortitude inspire us every day to do the work that we do.
President & Chief Executive Officer