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Winrock International

A Letter from the President 2020

How do I begin to capture the scope of loss, devastation and upheaval that shook our world in 2020? I can’t. But I can highlight some facts and sketch a rough timeline:

I cite these cataclysmic events not for dramatic effect, but to acknowledge the existential challenges that overlaid Winrock’s work in 2020, and which we continue to confront, today. Indeed, they are emblematic of the range of problems that Winrock’s talented teams of clean air and energy, water security and forestry scientists; our human rights experts; our sustainable agriculture and economic development professionals; and our data analysts tackle every day in nearly every corner of the world.

The six short stories selected for inclusion in Winrock’s 2020 Annual Report portray different facets of Winrock’s groundbreaking work over the course of a year like no other — and the incredible success and momentum generated in the face of unimaginable odds.They range from our development of science-based decision-making tools to help policymakers and community-based organizations protect and manage the life-giving but ecologically imperiled waters of the Mara River Basin in Kenya and Tanzania, to our launch of a game-changing new system for accelerating carbon emission reduction and removal. That system, called Architecture for REDD+ Transactions, fills an important gap in the carbon credit landscape, and is designed to attract large-scale financing for countries committed to protecting and restoring forests — a front of critical importance in the battle against climate change. Another story describes how Winrock supported the emergence of Nepal’s private-sector hydropower industry by facilitating investments and financing in clean energy ventures that banks had overlooked. Nepal’s success in this area is a model for other countries that cannot be ignored, given the increasing velocity, intensity and scope of climate-induced disasters we now experience.

Around the world and right here in the U.S., Winrock pivoted to respond and help those impacted by the devastating virus, ranging from vulnerable migrant workers and survivors of trafficking across South and Central Asia, to the employees and owners of small businesses in Winrock’s home state of Arkansas. Overseas, where Winrock is the U.S. government’s largest implementer of counter-trafficking activities, we shifted our programming as the pandemic spread to concentrate on ensuring that stranded and returning migrant laborers and trafficking victims had the food, shelter and emergency supplies they needed, and amplified public health messaging to help slow the contagion. And here at home, our U.S. Programs team adapted to support small companies to respond to the COVID crisis. Early in the pandemic, a telemedicine technology enterprise supported by Innovate Arkansas — a program implemented by Winrock with state funding — attracted increased attention from hospitals and venture capital firms who recognized its potential to protect medical professionals by limiting exposure. The program has provided business advisory services to scale 188 promising tech-based startups across “The Natural State.” Given the economic impact of the virus, this work has never been more important.

We took a hard look at ourselves, too, in 2020, reexamining and redefining our core values, our systems, our workplace culture, and our strategic direction. We grew our own capacity to be more inclusive, diverse and equitable, reshaping our approach to human resources by designing and deploying a new People and Culture team. For the first time, Winrock’s Board of Directors invited nominations for prospective new Board members to be submitted by Winrock’s own staff. We were rewarded with a brilliant nomination (and ultimately, a brilliant new addition to the Board) — the former Africa Food Prize winner Dr. Ruth Oniang’o. This letter is already long, so I’ll close with this: The challenges we face in the world have never been greater; they are epochal. Yet from where I sit, no team of professionals is better equipped to hack them than the dedicated, dynamic, resilient innovators, thought leaders and doers at Winrock, through learning and partnership with the people we serve and support.

Those, my friends and colleagues, are facts. Thank you.


Rodney Ferguson
President & Chief Executive Officer