President's Letter

Judith Rodin

President of the Rockefeller Foundation

On the Eve of Our Centennial

Looking back on 2012, so many moments served as vivid reminders of the important challenges humanity is up against, as well as the amazing power we have as a collective force to bring about greater change for people around the world.

For me, perhaps the most defining of those moments came as I walked the devastated neighborhoods of the Rockaways and parts of Brooklyn only weeks after Superstorm Sandy hammered the coastline along New York and New Jersey. We spoke to people still digging through the rubble of houses that had burned in the chaos of the storm; we saw the failures of water treatment systems and transportation lines and the dunes washed from coastal communities. These reanimated the images of people all across the world who had faced similar devastation over the year with far fewer resources and capacity to rebound than we have in the New York region of the U.S.– from flash flooding in Nepal and torrential rains in China, to earthquakes in Iran and cholera outbreaks in Sierra Leone, to name only a few of the catastrophic events. But amidst these scenes of destruction, we witnessed and heard of great acts of triumph, from those who vowed to rebuild their homes and communities with more effective design, to neighbors helping neighbors in the trying aftermath when services were still difficult to access.

We saw an opportunity to leverage this moment to help New York rebuild its systems to be more resilient to future storms and other shocks, and in the process, to shift the paradigm from costly disaster response, to one of resilience – helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. Learn more about our work to build resilience before and after Superstorm Sandy.

Over the last decade the Rockefeller Foundation has invested in resilience building around the globe – including our Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, which works in cities in several Asian countries to build resilience against the consequences of our changing climate. In this report, you’ll read about one example of the work – the women of Da Nang, Vietnam, who made improvements to their homes to make them more resilient to typhoons – with amazing results.

Each story in this annual report reflects a moment, person, or project that energized us and gave us hope that our work is having real impact: the passage of the UN resolution putting Universal Health Coverage as the framing health goal for the post-2015 development agenda; the momentum building around impact investing in Latin America and across the Global South; young people like Michael Njau who have bright futures in agriculture thanks to our grantees. What connects these stories is their contribution to the Foundation's dual strategic goals: to build resilience and advance more equitable growth.

These dual goals served as our north star in 2012, bolstered by the work we did within and, importantly, across our four focus areas: Advance Health, Secure Livelihoods, Revalue Ecosystems, and Transform Cities, each of which will be explained in further depth in this report. These goals and focus areas emerged as part of our refreshed model and strategy, which we believe will best position our institution in the 21st century.

Indeed, 2012 was also the eve to our Centennial, and much planning went into the year as we readied for such a momentous milestone. Of course, you’ll have to wait until next year's to find out how 2013 went. I’ll give you a preview: it was nothing short of magic.

But 2012 was so much more than a springboard to our second century – it was a year of incredible progress against some of our most pressing concerns. We are proud to be able to tell just a few of those stories in our first online-only report, and we invite you to explore our work further and engage in the conversation with us on on Facebook and Twitter, or by signing up for our e-newsletter.

Thank you for ongoing support and interest in the Rockefeller Foundation, and a special recognition to our amazing partners, grantees and colleagues around the world – we couldn't do any of this without you.