Our Centennial



On the occasion of our 100th anniversary in 2013, we reflected on our past accomplishments and worked with the global community to highlight the innovations that will help poor or vulnerable people throughout the world over the next 100 years.

Issues that were once largely confined to individual nations or regions — such as climate change and urbanization — now are clearly global in character. Technology has accelerated change across the planet and altered the way people live. Citizen movements are compelling reforms that were unimaginable only a short time ago.

Solutions to today's challenges involve a complex mix of actors that include governments, nonprofits, foundations, civil society and the business sector in major new ways.

Amid these seismic global shifts, our Centennial initiative, like all of our work, focused on the fact that today's global shocks — food and water shortages, energy volatility, financial uncertainties and more — demonstrate that crises are becoming more complex and globally interdependent across sectors and geographies. Old solutions and approaches appear less and less successful, and vulnerable populations are increasingly exposed to these shocks in ways that push their coping abilities to dangerous limits.

In the face of these 21st century realities, achieving the Foundation's overall goal to build resilience and more equitable growth, especially for poor and vulnerable people, relies in part on our commitment to a continuing search for, and openness to, new ideas and new ways of building solutions to these complex crises. The activities that formed our Centennial program — the convenings, social media platforms, search and challenge grantmaking, and analysis of lessons learned from our first 100 years and the work of others — are designed to enable that approach to reach its full breadth and potential.


Our centennial was also a moment to look ahead, to analyze which global issues will dominate the next decade and beyond, and to sculpt new ideas for addressing them. In building resilience and more equitable growth, our Centennial was a chance to consider what we have accomplished, but even more urgently to strategize for the future, always anticipating trends and leading the way to the solutions of tomorrow.

At the same time, new global trends have produced a reflective period for philanthropy as foundations chart new approaches to bring about change. This presents a unique opportunity to facilitate the effective growth of philanthropy in the Global North and South while enhancing our own work. The days in which The Rockefeller Foundation could act alone to effect major changes are over. Today, partnerships enhance our impact. We particularly welcome the fact that economic progress in the Global South has brought its own philanthropies that provide valuable resources and welcome new perspectives to serve the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

'' Innovation must be at the heart of our work. ''

In addressing these modern challenges, we believe for The Rockefeller Foundation that innovation must be at the heart of our work. Innovation made possible the chartering of the Foundation in 1913. It enabled the establishment of the field of public health, the Green Revolution in agriculture, and the development of Impact Investing today. And innovation in its modern forms is the key to solving many of today's problems as well, including building resilience and more equitable growth. That is why finding and supporting innovations that will make an impact over the next 100 years will be the central component of all of our Centennial activities.

Cyclists in Hue, Vietnam race down a main street. ©Jonas Bendiksen

I Never Thought
I Never Thought - Farmer

"I Never Thought," a powerful short film commissioned to celebrate our Centennial, explores what American philanthropy has accomplished in communities around the globe in the past 100 years.


Watch The Video