At the Rockefeller Foundation, we are very proud of the work we do to aid people and communities world-wide. For more than a century, one way we have achieved impact is by building global partnerships through a broad and diverse array public and private sector collaborations. In a world that is more interconnected but has more complex problems and less resources to solve for them, we believe that, more than ever, effective programs and partnerships are integral to creating positive global change.
Recently, several news reports have mentioned the Rockefeller Foundation and our president, Dr. Judith Rodin, in the context of an unpaid appointment to a White House council. We feel these stories have painted an incomplete picture of the situation and we therefore want to provide additional context.
Beginning in 2011, the Rockefeller Foundation began preparations to mark our centennial anniversary with a two year-long global initiative, including hiring in-house staff and selecting an implementing partner. The aim of the Centennial initiative was to build on our history to uncover the breakthrough ideas of the future and celebrate the next generation of innovators and philanthropists from every corner of the world.
The Centennial initiative, with two years of events in 2012 and 2013, was a major undertaking and required external support to manage the work under the Foundation’s oversight. The Rockefeller Foundation retained the firm Teneo to manage the development and implementation of the Global Centennial programming. During this time, Teneo was also engaged to assess the Foundation’s strategic and operational communications needs and to staff the communications office on an interim basis.
The Rockefeller Foundation frequently engages a single grantee or consultant to act as the ‘general contractor’ of an initiative. In the case of our Global Centennial Initiative, Teneo acted in this role. The Teneo team identified, supervised, and ultimately paid subcontractors who were on the ground implementing our comprehensive, world-wide Centennial programming. Much of the funding under the Teneo contract was for these other professionals working under the day-to-day oversight of Teneo as our project manager. As the implementing partner of the Rockefeller Foundation, all of the funding under this contract for our Centennial initiative work, including funding that went to subcontractors, is reported as having been paid to Teneo in the Foundation’s Form 990.
The Rockefeller Foundation used the Global Centennial initiative to launch significant global convenings, extensive digital engagements, innovation competitions for funding, and a series of in-depth publications. We produced a six-part book series to inform the field on the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and the positive impact of our grantees. And with programming held across the United States as well as in Africa, Asia and Europe, we leveraged the interest in the Centennial to launch initiatives including: 100 Resilient Cities, Digital Jobs Africa and the Global Resilience Partnership.
One example of the Centennial’s impact was through a series of events held in Beijing, China on the Future of Public Health, culminating with a signature event at the Great Hall of the People. From that three-day convening, the Foundation has partnered with several private and public institutions to launch the nascent field of Planetary Health.
The Global Centennial events were a success due in part to the hard work and significant public engagement of the Rockefeller Foundation’s staff and its president, Dr. Rodin, who have been pivotal in helping the Foundation achieve greater impact. Dr. Rodin’s leadership in academia, science, community development and philanthropy has been widely recognized and she has translated this expertise to effectively lead the Rockefeller Foundation since 2005.
As president of the Rockefeller Foundation, in February 2012, Dr. Judith Rodin applied for an unpaid appointment on the White House’s Global Development Council after learning of its formation through the public issuance of a presidential Executive Order. The Council’s directive was focused on increasing global public-private partnerships to enhance economic development work that is directly aligned with the mission of the Rockefeller Foundation and consistent with Dr. Rodin’s deep expertise. In fact, the Global Development Council ended up highlighting a Rockefeller Foundation initiative, the Global Resilience Partnership, in its 2015 report.
Participation on government councils and committees is not new for foundations or its leaders, including Dr. Rodin. Foundation leaders frequently contribute their time and energy to such committees and initiatives, bringing their expertise and knowledge to many important global and community issues. In the past Dr. Rodin served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and in 2010, she was asked to join the White House Council for Community Solutions. As a member of this 28 member council comprised of philanthropic, private sector and community leaders, Dr. Rodin focused on issues related to community resilience through employment of disadvantaged youth, a topic that Dr. Rodin and the Rockefeller Foundation have worked to address for over a decade. Similarly, the Foundation worked with the State Department’s International Diaspora Engagement Alliance to find ways to engage diaspora communities across the globe. Learnings from this work led the Rockefeller Foundation to launch a comprehensive partnership with the Aspen Institute to redesign and implement an enhanced program aimed at encouraging diaspora communities to socially invest in their affected “home” countries.
When learning of the formation of the Global Development Council, Dr. Rodin and the Rockefeller Foundation staff followed standard procedures – an application was submitted through the White House’s official online portal which detailed Dr. Rodin’s interest in joining the Council along with her credentials. Along with submitting the application, Rockefeller Foundation staff informed Teneo, in its role as the interim communications staff, of Dr. Rodin’s interest and asked for its assistance. Ultimately Dr. Rodin was not selected to join the Council.
As we move forward with new opportunities, partnerships and international initiatives, the Rockefeller Foundation, as always, is committed to being open and transparent about our work to expand inclusive economies and build resilience across the globe.
-Patrick Brennan, Chief of Staff, The Rockefeller Foundation