World Resources Institute WRI

Seizing the moment: WRI`s strategic plan

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Courtesy of World Resources Institute WRI

A quarter century ago, the founders of the World Resources Institute (WRI) displayed a prescient awareness of an urgent need for research and solutions to emerging environmental, resource, population, and development problems. The most serious of these global threats — deforestation, desertification and global climate change — had become clear in the 1960’s and 1970’s but were not yet considered priority issues for the governments of the United States and other industrialized countries.

WRI’s trailblazing founders, however, found a receptive audience in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago which provided $15 million to help fi nance the fi rst fi ve years of a not-for-profi t “major center for policy research and analysis addressed to global resource and environmental issues.” The Institute was launched on June 3, 1982. The founders, led by Gus Speth, laid down touchstones for guiding the new organization which hold true to this day. They perceived the need for an institution that would be independent and broadly credible. They insisted that the research it undertook on global environmental and resource issues, including their relationship to population and development goals, must be both scientifi cally sound and politically practical. They recognized that, to be effective, the Institute needed to have a broad reach, commanding both the respect of the scientifi c community and the attention of key public and private sector decisionmakers, in the United States and abroad. The Institute would not duplicate, they decided, but draw on the expertise already in place in academic and other centers here and abroad.

Its priority objective would be to produce work that policymakers would find useful and realistic. It would also lead the way in building the constituencies — public and private — required to act on its analyses and recommendations. Twenty six years on, WRI’s staff has grown to 160 people, and its annual income to $30 million. The Institute has achieved significant influence, in the United States and internationally, by following the path set by its founders.

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