WRI’s five-year strategy states that WRI “must become a more agile, closely aligned and cohesive organization, operating as a globally coordinated network.” WRI’s institutional achievements for 2023 all support this vision.

Last year, WRI made great strides towards building a “Brilliant WRI” which is structurally capable of supporting a growing Institute. We took significant steps to strengthen WRI’s financial foundation. And we reoriented around specific and explicit shared targets and goals, laid out in WRI’s first Results Framework, bringing greater focus, alignment, and accountability across WRI.

—Jennifer Scully-Lerner, Global Board member

WRI’s Commitment to Measuring Progress

For years, WRI sought to track and report its impact. But thanks to the new Results Framework, we are now capable of actually quantifying our impact on the world. As a result of this, and the following three steps, WRI has started to become a stronger results-based learning organization.

First, we established an institute-wide theory of change (TOC) process. TOCs bring together country and global teams to establish a hypothesis for how we expect change to occur. The teams then define monitoring and learning plans for the country and program level. Finally, teams regularly review progress and share lessons, ensuring that ours is a living strategy.

Second, WRI’s core functions (Communications, Finance, Human Resources, Operations) each set five-year strategies that include objectives, indicators, and targets. These strategies combine to create an operational results framework that supports the WRI-wide Results Framework. Core functions are tracking progress against their targets and will use this data to set annual priorities going forward.

Third, WRI welcomed an experienced new Global Director for Managing for Results, David Leege. Under David’s leadership, WRI is building capacity for measuring progress across the Institute, especially in country offices.



The Data Lab’s New Product Studio

In 2023, WRI’s Data Lab launched the Product Studio to help teams design and scale data-driven digital products. With a focus on real user needs, the Product Studio helps teams drive action in favor of people, nature and climate.

Funded by The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, the Product Studio has already supported 13 projects doing user research, product strategy and rapid prototyping. All 13 — including TerraMatch, LandMark and Energy Access Explorer — consider the three human systems in WRI’s strategy – food, land and water; energy; and cities.

In addition to supporting the creation of data-driven digital products, the Product Studio documents and shares learnings and best practices, sparking healthy conversations on how to build better data products. In time, this unique service will be made available to WRI partners.


Strengthening Our Financial Foundation

Financial flexibility is the linchpin of a healthy organization. It grants the ability to take calculated risks, move quickly, and maintain stability.

Over the past decade, WRI has grown at a significant rate. While this is a testament to our growing reputation as a trusted partner, it has occurred mostly through restricted, project- specific funding.

With this in mind, WRI launched the Enterprise Fund in 2023. The Enterprise Fund is an investment in the engine of WRI, and will be deployed into four priority areas:

  • Innovation to build new tools, leverage emerging technologies and test new ideas, approaches and platforms. WRI is the world leader in using machine learning, AI and satellite data to protect our planet.
  • Rapid response capacity to react to time-sensitive opportunities when they arise. Leaders and partners come to WRI because we bring the right people and science together
    to create durable results. WRI must have the financial wherewithal to respond when opportunities arise.
  • Building strong country programs to ensure each WRI office has staff with the
    technical expertise and deep networks necessary to bring about a transition to a thriving, sustainable and low-carbon future.
  • Strengthening global capabilities and infrastructure, including boosting our engagement and communications to sharpen our political influence and expand our partner base, and equipping staff with training and technical skills necessary to meet growing demand for WRI’s unique blend of analytical and convening capabilities.

Whether directed to WRI’s global work or to a specific geography, investments in the Enterprise Fund are critical for achieving WRI’s vision of a better world for people, nature and climate.

Land and Carbon Lab summit 2023 group photo

Building the Brilliant WRI

In order to deliver the goals and targets set out in WRI’s strategy, it is imperative that we fulfill our commitment to organizational excellence. This has set WRI on a journey to building a “Brilliant WRI,” which entails scaling up and re-modeling our core functions to ensure they can support a growing WRI. Working in a networked and country-centric way is at the heart of this journey.

In 2023 our core functions made significant progress on the following three priorities:

1. Building Blocks for a Brilliant WRI

WRI conducted our annual Building Blocks assessment to help identify what is needed to build capabilities in functions across our network. The findings from this assessment fed into the fiscal year budgeting process, which allowed our functions, country offices and programs to budget for the specific positions required to enhance their delivery. This process established a shared understanding of the performance standards expected of our offices and programs, and action plans to achieve them.

2. WRI’s Future Operating Model

WRI needs an operating model for the future that defines how we consistently and sustainably design and finance WRI’s core functions across the network. This will lay the foundation for us to consider future options to scale in existing or new locations. In 2023,
we completed phase I, which mapped existing core function capacity for each location and identified how each of these functions is funded. We continue to work on phase II, which focuses on developing country office delivery models, identifying the most efficient, impactful, and financially sustainable model for core functions across our network.

3. A Revamped Budget Process

WRI introduced a new budget process for the fiscal year designed to align WRI’s resources with our future aspirations. This also ensures our precious discretionary funding is more fully supporting WRI’s program work. The process of shifting institutional resources to country offices has already begun, as has a much-needed IT refresh.

—Pam Flaherty, Vice Chair and Global Governance Task Force Chair


Walking the Talk

To credibly espouse change in the world, and to achieve organizational excellence, it is essential for WRI to authentically embrace high standards of inclusivity and sustainability for ourselves.

Throughout 2023, WRI continued to strengthen institutional understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) through delivery of WRI’s DEI curriculum Critical Conversations. This creates intentional spaces to build shared language and practices around these issues.

Since its launch two years ago, more than 1,000 WRI staff have completed at least one DEI training. Critical Conversations are co-developed and co-facilitated by WRI’s DEI Ambassadors, which expands capacity and advances WRI’s goal of all staff completing at least two Critical Conversations each year.

In January 2023, WRI expanded internal carbon pricing to all sub-agreements, including contracts and subgrants, which make up a majority of WRI’s annual GHG emissions. This step was initially piloted in the US and China offices.

Together with WRI’s existing internal carbon price on business travel, electricity and commuting, a $50 per metric tonne charge now applies to 95% of our operating emissions. These are essential steps towards meeting WRI’s target of a 46% absolute emissions reduction, in line with the Paris Agreement.