I grew up in the USA, but my parents are both from missionary families (born in Korea and Mozambique), and I inherited from them an internationalist spirit, a love of nature and an ethic of service. In 1976, when I was fourteen, I was chosen to be part of the first US student “friendship” delegation to visit the People’s Republic of China. A few years later, an ornithology class field trip at the University of Wisconsin introduced me to the International Crane Foundation, and they asked me to help them develop their wetland conservation work in China. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, I was able to combine my interests in rural China and the environment, obtaining a masters degree from Cornell University along the way. My unusual skill set led to jobs in China with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the Ford Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. After 16 years in China, I returned to the US and served as President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy from 2006 to 2014. Since then, I have focused on finding new ways to connect people inside and outside of China in the vital areas of environment, agriculture and philanthropy.
CHINA, FOOD SYSTEMS, ENVIRONMENT AND PHILANTHROPY
January 2014 - Present
In addition to building bridges to and sharing information with the Chinese food movement, I am developing an impact investment fund to support innovative social enterprises that can help China meet its food needs more sustainably. I also provide Western NGOs and foundations with strategic research and advice about China, including how to navigate new regulations on foreign civil society organizations. My current practice includes a diverse portfolio of projects with US and Chinese foundations, policy researchers and NGOs.
Environmental Grantmakers Association (U.S./China grant makers’ exchange)
Climate and Land Use Alliance (options paper on China agricultural trade and climate change)
Ford Foundation China (strategic advisor to the Representative, grantmaking portfolio support)
Rockefeller Brothers Fund (strategic support to South China Program)
Grace Communications Foundation (consultant on industrial and alternative agriculture and food systems in China)
Research Center for Rural Economy, Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (editor for international sustainable agriculture research and publishing project)
Heyi Green Foundation (coordinated river basin conservation exchange with U.S. NGOs)
Smithsonian Journeys (lecturer on Chinese history and nature)
Compassion in World Farming (assisted in legal registration in China)
INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE POLICY
July 2006 – Dec 2013
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) is an international think tank committed to promoting fair and sustainable food systems based in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Under my leadership, we added climate and local food programs and served as a bridge between family farming, environmental justice and labor movements. We also weathered the financial crisis, built an endowment and achieved a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, their highest score. Throughout my tenure at IATP we supported a nascent movement of researchers, activists and farmers in China who were seeking more sustainable alternatives to the country’s troubled food system
WORLD WILDLIFE FUND - CHINA
As the China Country Representative for WWF, I recruited China’s top conservationists, invested heavily in development of younger staff and leveraged WWF’s global network to transform our small Beijing-based operation into a highly effective national network with over 70 staff in eight offices. We played a major role in strengthening China’s biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, as well as catalyzing the country’s indigenous environmental movement.
FORD FOUNDATION PROGRAM OFFICER
April 1995 – Jan 1999
As Environment and Development Officer for the Ford Foundation in Beijing, I supported work on rural poverty, community-based resource management and indigenous knowledge, and provided grants to China’s first environmental NGOs.