Anna Brown, The Rockefeller Foundation

TITLE: Senior Associate Director

FUNDING AREAS: Climate change (Asia) and urban expansion

CONTACT: ABrown@Rockfound.org, 212-869-8500

IP TAKE: A young but life-long international development leader as well as a conservationist, Brown guides Rockefeller capital toward helping the developing world to manage existing environmental challenges and gear up for future ones.  

PROFILE: As senior associate director of The Rockefeller Foundation, Anna Brown manages the foundation's Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), a partnership to help 10 major cities across Asia modify their architecture and city planning to better withstand the impacts of climate change. Brown also seves as deputy manager of the foundation's Asia Regional Office and contributes to Rockerfeller's global strategy in general.

With a bachelor's in environmental studies from Brown University and a master's from MIT in city planning, Brown is just the person to help expand urban areas while being mindful of the environment. Throughout her career, Brown has held various research and program development positions, including leading the Quaker United Nations Office's Commission on Sustainable Development, which focuses its work on peacebuilding and alternatives to military aggression. She also had a lead role in UNESCO's Water Sciences Division, where she facilitated informal meetings of the minds between diplomats, UN staff, and NGOs so they could discuss sustainable development ideas that also addressed water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. And Brown has also worked as a researcher and coordinator for the MIT-USGS Science Impact Collaborative.

Brown joined The Rockefeller Foundation in 2007 as a research associate. Back then her work with the foundation focused on national and international urban planning, urban climate change, and U.S. transportation policy. She shifted focus to their Asia region in 2010.

As far as the ACCCRN program goes, it may surprise you that about 40 percent of the grants are awarded to U.S.-based institutions and universities researching, studying, or otherwise conducting climate change resilience work in Asia. The remaining 60 percent of the grants were awarded to European, Asian, and Australian institutions.

As far as the types of grants awarded, Rockefeller’s ACCCRN grant making activities cut a wide swath. They run the gamut from research and development to ecosystem restoration. One rather large, multi-year grant was recently awarded toward the preservation of mangrove trees. The ACCCRN program also gave more than $3.3 million in grants to the Thailand Environment Institute Foundation to work with the Thai cities of Phuket, Hat Yai, Udon Thani, and Chiang Rai on climate-change-resilient urban planning, and more than $7.6 million to the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition to carry out similar community-planning work in Vietnam.

There is one pretty significant difference in ACCCRN’s grant making: It takes a bit of a break from the big-institution/organization/university that is the status quo at Rockefeller. ACCCRN grants awards to mid-sized organizations along with the status quo big institutions, organizations and universities. So it isn't just the Oxfams and Mercy Corps of the world who benefit from Rockefeller's deep grantmaking pockets. Organizations like Intellecap and TARU Leading Edge have a shot at ACCCRN grants as well.

In a recent blog post on Rockefeller's own website, Brown articulated three keys to supporting Asia's mid-sized cities moving forward—and therefore any organization looking for funding from Brown would be well-advised to integrate these strategies into their plan:

  1. Access to finance
  2. Capacity building
  3. Cross-sectoral collaboration

Brown also sees the value in taking what's been successfully achieved in real life and creating models to build by.  Along with her Rockefeller colleagues Ashvin Dayal and Cristina Rumbaitis Del Rio, she authored a 2012 journal article entitled From practice to theory: emerging lessons from Asia for building urban climate change resilience. The lessons they've learned would be good for grant seekers to be aware of too.

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