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Dr. Jean Balié

IRRI Director General

CGIAR Regional Director - Southeast Asia and the Pacific

The drive to thrive

The year 2021 was a time of transition for IRRI in more ways than one.

Message from the Director General

The big transition was one that everyone around the world had to make, as the pandemic entered its second year and forced all nations, organizations, and individuals to discover and adapt to a “new normal” way of working and living. The other big change is the ongoing One CGIAR transition, where IRRI and 11 other centers scattered around the globe are being integrated into one unified system, with all the attendant adjustments that such a transformation entails.

And yet, even with all the challenges brought about by these transitions, IRRI has not just remained resilient but has also found ways to thrive. While field and lab activities were constrained, our scientists were able to find alternative pathways to advance research, such as publishing a bumper crop of papers and studies. While face-to-face visits and engagements dropped, partnerships and relationships continued to be created and strengthened through cloud-based video communications apps, webinars, and other virtual channels.

Furthermore, we have been able to maintain and even grow our funding support with donors and partners recognizing the importance of agricultural research in ensuring global food security in the face of climate change and other emerging threats.

All of these have put IRRI in a strong position as we move into the next phase of the One CGIAR transition and continue our journey towards becoming an even greater force for good.

Despite IRRI teams and CGIAR colleagues being geographically apart, we were able to come together online to effectively complete tasks, communicate information, and collaborate as the new CGIAR takes shape.

Everyone performed above and beyond in this aspect, actively participating in the One CGIAR transition, asking important and difficult questions, and even taking on leadership roles and responsibilities that are out of the scope of their usual duties.

Across the research initiatives and corporate functions, there was a palpable sense of excitement, as well as some apprehensions, about what the future holds for all of us. But there was also an overriding optimism that the new CGIAR will have an even greater impact on food systems around the world. This optimism was evident in the many constructive and far-reaching discussions that took place throughout the year, as well as the level of engagement and the quality of work that
we have seen produced by IRRI staff.

Now we are at a point where we are almost ready to go back on-site with most of the staff that was home-based during the pandemic. We have also started to see some of our international staff return to Laguna and Manila, even as we maintain a flexible and blended approach that will enable us to work both on- and off-site.

Wherever we find ourselves working, I am confident in IRRI’s ability to deliver, as our staff has shown that they are more than up for the task, no matter what challenges come our way.

Of course, all these would not be possible without the overwhelming support from partners, donors, and other stakeholders. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for your trust and confidence in IRRI.

The past two years have been equally challenging for all, but I am hopeful that the worst is now behind us. With a new CGIAR to lead us forward, I am positive we can better maximize the support we are receiving and we can more effectively contribute to solving the challenges at hand.

In the coming months, we will continue to help drive the One CGIAR transition forward, working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in the other centers to ensure a smooth and successful integration. Many of the staff have built strong working relationships with CGIAR counterparts and I am confident that they will maintain and strengthen these as we move forward.

More specifically, we will be pushing forward to improve the CGIAR value proposition and strategically position the CGIAR Regional Hub for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. These are two areas where we’ve seen significant improvement and where many partners have been extremely receptive, more than we ever imagined.

We have received valuable ideas and suggestions from all over, and we are confident that with the continued engagement and support of our partners, we can make the CGIAR an even more effective platform for agricultural research for development.

We will also intensify our efforts in knowledge management and communications, to ensure that the valuable work being done by our scientists and staff, in collaboration with partners, is effectively disseminated and used to its full potential.

IRRI has always been a strong proponent of knowledge sharing, and we will continue to invest in this area to make sure that our research results are accessible and useful to all those who need them.

In 2021, we have seen the benefits of this increased focus, with a number of our products being used by various stakeholders, both inside and outside of CGIAR. Our experience and expertise continue to be sought after and we will strive to build on this moving forward.

We are focused on developing our people and putting in place systems and structures that will enable us to operate more effectively and efficiently while ensuring the safety and well-being of our staff.

We are also keen on harnessing technology to its maximum limit so that we can continue to find new and innovative ways of working and doing things, even as we maintain the high standards of excellence that have always been the hallmark of IRRI.

Of utmost importance to IRRI’s work are the local and regional partnerships we have developed over the years. We will continue to nurture these relationships, as we strive to ensure that our work is relevant and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable. We will also be looking at ways to expand our partnerships in and beyond the region so that we can share our knowledge and expertise with a wider global audience.

We have come a long way in the past two years and I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I would like to thank all of you for your support and I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

Dr. Jean Balié
IRRI Director General
CGIAR Regional Director - Southeast Asia and the Pacific