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CLIR Annual Report

Download the 2021-2022 Annual Report

CLIR Annual Report 2021-2022 cover

Message from the President

Annual Report, 2021-2022

This past year was notable for the rigorous focus on our future. Emerging from the constraints of Covid, we recently concluded a  yearlong planning process that focused on our strategic advancement, purpose, mission, vision, and values. Conversations about CLIR’s vision were especially animated, and involved staff, Board members, alums of CLIR’s programs, and longtime friends and supporters. In discussions of values that followed, our staff and Board agreed that the following were of special import: reimagination, intentionality, community, and empowerment.

Reimagination gives us the strength to take reasonable risks, question existing systems, and rethink our approach as we develop new collaborations and partners, and align for greater impact. Intentionality requires us to seek out new, diverse voices and perspectives for our programs and initiatives, and demands transparency in all of our efforts.

Community signifies our focus on building working collaborations of purpose and practice, and respectfully engaging with others with whom we listen and learn. Empowerment inspires us to facilitate access to and stewardship of history and cultural heritage, whether that of an individual or a wider community. We consider education and participation in one’s culture fundamental human rights, not a perquisite. Interweaving these values in all of our projects and programs is essential and inspiring, and we will continue to frame our efforts on your behalf by these anchoring propositions.

As for a longer-term strategic roadmap, these are admittedly tough times. While we may be breathing easier now than in the depths of the pandemic, we know that viral spread can erupt at any time. Our aspirations are also conditioned by growing alarm over the acceleration of climate change and the scale of its impacts on humanity, cultural expression, and natural world stability. The norms and expectations we enjoyed a few years ago appear more ephemeral today.

To draft a future course, we have looked inward at our programs to identify emerging areas of focus and their potential for constructive influence. Two seem especially apt for this letter, as both exemplify decades of successful work and evidence new breadth and sustainability. The first is a planned large-scale expansion of our programs for cataloging and digitizing hidden collections. The new project will focus on preserving and making accessible collections across Africa, to promote knowledge and understanding of and about the African continent and African diaspora, and their histories. The limited availability of digital resources about and by Africans hinders egalitarian access to information and knowledge advancement on the continent, while impoverishing our understanding of history and inhibiting intergenerational knowledge sharing. Led by African-based professionals, Hidden Collections Africa will directly support institutions and staff across the continent to meet urgent preservation needs, close gaps in the historical record, and make records more accessible to people around the world.

CLIR’s leadership programs are a second area of focus with exciting new vistas. The Leading Change Institute (LCI), which supports hundreds of dedicated alums who promote and embody the qualities of sound leadership from a wide variety of positions and responsibilities, will go on hiatus this coming year as we substantively evaluate the program. Meanwhile, CLIR continues ongoing leadership initiatives such as the Postdoctoral Fellowship program and the Authenticity Fellows program. Going forward, we will be asking key questions: What are new qualities of leadership needed in a world of pandemics and climate disruption? What typically assumed aspects of leadership might need to be thoroughly reconsidered? How might traditions of promotion, prestige, and competitive metrics impede enlightened stewardship? How are characteristics of leadership translated across cultures and generations? Are there essential aspects of leadership that transcend regional, national, and ethnic interests? We look forward to continuing these conversations.

In this respect, the expansion of Hidden Collections and reimagining of CLIR’s leadership programs augur a strategic arc for the organization: to learn from ideas and insights that are multicultural, multinational, and ethnically diverse, providing for a future that celebrates difference, ensures equality of access to knowledge, and facilitates participation in one’s culture as well as an appreciative immersion in other resources of imaginative expression. We believe these opportunities are a human right, not the privilege of a few, and that all of our constituencies collectively benefit from this encompassing and embracing mission.

A coda to our values statement is a mandate to leave the world a better place than we found it—a tall order, but invigorating. We believe that this can be accomplished only when we extol a mutual dependence on our ideas, our diversity of interests and perspectives, our aspirations, and our collective capacity, guided by the shared purpose of bequeathing a just and equitable ecology, of earth and mind, for generations not yet arrived.

With sincere gratitude,

Charles Henry

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