2021 Annual Report

Co-Chairs’ Letter | President’s Letter

Co-Chairs’ Letter | President’s Letter

Glenn H. Hutchins
Co-Chair of the Board

Suzanne Nora Johnson
Co-Chair of the Board

Co-Chairs’ Letter

2021 began with great promise. As we envisioned a post-pandemic future, we had hopes that good governance could re-animate our politics, that the U.S. could reclaim world leadership, and that Brookings could re-open our doors to staff, guests, and events. But the mutating virus, internal division, and global strife all proved to be stubborn foes.

Nonetheless, we remained agile in adapting to these changing circumstances, allowing our scholars to continue their important work and impact on the issues facing our world. Our experts focused their research and analysis not just on the crises in the headlines, but on the underlying causes of the challenges facing society.

And there can be little doubt that these challenges are immense in scale, far-reaching in impact, and urgent in their need for innovative yet practical solutions. From climate change to rising authoritarianism to persistent economic inequality to advancing technologies, Brookings scholars applied the tools of rigorous research, sturdily rooted in scholarly independence, to foster deeper understanding of the issues and to advance good policy options to address them.

Our experts approach problems with a clear-eyed view of the current policy environment so that their ideas will gain traction and inform the debate. The independent, non-partisan research that Brookings scholars produce on a daily basis does not seek to confirm anyone’s preconceived ideas or advance their political goals. Instead, we begin with facts, analyze them thoroughly, and propose new ideas to improve both the common good and individual lives.

The work that Brookings does gives us genuine hope for the future. And this work is made possible by the generous support of our donors. Financial contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, governments, and other organizations, along with a modest draw from our endowment, provide the resources that sustain our work. We’re grateful to all who share our belief in the power of good governance grounded in smart policy and a commitment to improving quality of life in our local communities, promoting a vibrant and healthy national economy, and advancing peaceful relations between countries.

Your support and engagement help us enrich the public dialogue and build a safer, more prosperous world. On behalf of our fellow Trustees, our executive leadership, our scholars, and our staff, we thank you for your investment in our mission and confidence in our work.

John R. Allen

President’s Letter

Following the daunting challenges of 2020, we saw important glimmers of hope in 2021 in the form of effective vaccines against COVID-19, early signs of societal reopening and recovery, the reemergence of U.S. leadership around the globe, and remarkable technological advancements. But we also witnessed one of America’s darkest days in the form of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a growing climate crisis, the appearance of new and deadly COVID variants, continued systemic racism throughout the country, and economic inequality that leaves far too many people behind. Within this volatile landscape of opportunities tempered with challenges, Brookings experts met the moment with innovative, actionable policy solutions, as they have throughout the Institution’s 105-year history.

The Brookings Institution thrives in uncertain times such as these because of our deep commitment to understanding the policy environment in which these opportunities and challenges are situated. As we work toward a better, brighter future of peace and prosperity for all, our scholars continue to identify and diagnose problems and offer solutions that address the root causes, not just the symptoms. This 2021 report provides a sample of our approach, our impact, and the contributions of our many experts.

As with so many other organizations, Brookings continued to work remotely to protect the health and safety of our scholars, staff, and guests. Despite the ongoing disruptions, our experts continued to have a major impact on both urgent problems and the long-term issues that require sustained attention. Brookings’s research and analyses were sought out and read unlike ever before across a broad range of issues, and our scholars were in high demand from media and policymakers alike.

Following the election, a number of Brookings scholars and staff took a leave of absence to serve on agency teams and assist with the transition to the new administration. Subsequently, 26 individuals have officially joined the Biden administration in senior policy and leadership positions. We are proud that so many from the Brookings community are continuing our longstanding tradition of public service, just as we’re secure in the knowledge that they are bringing the world-class expertise and many original, practical ideas they developed at our Institution into the new government.

Our Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity project, a series of innovative, implementable federal policy ideas on racial justice, worker mobility, economic growth and dynamism, global governance, international security, climate resiliency, and more, were published to coincide with key inflection points during the presidential transition and early in the Biden administration. Brookings also launched a new Institution-wide effort on climate, the Brookings Initiative on Climate Research and Action, which leverages our ability, across a full and significant spectrum of expertise, to inform key stakeholders to advance meaningful change.

The accomplishments of Brookings experts highlighted in this report and the remarkable level of impact they’ve had on policy are only possible through the support and engagement of donors who support our work. We are deeply grateful to all whose generosity sustains this Institution and propels our scholars forward in pursuit of our mission to solve problems at the local, national, and global levels. I hope you’ll enjoy this review of the past year and will take the time to explore and engage with Brookings now and in the future. Thank you, and please stay safe and well.