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Redefining Resilience in Challenging Times

Our Mission

To help


around the world address


economic &

social challenges

to build a better


shaped & shared by


Message from the President

Deeohn Ferris, staff, president

Rarely has there been such a time of upheaval as we all witnessed in 2020. The world experienced a global pandemic, a transformative racial justice and equity movement, and widespread political turmoil – all on top of accelerating economic inequality and increasingly  devastating climate change impacts. The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC)  grappled with our own share of internal and external changes but remained focused on investing in growth and in our ongoing organizational equity and inclusion journey. 

Like most – if not all – organizations, the spread of the COVID-19 virus in 2020 ushered in radical shifts in the ways we work. To protect everyone’s health, we converted ISC’s traditionally in-person convenings to virtual gatherings. Among our staff, Board, and partners, this often meant upskilling to deploy new virtual technology platforms. ISC’s programs in the U.S., China, India, and Bangladesh excelled notwithstanding the pandemic, and we closed the year with the launch of the Mekong Sustainable Manufacturing Alliance, which will expand our work on creative climate change solutions to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. 

In 2020, ISC doubled down on our mission and living the values of equity and inclusion. Two prominent African Americans joined the Board of Directors, Nathaniel Smith, Executive Director of the Partnership for Southern Equity, and Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Professor and Director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program. We hired our first new President in 30 years, the first African American woman to helm a U.S.-based international climate change organization.

We listened to the voices for racial justice and equity we heard around the world. ISC already strengthens and facilitates community and local leadership and equitable climate change and sustainability solutions through our mission. Now, we’re even more focused on embedding the science, data, and best practices of equity and inclusion into decisions and investments that reduce climate impacts and advance a low carbon economy that benefits everyone.

As ISC enters its 30th year, our two co-founders retired – George Hamilton as President and former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin from the Board of Directors. This anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate their dedication, leadership, and the incredible global impact they spearheaded, delivering over 130 groundbreaking projects in 30 countries. Their vision and collaboration set ISC apart as a community-led changemaker and holistic problem-solver.

Change is never easy, and ISC’s road ahead is certain to have bumps. However, our successful track record holds us in good stead. Over 30 years, Madeleine, George, our Board, donors, staff, and partners established ISC as a global environmental leader, cementing our core allegiance, to unleash the power of people to make positive changes where they live, work, learn, and play.

I am thrilled to be entrusted with ISC’s stewardship. Let’s continue to lean on each other, pursuing our mission, doing what we know, and helping to ensure that equity and communities are at the center of the world’s climate change and sustainability solutions.


Deeohn Sig

Deeohn Ferris

Our COVID-19 Response

Impact Highlights

Climate Change, Health, & Equity

In 2020, issues of health, equity, and climate change were top of mind for many, and much of ISC’s work was grounded in the intersection of all three. For example, The Kresge Foundation’s Climate Change, Health, and Equity Initiative (CCHE), for which ISC serves as the national program office, convened healthcare institutions, health practitioners, and community advocates from across the U.S. to develop cross-cutting strategies and policies led by and prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color. The success of the CCHE led to ISC being selected to manage a second network: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health and Climate Solutions program. In this role, ISC is bolstering grantee communities as they identify and share effective solutions that improve health, advance health equity, and address climate change. In both of these programs – and in ISC’s work across the U.S. and Asia – there is a focus not only on responding to climate and health emergencies, but on addressing the historical and structural inequities that exacerbate crises and lead to disproportionate suffering.

Water Stewardship and Sustainable Livelihoods

In recent years, cotton production has been devastated by climate variability. Rapidly changing climatic conditions coupled with poor resource management and misplaced incentives have put rural farming communities at risk of collapse. ISC has been working with the textile industry to look beyond the factory walls at the larger community, and that means supporting farmers in responding effectively to climate change. This year, ISC began training 120,000 farmers and entrepreneurs, 45% of whom are women, in sustainable water stewardship practices. Such techniques focus on reducing harmful farm inputs while protecting natural resources and improving yields. Equipped with this knowledge, these farmers will be better able to safeguard their crops, mitigate climate risks, and bring economic opportunity to their communities. The long term goal of the project is to scale this community-centric approach across Southeast Asia, reducing the overall environmental footprint of cotton cultivation while empowering women entrepreneurs and community leaders. ISC was proud to showcase this work and lead the discourse on agriculture, climate resilience, and equity at SIWI World Water Week, a major global conference, in August 2020.

Our Equity Journey

For many organizations, 2020 was a turning point for highlighting racial equity. At ISC, our drive to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in both our organization and our work began several years ago and 2020 marked an opportunity to look back at our progress thus far.

Board of Directors

Madeleine M. Kunin (Founder) Fmr. Governor of Vermont

Jonathan Lash (Chair) Former President, Hampshire College

LuAnn L. Bennett (Vice Chair) President, Bennett Group

Ann Condon (Secretary) Former Director, GE Corporate Environmental Programs

John A. Dooley (Treasurer) Fmr. Vermont Supreme Court Justice

Deeohn Ferris (Ex-Officio) President, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Rick Barton Fmr. Ambassador, Assistant Sec. of State and UNHCR High Commissioner

Nisha Desai Biswal President, U.S.-India Business Council

Jan Blomstrann Co-founder and former CEO of NRG Systems

Bryan Garcia President and CEO, Connecticut Green Bank

David Grant Former President & CEO, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Dr. Susan M. Pepin Managing Director, Arizona State University’s Health and Clinical Partnerships

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Georgia

Nathaniel Smith Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Partnership for Southern Equity

Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton Bishop of Maryland

2020 Financials

Download the full ISC 2020 Annual Report



Financial statements provide an overview of ISC’s operations, revenue, and expenses. Statements are available for download in the PDF file format for the following years:

ISC’s audited financial statements use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which means multi-year income is posted only in the year awarded. For a more complete picture of ISC’s financial year, please reference our annual reports, which align funding sources with expenses. For more information about GAAP, please contact us. 


Called an informational return, this document is filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on a fiscal-year basis. It contains a comprehensive review of the entire organization’s spending in detail. This form is available for download in the PDF file format for the following years:


This form certifies that ISC is an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization according to IRS rules and regulations:

If you would like documents from previous years, please contact us at [email protected].

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