Dear Mercy Corps Global Team,
It is with a heavy heart that I announce that I am stepping down as CEO of Mercy Corps, effective as the board determines a date. Meanwhile, I am immediately relinquishing my day-to-day responsibilities. The Board will appoint an interim leader. The events of this past week have caused me to think deeply about a lot of things — especially about what is best for Mercy Corps, what promotes healing, and what is the right act of authentic leadership for me.
I love this organization. I love every team member. I care so deeply about our mission and work in the world. I have spent 25 years doing my best to build an organization of true consequence, a real leader, with an amazing team and powerful culture. That is who we are today — because of our global team. I am so proud of each and every one of you.
Still, my failure to intervene and change the course of how the organization responded to the Humphrey’s hotline enquiries in late 2018 has shaken me to my core. I feel such a strong sense of personal responsibility — not because I had full information, I didn’t — but because I didn’t pay full attention and change our course of action. If I am going to morally own this — and I believe this in my soul — then I need to take the ultimate action. Sure, there are failures of governance, of process, and of management. But if I had paid more attention, if I had focused more, if I were a fully attentive leader, the outcome could have been different. This has caused great harm to the organization I love. Most importantly, this has exasperated the pain of a survivor. For that, my soul will always be seared. I truly hope my decision helps promote healing in some way.
I should have done better. Mercy Corps deserves better.
When I started 25 years ago, Mercy Corps was broke, severely strained, and an organization of maybe 200 global people, a budget of under $10M, and of very little influence and consequence. Today we are a recognized global leader, a team of just under 6000, a budget over $500M and a reputation for working in the toughest places and always bringing innovation and break-through ideas. It has been a team effort. I am so proud of our journey.
I have been blessed to work with the most amazing people around the world. The greatest joy of my life — apart from my family — has been building this organization (with so many others) and working with the greatest team in the world.
Mercy Corps will be strong. The right future leader will be found. It is time for fresh vision and new energy.
I will take part of November and December to reflect on and write about what we have just been through. I want to help shine a light on — beyond Mercy Corps — how society so fails survivors and victims of abuse. The role of culture, gender inequity, power structures — how all of this colludes and collides at the organizational level and beyond.
This is the right thing for me to do. This is best for Mercy Corps. I so appreciate all the many words and messages of support and love that have come in from around the world. We will get through this current crisis, and Mercy Corps will emerge as a stronger, better organization — with new and fresh and powerful leadership. And I want everyone to know: we have the most amazing team of executives and senior leaders. I have full and total confidence in their leadership and moral judgment. We also have a dedicated, committed, caring Board of Directors. They will do the right thing.
The strength of Mercy Corps has always been its people — especially those on the front lines of our mission and the many who support the front lines. Our culture has been tested, but our principles and values will endure and prevail.
As Maya Angelou said, “"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."