Statement from the Mercy Corps Board of Directors Regarding Former CEO Neal Keny-Guyer
On October 10th 2019, Neal Keny-Guyer resigned as Chief Executive Officer after 25 years of leadership at the helm of Mercy Corps. He did so after accepting full institutional responsibility for Mercy Corps’ response in late 2018 to Tania Culver-Humphrey’s appeal for an investigation into her allegations of sexual abuse in the 1990s by her father, Mercy Corps co-founder Ellsworth Culver.
As a Board we accepted his resignation as appropriate, a measure of his integrity but with very heavy hearts. Neal believed his resignation would allow the beginning of a healing process both for Ms. Humphrey and for the people of Mercy Corps. Neal enthusiastically endorsed a thorough independent review of his own and Mercy Corps’ actions in 2018. The Board engaged outside experts and counsel who interviewed dozens of employees and reviewed thousands of documents. In February, the Board released the report of the independent investigation which “did not find any evidence of intentional wrongdoing or of any effort to cover up” the events, while at the same time acknowledging that errors of judgment were made and recommending procedures to strengthen Mercy Corps’ safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure that they align with our values. In light of the report and its conclusion that neither Neal nor the Mercy Corps leadership team engaged in any intentional wrongdoing or cover-up, and took steps that they believed at the time to be in the best interests of the agency, the Mercy Corps Board has issued the following statement to recognize the transformative contributions of Neal Keny-Guyer to the agency during his 25 years of leadership.
Statement from the Mercy Corps Board of Directors
The Board of Directors extends its profound appreciation to Neal Keny-Guyer for his 25 years of service as the Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps.
When Neal became Mercy Corps’ leader in 1994, the organization employed fewer than 250 people with an annual budget of less than $7 million, and operated in fewer than 9 countries. Today, Mercy Corps employs almost 6,000 team members, manages a budget of nearly $600 million, and operates in more than 40 countries, including some of the most challenging conflict zones in the world. Few humanitarian organizations have emerged over the past 25 years with this record of growth and leadership.
Neal led Mercy Corps as it pioneered humanitarian and economic development innovations, including the creation of: award winning microfinance banks in Indonesia, Bosnia, and Mongolia; a ground-breaking micro insurance company for small-holder farmers in Latin America; a game-changing technology accelerator/incubator in Gaza; a field-based social venture fund investing in social enterprises and tech-enabled financial services in Africa, Asia and Latin America; along with dozens of innovative peace building programs in the world’s most conflict-affected countries and regions.
Under Neal’s leadership, Mercy Corps operated both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises - some that have returned millions of dollars for the organization’s mission - and emerged as a global INGO leader in market-based solutions. Under his leadership Fast Company ranked Mercy Corps one of the most innovative social-change organizations in the world.
Among donors, peers and partners, Neal is admired and seen by many as a transformational leader. He worked tirelessly to strengthen and uphold the broader humanitarian community. He valued his friendships with his peers and partners - whether through his four-year tenure as board chair of Interaction, or through his active participation in major international meetings such as the World Economic Forum. Neal pushed the aid community to be more innovative, to embrace transformational change, and drive greater cooperation and partnership - between each other and with the private sector - believing that no single organization acting alone can achieve the change needed in the world.
Neal challenged Mercy Corps and the broader international relief and development community to create a new humanitarian paradigm that focuses on root causes and grapples with peace building, complex politics and human rights in the world’s most fragile countries and contexts — where conflict, corruption and climate all collude to trap citizens in cycles of extreme poverty and injustice. These are the places where needs are greatest, and where organizations like Mercy Corps can make the greatest difference. And these were the places — such as Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza — where Neal thrived and traveled, again and again. Asked to describe his most important role as CEO, Neal would always answer, “going to the front lines of our toughest places and saying thank you to Mercy Corps’ team members and our many community partners.” Neal's heart was in the field; his focus was on the front lines and he believed that the best ideas and talent should be embraced wherever it exists - often in the very communities one is trying to serve.
The Mercy Corps Board of Directors thanks Neal Keny-Guyer for his quarter-century of leadership, during which the organization has provided life-saving humanitarian relief, rapid social and economic recovery and longer-term resilience programming to more than 300 million people in over 50 countries.
His relentless focus on the world’s most fragile countries; his restlessness for innovation, impact, and influence; his resolute insistence on tackling root causes, promoting peace and human rights, and his commitment to partnership with peer organizations and the private sector provide a lasting legacy, not only for Mercy Corps but for the entire international relief and development community.