“People are the foundation of the nation. Our only chance for a lasting peace on earth: the release of the strength of the common man. If the foundation is firm, then the nation will enjoy tranquility.” -Dr. James Yen
IIRR has over 80 years of history in participatory, integrated and people-centered development. The Institute has enhanced the capacity and confidence of over 100,000 development managers, practitioners and community leaders across Asia, Africa and Latin America and has a long history of documenting and disseminating field-based experience through its publications. Behind this tremendous body of work is a compelling and revolutionary individual—Dr. James Yen.
A 1918 graduate of Yale University, Dr. James Yen was born in Sichuan Province, China, the country from which he would revolutionize the framework of development. In 1923, Dr. Yen became head of the Chinese National Association of the Mass Education Movement, and in partnership with the American Cooperating Committee, supported mass literacy campaigns throughout China and pioneered experiments in integrated rural development, using practices now considered mainstream long before they were the norm.
In 1940, Dr. Yen and his colleagues established the National College of Rural Reconstruction to train Chinese men and women as rural reconstruction professionals. In conjunction with the Chinese-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, he played an instrumental role in the development of Taiwan. In 1951, Dr. Yen, William O. Douglas, Fowler McCormick, Eleanor Roosevelt and others formed the International Mass Education Movement for which Dr. Yen served as President. In 1952, Dr. Yen helped civic minded Filipino leaders organize the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, with movements that followed in Colombia, Guatemala, Ghana, India and Thailand. In 1960, he established the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction.
Dr. Yen is considered one of the most profound pioneers in the field of development and was a man of enormous vision and immeasurable faith in the strength of the common man in solving the world’s toughest challenges. In 1943, he was honored alongside Albert Einstein, Orville Wright, Henry Ford and John Dewey with the Copernican Citation as one of the ten outstanding “modern revolutionaries” of the world. His wisdom and deep commitment to the world’s poor lives on through IIRR’s work .