Twentieth century philosopher Isaiah Berlin divided the world into those two animals in
his 1953 essay based upon the ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but
the hedgehog knows one…” Fifty years later, best-selling business author Jim Collins
used the same parable. Winning companies are like hedgehogs, he said, fiercely focused
on the one big thing that drives their business.
We politely disagree. In challenging times, winners will have traits of both the single-minded hedgehog and the keenly intelligent fox.
Last year, the economy spiraled down. Climate change pushed us to develop long-term preparations for utilities, while
pharmaceuticals in drinking water made headlines.
With the back-to-basics discipline of a hedgehog, we focused on our mission of doing the right research on the right topics
that matter to subscribers most. This organizing principle guides us through chaotic times.
At the same time, like foxes, we were open-minded and opportunistic. In 2008, we talked about the value of drinking water
research to Congress, corporations, and individuals. We hope this yields new opportunities for funding and partnerships.
We also made our planning process more flexible, so we can swiftly allocate research dollars to the greatest need. We also
reached out to international partners to learn from their achievements.
Here are just a few highlights of our 2008 accomplishments:
The Foundation creates measurable value through strategically targeted research. In 2008, we published two world-leading
reports on endocrine-disrupting compounds in drinking water. These reports allow water quality managers to precisely
understand the incidence and prevalence of certain chemicals, and to confidently communicate risks to their communities.
Our communications team embraced new technologies. Our use of Webcasts and downloadable PDFs increased and we
communicated to the press to tell a larger audience about our work. And in 2008, we educated Congress about quagga
mussels and climate change. The response to this improved communication has been tremendous, and we will further
innovate our Web site and communications strategies in 2009.
Organizational sustainability is crucial. In 2008, we changed our name so that legislators, individuals, and corporations might
quickly recognize our focus. In 2009, we will further reach out to these groups. Meanwhile, we responded to the economic
times by paring expenses and reducing headcount. Our finance and grants group received a perfect audit in 2008, just one
example of our commitment to efficiency excellence.
We owe these accomplishments to our staff, dedicated volunteers, loyal partners and you, the subscriber whose support we
work to deserve.
We have learned, in the more than 40 years of operating the Foundation, that in tough times, we need each other.
Hedgehogs, solely focused on one big idea, need foxes to challenge them. Foxes, the intellectual scavengers and contrarians,
need hedgehogs to remind them of what matters most.
The Foundation needs your continued insights, support, and sponsorship. Thank you for your continued commitment.
In return, we will continue to sponsor the relevant, insightful, and applicable research you need.
David E. Rager
Robert C. Renner, P.E., D.E.E.