RISE was co-founded by David Neidel and Dominique Cagalanan, two Americans with 20 years of experience working in the Philippines. Dominique began her work in the Philippines in 2007 as a Ph.D. candidate researching forest conservation and livelihoods on the island of Negros, and has expanded her research and community outreach projects as an affiliate of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Philippines since 2013. In 2008, David started collaborating with Visayas State University (VSU) Institute of Tropical Ecology & Environmental Management (ITEEM) and ICRAF to establish training programs on forest rehabilitation on behalf of Yale University’s Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI).
David and Dominique met in 2015 when Dominique attended a training at VSU that was sponsored by ELTI and ITEEM. Over time and after many conversations, it became clear that the two shared a vision on how best to scale up efforts to restore degraded landscapes in collaboration with local partners. RISE was registered as a nonprofit organization in the Philippines in June 2019 and builds on the 11-year partnership between ELTI and ITEEM. RISE currently shares an office with colleagues from ELTI and ITEEM, and offers new opportunities for expanded program development and domestic and international fundraising. RISE also maintains close connections with ICRAF.