Darren Walker, The President of the Ford Foundation, talks about the history of the Foundation, it’s new focus on inequality and increased unrestricted support, and the importance of the Board and corporate culture in creating successful change within an institution. This conversation took place with Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving, and aired on AM 970 The Answer in New York on November 15, 2015.
Denver Frederick: In the world of philanthropy there has been a tremendous amount of buzz that has surrounded my next guest, the 13th President and CEO of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker. Darren, thanks so much for joining me on the Business of Giving.
Darren Walker: Happy to be here, Denver.
Frederick: Why don’t you start by giving us a brief overview of the Ford Foundation, its history, its guiding principles, and some of your milestone achievements.
Walker: The Ford Foundation was founded in 1936 by Edsel and Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan, with the objective of serving the local Detroit community. In 1950, Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II, became the chair of the Board of the Ford Foundation and embarked upon a transformational reimagining of the Ford Foundation. This was made possible by the Ford Foundation’s ownership of stock in the Ford Motor Company. We were the largest shareholder in the Ford Motor Company, and when the Ford Motor Company went public overnight, the Ford Foundation became twice the size of the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation combined. Henry decided that our mission would expand and that we would become an international foundation, and that our foundation would move its headquarters from Detroit to NYC.
“That remains our core mission to this day. The idea that we seek a world that is more just, fair and peaceful with opportunity for all.”
At that time, a new ambitious and global agenda was set that focused on expanding democracy, reducing poverty and advancing human achievement in the world. That remains our core mission to this day. The idea that we seek a world that is more just, fair and peaceful with opportunity for all.
Frederick: You’ve had some dramatic signature achievements over the years, tell us about a couple of the programs that the Ford Foundation has gotten behind and made possible.
“I think of our work over the many years as the three i’s: investing in institutions, ideas and individual leaders.”