The world of philanthropy can seem very staid and conservative, especially when it comes to established foundations. The Ford Foundation, though, is looking at the world of philanthropy differently. Partly, this is because of new leadership at the top.
Darren Walker was a beneficiary of some of the Ford Foundation’s pet projects, most notably Head Start. Walker brings a different perspective to bear in the CEO’s chair. He believes that foundations need to view the world of philanthropy with a sense of urgency. Walker comes to the job with an understanding of the issues at work, and the need for expanded services.
By endowment, the Ford Foundation is the second-largest philanthropic organization in the US. Walker knows that they can afford to take risks. Although they’ve recently moved to new headquarters, the public is welcome inside. Walker really believes in doing things differently. He has long made it his goal to be as connected as possible to others.
Walker achieved success on Wall Street during the 1980s. Though he didn’t share much in terms of background with his colleagues, he managed to form an effective network. He was connected to circles of transplanted Southerners and gay New Yorkers, too. When he moved into the world of philanthropy, Walker saw disconnects where he knew there should be connections.
Plans for giving at the Ford Foundation include an ambitious goal to invest one billion dollars over the next decade. Walker has spoken about building a social justice infrastructure. He not only wants to reinforce the social safety net for Americans, he also wants to build scaffolding to give all Americans a way to build.
Walker has spoken often about how attitudes have changed in America. In the place of the encouragement, he recalls from his youth, Walker sees a society so competitive that it’s destructive. He’s well aware that the gap between rich and poor is larger than ever. And he feels that with that disconnect can come real problems.
In thinking boldly and acting with urgency, Walker seeks to change the way big giving happens at the Ford Foundation. With his inspiring example, it’s possible this change will ripple throughout the world of philanthropy. In working for the Ford Foundation, Walker is seeking to make the change that he believes America needs.