As far as foundations go, the Ford Foundation is one of the biggest in the country. With over 12 billion – with a B! – in assets, Ford operates on a scale that is far removed from our relatively small, locally-focused Benwood Foundation. On the surface, it doesn’t seem reasonable to draw comparisons between the two organizations. Nevertheless, we are excited by the openness with which Ford’s President, Darren Walker, has embraced the challenges and contradictions inherent in the world of philanthropy. Ford’s core mission is to “Challenge Inequality” — which is a goal that resonates deeply, as Benwood focuses on the related issues of opportunity, urban vitality, education, and leadership here in Chattanooga. In his latest blog post, Mr. Walker brilliantly outlines both some tough questions that foundations must ask, as well as some proposed answers, if we are to meaningfully address issues related to entrenched inequality.
“It bears repeating that the challenges inherent in our democratic-capitalist system did not arrive overnight,” writes Walker. “Creating a fairer, more just world is no small order. It requires leaders of every sector and discipline, working with new purpose. It requires engaged citizens, effective governments, capitalists who promote shared prosperity, and enduring social movements.And it requires us. To do our part in this drive for real change, philanthropists and funders of every stripe must invest in the architects and architecture of progress—the individuals, ideas, and institutions that make change happen.”