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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation Set Out to Conquer Inequality

In “What Money Can Buy” (p.38), Larissa MacFarquhar profiles Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. The institution, which was established by Henry Ford’s son Edsel in Michigan in 1936, was at first “a small, local foundation funding mostly small, local things,” MacFarquhar writes. Today, the foundation has an endowment of twelve billion dollars, and more than five hundred million dollars a year at its disposal. “Ford’s grant-makers are employed ‘for the general purpose of advancing human welfare,’ so their work requires determining what human welfare consists of and how best to advance it,” MacFarquhar writes. The work is not simple. The grant-makers, though idealistic and ardently self-critical, possess a “rare and heady blend of power and freedom: they are beholden to no one, neither consumers nor shareholders nor clients nor donors nor voters,” MacFarquhar writes. Walker, who is fifty-six, is the foundation’s tenth president. “Among the reasons that Walker was ideal for the role was that his life was an example of just the sort of social transformation that Ford’s programs were intended to produce,” MacFarquhar writes, detailing his humble beginnings in rural Texas, his dedication to his education, and his eventual rise to lead the Rockefeller Foundation’s national urban program. “All his life, he felt that the world was rooting for him,” MacFarquhar writes. “This was the key to everything.” When Walker took over at Ford, “he was determined to remember that even though he had half a billion dollars a year at his disposal, and his grantees were compelled to beg him for some, and he could say no to any one of them and that would be the end of it, still, it was those grantees and their work that gave his work meaning,” MacFarquhar writes.  Please see this link: http://bit.ly/1Ouy9Ed

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