Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is a US-based private foundation established in 1936 by Edsel Ford, son of Henry, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. His bequest turned the foundation into the then-largest philanthropy in the world. Guided by a vision of social justice across the world, the foundation works to reduce poverty and injustice, strengthen democratic values, promote international co-operation, and advance human achievement.

The Ford Foundation is active both domestically and internationally. Programme areas working to address inequality in all its forms include: Civic Engagement and Government; Creativity and Free Expression; Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice; Natural Resources and Climate Change; as well as the Future of Work(ers).

The Ford Foundation disbursed USD 194 million for development in 2019 in the form of grants. Compared to 2018, this amount represents a decrease by 15% in real terms.

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In 2019, the Ford Foundation provided USD 2 million of its gross disbursements to the multilateral system, accounting for 1% of its total development finance. All of these contributions were earmarked for specific countries, regions, themes or purposes. The main multilateral channels used by the Ford Foundation included the International Labour Organization and the African Union.

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See the section on Geographic and thematic focus for the geographical and thematic breakdown of bilateral allocations earmarked through the multilateral development system.

In 2019, the Ford Foundation channelled its development grants mostly through non-governmental organisations (71%) and universities, research institutes and think tanks (19%).

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In 2019, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 146 million of gross disbursements. Of this, 17% was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 83% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the provider (earmarked funding). CSOs based in developing countries received 55% of the Ford Foundation’s allocations channelled to/through CSOs.

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In 2019, the Ford Foundation’s development finance was primarily focused on Africa and Asia. USD 47 million was allocated to Africa and USD 45 million to Asia, accounting respectively for 24% and 23% of gross disbursements. Development finance allocated to America amounted to USD 38 million (19%). Thirty-three per cent of gross development finance was unspecified by region in 2019.

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Bilateral private development finance by recipient country

In 2019, 44% of gross disbursements went to the Ford Foundation’s top 10 recipients, most notably India, the People’s Republic of China and Indonesia. The share of 45% was not allocated by country, mainly relating to expenditure for projects and programmes with a regional scope/unrestricted character.

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Least developed countries received USD 5 million (3%) of the Ford Foundation’s gross disbursements in 2019. The Ford Foundation allocated the highest share of its development grants (51%) to middle-income countries in 2019, noting that 45% was unallocated by income group. Moreover, the Ford Foundation allocated 1% of its gross development finance to small island developing states in 2019, equal to USD 2 million.

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Note: LDC: least developed country; LIC: low-income country; LMIC: lower middle-income country; UMIC: upper middle-income country; MADCTs: more advanced developing countries and territories.

In 2019, most of the Ford Foundation’s development finance was allocated to social infrastructure and services. Contributions in this area accounted for 82% of its commitments (USD 134 million), showing a strong focus on human rights and democratic participation. Commitments for economic infrastructure and services totalled USD 19 million (12%), with a particular focus on responsible business conduct.

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In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Ford Foundation focused most of its development grants on partnerships; reduced inequalities; and peace, justice & strong institutions.

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In 2019, the Ford Foundation committed USD 30 million (18% of its allocable development grants) to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, the SDG focus of private development finance, channels of delivery, unspecified/unallocated allocations, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

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