Ford Foundation Challenging Inequality Grant

Ford Foundation

Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Organizations

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program, General Operating Expense

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: Anywhere in the world

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Our Approach

We believe in the inherent dignity of all people. Yet around the world, billions of people are excluded from full participation in the political, economic, and cultural systems that shape their lives.

We view this fundamental inequality as the defining challenge of our time, one that limits the potential of all people, everywhere. Addressing inequality is at the center of everything we do.

What's Driving Inequality

We have identified five underlying drivers of inequality—common factors that, worldwide, contribute to inequality’s many manifestations.

  1. Entrenched cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance, and inclusion.
  2. Rules of the economy that magnify unequal opportunity and outcomes.
  3. Persistent prejudice and discrimination against women, as well as racial, ethnic, and caste minorities.
  4. A failure to invest in and protect vital public goods, such as education and natural resources.
  5. Unequal access to government decision-making and resources.

What we work on

To address and respond to these drivers, we work and make grants in seven interconnected areas that together, we believe, can help challenge inequality.

  1. Civic Engagement and Government: Expanding Participation, Engaging Government, Equitable Resources.
  2. Free Expression and Creativity: Social Justice Storytelling, 21st-Century Arts Infrastructure.
  3. Equitable Development: Just Cities and Regions, Natural Resources and Climate Change.
  4. Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice: Freedom and Dignity, Rights of Women and Girls.
  5. Inclusive Economies: Quality Work and Economic Security, Impact Investing.
  6. Internet Freedom: Digital Rights and Access, Technology for the Public Interest.
  7. Youth Opportunity and Learning: Pathways for Youth Success, Next Generation Leadership.

Very intentionally, we do not see these program areas as silos. They are entry points that each of our eleven offices - considering local context and local partners - combine in creative ways to target the drivers of inequality. It is at the intersection of these areas that we believe reach change in possible. And our core values, including a commitment to human rights and working with those closest to the problems, continue to infuse and inform everything we do.

Building Institutions and Networks

Success in reducing inequality depends on organizations that challenge inequality every day. They provide the leadership and ideas that galvanize movements for change and focus these movements on the most promising solutions. That’s why, as we work with our partners, our focus is shifting from “How do we help make this grant successful?” to “How do we help make this organization—and this ecosystem of organizations—successful?”

From 2016 through 2020, we will significantly increase our commitment to building institutions and networks—an initiative we call BUILD—by spending some $200 million of our grant-making budget each year on an effort to ensure there is a robust and effective ecosystem of organizations addressing inequality around the world.

Our BUILD effort supports action-oriented, innovative institutions that serve as central actors in a larger network of organizations striving for social justice. BUILD grants are investments—and votes of confidence—not just in individual organizations but also in collaboration, learning, and exchange across groups, geographies, and issues.

Understanding what organizations need

Too often, funders provide support for specific projects rather than investing in core organizational strength. But to make lasting progress in addressing inequality, social justice organizations need robust, sustainable support. They need investments in their essential programs and operations that help them build a sturdy foundation for their work. And they need predictable, flexible support to become more durable and resilient. Finally, social justice institutions need funds to help them respond quickly to key moments of opportunity and unexpected challenges. When those critical pieces are in place, individual initiatives have greater impact, and institutions have the stability it takes to drive change over the long term.

It is important to emphasize that we will support a limited number of organizations under this initiative. The initial cohort will likely be organizations working in our seven thematic areas and cross-thematically and selected by invitation. As BUILD develops over five years, we will increase the number of organizations that receive this kind of support and we will establish open processes.

Amplifying impact

BUILD grants will be fully integrated into the grant making of our seven thematic areas, both within the areas and across them, ensuring that these investments reflect our larger focus on inequality.

We continue to design the BUILD program toward its introduction into our grant making in 2016. In the process, we seek questions and shared learning that will be useful to the philanthropic sector as a whole and to the wide range of organizations and networks working to advance justice around the world.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The project must align with one or more of the Ford Foundation's seven program areas focused on challenging inequality (as listed in Overview).

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