After the deaths of Edsel Ford in 1943 and Henry Ford in 1947, it became clear that the non-voting stock of the Ford Motor Company they bequeathed to the Ford Foundation would create the largest philanthropy in the world. In response, the foundation’s board of trustees led by Henry Ford II, Edsel’s son, commissioned studies to chart the institution’s future.
The seven-member Gaither Study Committee, headed by future Ford Foundation president Rowan Gaither, a San Francisco lawyer, recommended that the foundation become a national and international philanthropy dedicated to the advancement of human welfare..
Early presence in the region
The Ford Foundation has been making grants in Southern Africa for more than 40 years from a variety of national and regional offices. In 1993, the Southern Africa office was established in Johannesburg. Today it supports a broad range of non-governmental organisations, tertiary institutions and research centers in the region. In 2008, it provided more than US$16,5 million in grants to the region.
The first Ford vehicle to have the bold new “aero” look was the 1981 Ford Probe III concept car. The good reception this received encouraged Ford management to go ahead with a production car with styling almost as challenging.
Responding to current needs
Today, Ford foundation grants focus on reducing poverty and inequality, promoting access to resources and services, supporting good governance and the continued growth of a robust democracy.
With a rights-based approach to all of our grant making, our work seeks to contribute significantly to livelihood opportunities and skills development; to promote the inclusion of women and disadvantaged or vulnerable individuals and communities in the programmes we support and in the decision-making processes that affect them; to improve access to higher education; and to encourage the development and strengthening of civil society organisations and other sectors of Southern African society
The Southern Africa office works closely with the three other foundation offices in Africa- Cairo, Nairobi and Lagos-on continentwide and cross-regional issues. The office makes grants in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Ford Foundation supports visionary leaders and organisations working on the frontlines of social change, worldwide. Our goals for more than half a century have been to:
• Strengthen democratic values
• Reduce poverty and injustice
• Promote international cooperation
• Advance human achievement
A fundamental challenge facing every society is to create political, economic and social systems that promote peace, human welfare and the sustainability of the environment on which life depends.
We believe that the best way to meet this challenge is to encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located; to promote collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors; and to ensure participation by men and women from diverse communities and all levels of society. In our experience, such activities help build common understanding, enhance excellence, enable people to improve their lives and reinforce their commitment to society.
We work mainly by making grants or loans that build knowledge and strengthen organisations and networks. Since our financial resources are modest compared with societal needs, we focus on key problem areas and programme strategies.