Darren Walker the President of the Ford Foundation shared a profound message with us at the start of 2019. I wish to take the liberty to share some extracts from his message that could be of relevance to our work.
“For me, the holiday season often arrives and departs with the echo of Maya Angelou’s wisdom ringing in my ears and rattling through my consciousness. With the pause in our individual pursuits and the joy of shared celebration, with the retrenchment of the night and the rewinding of the calendar, there visits, as Angelou wrote, “a halting of hate time.” In such a moment, “We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim … We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian … We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope. All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of peace.”
As we begin 2019, a year that already portends to be among the most tumultuous in memory, I certainly welcome “the coming of hope.” After all, at the Ford Foundation we are in the business of hope. Our hopes for our grantees, our communities, and our world inform the work we do each and every day.
At the same time, we must set our hope in relief against the realities of a world that feels on edge and off kilter, more precarious and less predictable. The reason for all of this, in my view, should not come as a surprise: Our political and economic system continues to produce and perpetuate staggering inequalities of all kinds.
An obligation to listen and do better.
We know that the communities most proximate to the problems possess unique insight into the solutions. That is why, in everything we do, we ought to ensure that the people affected by our work are guaranteed a voice in its design and implementation. To this end, diversity and inclusion must be priorities throughout our organizations and especially at the top of them. One recent BoardSource survey suggests that the boards and leadership of foundations are remarkably homogeneous. We must work to become more heterogeneous in an increasingly diverse world or we risk cynicism and backlash from stakeholders who don’t see themselves represented in our institutions.
Confronting inequality in the years ahead
Each December, the Merriam-Webster dictionary selects its “word of the year”- a noun that people have looked up more consistently over the course of that year than others, suggesting that it has been particularly relevant to the popular discourse.
In 2018, that word was “justice.” I do not think this is a coincidence.
This past year, we have seen acts of extreme injustice around the world and across our nation - at our farthest borders and inside our most hallowed halls. And we have seen how organizations have fought for justice every step of the way, how philanthropists have incorporated it into their ways of seeing and being.
As our system falters under the inequality it has produced, as society seems increasingly strained by and susceptible to ever-widening gaps, those of us who have benefitted from this inequality need to look in the mirror and ask why. Then we should ask how we fix it, with justice as our objective.
In this way, for all of us, the road map for 2019 is clear. Given the progress we’ve made, and the work ahead, we cannot turn back now. We must redouble our efforts and forge forward, boldly, courageously, joyfully. We must dedicate ourselves, anew, to the cause of justice and “shout,” in the words of the poet, “with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.”
With appreciation for your partnership, I wish you a productive new year. Onward!
President, Ford Foundation
As PDT SA we are committed to ensure that we take on 2019 with hope and the courage to stand for justice. We are also re dedicating ourselves to the beneficiaries that we serve to make a difference in the lives of our young, vulnerable children.
We have started the year off with a bang with various Persona Doll Training as well as Diversity training workshops.
Should you be interested in any of our trainings, please do not hesitate to contact: Pat Birkett on firstname.lastname@example.org or Phelisa Manyisane-Somciza on email@example.com.