Change agent: a leader passionate about fueling social justice.

Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Position:POWER PLAYER - Interview

THE FORD FOUNDATION, a private organization headquartered in New York City with the mission of advancing human welfare, was created in 1936 by the son of the automotive pioneer with a donation of $25,000. Today, the Ford Foundation is the second largest philanthropic organization in the U.S. with more than $11 billion in assets, $500 million in annual giving, and 10 offices in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America. With more than two decades as a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, Darren Walker, in September 2013, became the 10th president and second African American to take the helm.

Walker, 54, first served as a vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, where he led recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina before being tapped by Ford to fill a VP slot in 2010. He shaped more than $140 million in annual worldwide grant-making in areas such as arts and culture, sexuality and reproductive health, educational access, and religion. He was a driving force behind initiatives such as JustFilms, Ford's five-year, $50 million film and digital storytelling project, which recently supported five documentary films that premiered at Sundance in 2014.

The Texas native's social sector career followed a decade in international law at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton L.L.P. and finance at UBS. His experiences in the nonprofit sector helped shape the lens through which he views complex social justice issues, having worked with the politically influential Harlem Rev. Calvin Butts as COO for his Abyssinian Development Corp., leading efforts to build affordable housing and a public school in New York City.

Stepping into his newest role, Walker is ready to do bold work at an institution that has a legacy of affecting social justice around the world. Living authentically as an openly gay man, Walker is fighting for fairness and equality for disadvantaged communities. He wants to bring attention to how inequality is harming our nation and the world--and to illustrate how Ford is bringing about meaningful, sustainable change.

You have an interesting career trajectory, starting out on Wall Street but ending up in philanthropy.

I knew that I wanted to work in the private sector after law school in part because of financial reasons, but as well because I thought that I would get great training. I benefited from the first nine years of my career being in the private sector. I learned so much about how markets work. I...

To continue reading