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Introducing the Ford Forum

All year, the foundation has been alive with discussion. Over lunch and at morning presentations, colleagues have come together to engage with experts on subjects ranging from migration to networks to climate change to the role of money and markets in today's society. I wrote earlier about the work we’ve been doing to ensure that our grant making is as nimble and effective as possible in responding to the changing world around us, and these discussions have been an integral and very deliberate part of that process.

But as important and illuminating as it’s been to have these conversations among ourselves, it’s time to open things up. So when the moment arrived to start work on the foundation’s Annual Report, I asked my colleagues to think of an alternative—a way for us to channel the considerable time and resources we typically spend on that effort into something that would look outward and be premised on sparking a fresh dialogue.

The result is what we’re calling our Ford Forum, which presents conversations with change makers about their ideas for reshaping our fundamental systems for greater, more sustainable good. In this installment, we decided to focus on the question of how we can work across sectors to create more inclusive economies that protect and advance the rights of all. It’s a question that has been increasingly on my mind since I read Harvard professor Michael Sandel’s very thoughtful book, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” We know that markets have the power to help lift people out of poverty, and we recognize the potential for business to improve people’s lives. But as market ideology becomes more dominant, it poses serious risks to the fabric of our societies, and especially to the rights of the people who live in them. We need to figure out how our markets and our societies can be strong and free.

The Forum confronts this tension with provocative thinking from Nobel laureate and Yale University professor of economics Robert Shiller, who suggests that the most successful societies are also the most inclusive. Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, explains the benefits of finding common ground with business and the need for global norms to protect rights and the environment across industries. Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, makes the case for reshaping business education to ensure that CEOs look beyond the financial bottom line. Alongside them, we’ve produced multimedia that shows how our partners like the Sustainable Food Lab and Core Innovation Capital are bringing these concepts to life, and raising new questions.

I’m so excited to share these ideas with you. Spanning issues and geographic boundaries, they aren’t the property of any one institution or sector. And they’re meant to be a starting point. Throughout the fall we’ll be building on these conversations with blog posts, online chats and events, digging deeper into the Forum’s big themes—and, we hope, exploring them with you. What resonates with you? What questions did we forget to ask? What should we ask next?

Explore the Ford Forum

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