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.


Entrenched cultural narratives
that undermine fairness, tolerance, and inclusion
Failure to invest in and protect vital public goods
such as education and natural resources
Unfair rules of the economy
that magnify unequal opportunity and outcomes
Unequal access to government
decision making and resources
Persistent prejudice and discrimination
against women and racial, ethnic, and caste minorities

Inequality areas


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.


Civic Engagement and Government
Expanding Participation
Engaging Government
Equitable Resources
Creativity and Free Expression
Social Justice Storytelling
21st Century Arts Infrastructure
Equitable Development
Just Cities and Regions
Natural Resources and Climate Change
Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice
Freedom and Dignity
Rights of Women and Girls

Inclusive Economies
Quality Work and Economic Security
Impact Investing
Internet Freedom
Digital Rights and Access
Technology for the Public Interest
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 intersections of these areas that we believe real change is possible. And our core values, including commitment to human rights and working with those closest to the problems, continue to infuse and inform everything we do.

Inequality areas


How we work

How we work is as important as what we work on. Throughout our history, the foundation’s approach has been characterized by a continuous emphasis on building institutions and networks, investing in individuals and leadership, and supporting new ideas. These are our three I’s.



We have helped launch institutions like Human Rights Watch, the Public Broadcasting Service, and South Africa's Legal Resources Centre.


We have invested in the ideas, insights, and research that have seeded pioneering movements like public broadcasting, microfinance, legal services for the poor, community development, and Internet rights—to name a few.


We have stood behind thousands of extraordinary individuals, ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela, James Baldwin to Gloria Steinem, Muhammad Yinus to Ai-jen Poo. Nearly 50 Nobel laureates were Ford Foundation grantees—before they won their prizes.