From Generosity to Justice: Ford Foundation President Darren Walker on his new book and reimagining philanthropy for social justice

“As you read these pages, please consider these words to be an open invitation—an extended hand and an opportunity to learn, to grow, to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” writes Ford Foundation President Darren Walker in his new book, From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth. According to Walker, embracing discomfort is a precondition for making meaningful changes to the world of philanthropy, and to our society as a whole.

Host Lissa Jones and Walker engage in a wide ranging conversation about the need to reform capitalism (and whether it can or should be reformed), wealth inequality and its connections to systemic racism, his early education, and his vision for a new kind of philanthropy that is oriented toward justice rather than charity.

Episode 51 – Darren Walker

In this episode, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker discusses his new book From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, in which he grapples with the paternalistic roots of American philanthropy and envisions a new approach that seeks to address the causes of inequity, rather than the consequences.

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. He has also served as VP of the Rockefeller Foundation, and COO of Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization.

Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first Head Start class in 1965 and received BA, BS, and JD degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on numerous leadership lists: Time’s annual 100 Most Influential People, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Ebony‘s Power 100, and Out magazine’s Power 50.

This interview was recorded remotely via Zoom.

Go Deeper: Additional Materials

Read: Darren Walker’s book is available for free as an e-book or audiobook from The Ford Foundation

From Generosity to Justice

In From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation articulates a bold vision for philanthropy in the 21st century joined by an array of thinkers, activists, and leaders from every field, sector, and walk of life.

Read: Darren Walker’s recent piece in the New York Times which gives an introduction to many of the ideas he presents in his book, within the context of recent protests around racism and police brutality

Opinion | Are You Willing to Give Up Your Privilege?

Philanthropy alone won’t save the American dream. By Mr. Walker is president of the Ford Foundation. I have lived on both sides of American inequality. I began life in the bottom 1 percent but found my way to the top. And I know, all too personally, that the distance between the two never has been greater.

Learn: at the end of the interview, Darren mentioned that he is currently reading Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent. The article below discusses the exhibition of the same name on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston.

Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent | Apollo Magazine

One of the most prominent images in ‘Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent’ at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is not an actual work on display in the galleries. It is a mural just down the road, installed in the ceiling beside the grand staircase at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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