Thematic Area Director

Posted by
The Ford Foundation
New York, NY

The Ford Foundation

Published 28 days ago


The Ford Foundation seeks a visionary, strategic and innovative individual to lead and oversee its US Civic Engagement and Government (CEG) portfolio. 

Based in New York, the Director will manage a team of program staff who are working toward delivering the strategic goals of the CEG portfolio, which aims to strengthen representation, participation, and leadership in U.S. democracy. 

The ideal CEG Director will be a visionary, proven field leader who has at least 10 years’ experience in strengthening representation, participation, and leadership in U.S. democracy through a combination of policy analysis, advocacy, communications, and implementation experience. They will have managed complex processes involving multiple institutions and individuals in a team arrangement. They will also have a track record of successfully achieving specific policy and programmatic outcomes working with a range of stakeholders, including community-based organizations and networks, the private sector, governments, and non-governmental organizations.  

In order to advance Foundation priorities, the Director should have proven experience and substantive knowledge in the formal and informal structures, practices, and processes of democracy, ranging from civic participation, constituency-building, and community organizing to formal democracy reforms, policymaking, and approaches to governance. Finally, the Director should be an exceptional people manager, with a strong track record of constructively leading and coaching a diverse and high-functioning staff and instilling teams with a sense of shared commitment and purpose.


The Ford Foundation, created in 1936, is a US-based philanthropic organization and private international donor focusing on social justice. It has ten offices across the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as in the US. The Foundation’s core mission is to help reduce inequality in all its forms: political, economic, and cultural. The Foundation aims to address the key drivers of inequality: entrenched cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance and inclusion; failure to invest in and protect vital public goods, such as education, natural resources and climate; unfair rules of the economy that magnify unequal opportunity and outcomes; unequal access to government decision-making and resources; and persistent prejudice and discrimination against women, people with disabilities and racial, ethnic, and caste minorities.

Civic Engagement and Government Team 

At the heart of the CEG program strategy is the notion that everyday people can and should directly shape and influence the issues, policies, and systems that affect their lives. Our theory of change posits that strong civic organizations and community organizing groups are required in order to engage everyday people in civic life and solve public problems that address the material conditions of people’s everyday lives, especially for those who have been historically excluded from decision-making. Paired with efforts to reform formal approaches to representation (e.g. voting rights, the census, and redistricting), and with intentional engagement between policymakers and community-led priorities, government will be more representative of a changing American demographic, decision-making will be a more inclusive enterprise, and public institutions will be more responsive.

The Foundation strives to achieve this by working with critical stakeholders and partners in government, civil society, academia, the private sector, and across the philanthropic sector to expand participation, promote equitable public decision-making, and to build power in communities so they can effectively engage with the public institutions that affect their lives.

This is a critical moment in history; democratic norms and institutions require significant reimagination. Policy-making and governance require centering racial justice, and a just economic recovery in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic requires approaches that link the protection of rights with improvements in material conditions in communities. The ideal candidate would be able to help anticipate how CEG’s grantmaking evolves to realize the promise of democracy through a government-centered approach to civic engagement. 


Working as part of Ford’s program leadership team, Directors are responsible for program development and oversight of grantmaking strategies in specific lines of work implemented in the US, and aligned and coordinated (where appropriate) with global grantmaking to advance the Foundation’s vision and mission. 

Reporting the Vice President of US Programs, the CEG Director provides leadership and has overall responsibility for recommending program strategies and resource allocation and for assuring that CEG grantmaking under their purview directly links to these strategies.  

The Director is responsible for the effective functioning of a grantmaking team comprised of 8-10 staff. They provide operational oversight, ensure strategic coherence, and promote a culture of trust and team-level effectiveness to advance the Foundation’s vision and mission. In addition, they also work to ensure conditions for collaboration with other grantmaking programs and regional offices around the world.

The Director has day-to-day responsibility for ensuring that Program Officers have goals and clear programmatic objectives, with a direct link between those objectives and their grantmaking. They are also responsible for fostering learning within and across program areas and strategies, and for creating conditions conducive to collaboration and communication among US-based staff and overseas offices. Directors work closely with their peers, with Program Officers, and with Foundation leadership to shape, implement, learn, and adapt the program strategies of the Foundation.


Specifically, the Director will:

Programmatic Leadership

  • Use strategic vision to guide CEG’s programming so that it aligns with the mission and values of the Foundation. Share a strategic vision, operational framework, and deep knowledge of the area of programming with team members working on the CEG team.
  • Represent the Foundation and its work to the government, media, academic, business, philanthropic, donor community, and civic leaders relevant to CEG’s programming through meetings, updates, speeches, briefings and interviews.
  • Initiate and foster strategic partnerships with key external constituencies -- including governmental, philanthropic, media, academic, civic, and business institutions and leaders -- to advance CEG’s goals, and potentially, other sources of funding;

Program Strategy Development and Implementation

  • Collaboratively design and propose the goals for CEG, including outcomes, strategies, and approaches for achieving the social change objectives of the team, as well as, the learning and evaluation plans for the CEG strategy.
  • Work with the Strategy and Learning team to build a monitoring framework to assess impact and synthesize learning; works with team to determine and agree on a formal evaluation process.
  • Work with the Office of Communications to ensure that CEG’s portfolio is optimizing communications venues to ensure reverberation of work and impact.
  • Supervise the unit’s activities for timely grant making, and effective portfolio monitoring and management for accountability and impact.
  • Recommend biennial and yearly grantmaking budgets for approval by the Vice President of US Programs, and oversees and reports on their implementation at the unit level.  

Collaborative Management and Team Building

  • Build and manage a team of Program Officers and support staff and hold full responsibility for performance management of the CEG team as a whole, and direct reports individually. 
  • Facilitate ongoing conversations with staff about goals and progress, providing clear and constructive feedback and coaching for success. Carry out the development and appraisal of team members—including establishing annual performance goals and professional development needs. 
  • Manage and promote a collaborative working environment within and across program teams, and areas of expertise that maximizes the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and skills of staff to accomplish Foundation goals.   
  • As part of the program management team, contribute to the development and implementation of the organization’s mission, policies, strategies, and operations.

Fiscal and Administrative Leadership 

  • Demonstrate a commitment to fiscal stewardship in grantmaking and administrative activities.
  • Develop and manage an annual management budget for the administrative costs of the unit for review and approval by the Vice President of US Programs. Periodically review expenditures against budget and recommends spending adjustments or budget modifications as necessary.


  • A minimum of 10 years of experience leading strategies, people and teams.
  • Subject-matter expertise in Civic Engagement and Government-related programming, and/or demonstration of strong generalist cross-cutting work in social justice arena.
  • An advanced degree in relevant field of study or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Demonstrated exceptional people management and team management skills, including the ability to build teams, constructively lead and coach a diverse and high-functioning staff and instill teams with a sense of shared commitment and purpose.
  • Proven experience and substantive knowledge in the formal and informal structures, practices, and processes of democracy, ranging from civic participation and community organizing to formal democracy reforms, policymaking, and approaches to co-governance. 
  • Experience working with grassroots organizations representing historically marginalized communities as well as academic, private sector, and governmental institutions. 
  • Exceptional communications skills - strong active listening skills, constructive verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, comfort with periods of ambiguity, constructive participation in on-going organizational development.
  • Experience with grantmaking desirable.


  • Exceptional leadership presence—internally and externally including recognition as a leader in work on civic engagement, democracy reform and social justice.
  • Be extremely well-networked with relevant community-based and grassroots organizations, as well as governments, donors, and other partners. 
  • Intellectual agility and ability to analyze evidence, think critically, and understand policy studies that are directly relevant to programmatic funding areas.
  • Brings a strong intersectional analysis to the work with a particular emphasis on gender and racial justice.
  • Possesses an understanding of how to bring evidence and communications to bear in decision-making.
  • Demonstrates a deep understanding of, and commitment to, social justice and the approaches necessary to achieving it.  
  • Possesses cultural competence and the ability to work across lines of difference, with an explicit commitment to advancing racial and gender justice, both within the institution and externally.  
  • Demonstrates a commitment to creating and reinforcing a transparent, accountable, and mutually respectful work environment that foster conditions of psychological safety, the growth of staff, and instill teams with a sense of shared commitment, purpose, and trust.
  • Be a well-regarded manager with experience in philanthropy and possess a high-degree of emotional intelligence, a learning orientation, and humility.


This position is primarily a sedentary role. However, the person in this position may need to occasionally move about inside the office to liaise with internal staff, access files, office machinery and a copy machine/printer. Additionally, domestic/international travel will be expected when it is safe to do so; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.

The Ford Foundation is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment, its programs, and operations. As part of this commitment, the Foundation will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If a reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the job application process, please contact or call (212) 573-4627.

Alignment to Culture and Values

  • Commitment to the Foundation’s mission and core values of equity, openness, collaboration, trust, accountability and urgency
  • Personal qualities of humility, capacity for self-reflection, and a sense of humor
  • Discretion and ability to handle confidential issues
  • Action-orientated and entrepreneurial self-starter who can work well independently and in teams


  • Medical and dental benefits for employee and immediate family on first day of work
  • Retirement savings account with matching company contributions of up to 13%
  • Three weeks’ paid vacation in first year of work; four weeks in subsequent years 
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Office closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day
  • Professional development initiatives for growth
  • Generous parental leave (maternal and paternal) during new child’s first year (born into family or adopted)

Salary: Salary is based on experience and on the Foundation’s commitment to internal equity. A generous benefits package is provided. 

Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at The Ford Foundation, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/affectional preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law.  


The Ford Foundation seeks a visionary, strategic and innovative individual to lead and oversee its US Civic Engagement and Government (CEG) portfolio. 

Based in New York, the Director will manage a team of program staff…

Details at a glance

  • On-site Location
  • Full Time Schedule


320 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

How to Apply

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