Later this year, our esteemed program vice president, Xav Briggs, will depart the foundation to return to the frontlines of social change. As with so many things with Xav, his decision was thoughtfully weighed and delivered with clarity, honesty, and integrity.
And while his departure after nearly six extraordinary years of service will undoubtedly be a loss for the foundation, it will also be a considerable gain for the issues and institutions Xav chooses to invest his remarkable talents in next. His deep commitment to a healthy polity in the US is well known; he served with distinction in two presidential administrations. So it is hardly surprising that in this troubling time for our country—rife with challenges, and rich in opportunities to address them—Xav would feel a responsibility to return to the frontlines.
As an award-winning author and educator, as well as a seasoned leader in the public, philanthropic, and higher education sectors, Xav will explore opportunities to advise on social change, impact investment, and public policy strategies and have the space once again to write, teach, and develop next-generation leaders and tell stories in ways that will make a meaningful and measurable difference in the world—the kind of difference he has made across his career.
From his days as a community planner in the South Bronx to the halls of the White House; from the research centers of top universities to his years at the Ford Foundation, Xav’s hallmark has been his unique way of combining rigorous analysis and thoughtful, contextual approaches with a real human touch.
His contributions, both large and small, here at Ford have reflected these traits. He synthesized the foundation’s collective thinking about inequality, for example, helping us define the “five fundamental drivers of inequality worldwide” that serve as the reference point for everything we do; he led the development of our $1 billion impact investing initiative, and built an extraordinary team to carry out this work; he reframed how the foundation approaches its place-based work, helping build powerful coalitions in Detroit, Puerto Rico, and in several US states; he guided the foundation through significant challenges and renewal in our relationships with governments in India, China, and Indonesia; and, as the foundation’s lead for inclusive economies and markets, he renewed and strengthened Ford’s commitments to tackle the future of work and workers in an era of rapid technological change, promote socially just governance of natural resources and climate change, and address what the foundation calls “America’s quiet crisis of unaffordable housing.”
Given all this, we are deeply fortunate that Xav will remain with us through most of 2019. His decision to give us so much advance notice arose, however, out of changes we were contemplating in how we organize our programmatic work.
Allow me to offer some context.
Over the past few years, in focusing our international and US programs, we saw an opportunity to greatly simplify management, to bring greater coherence to our work, and to make our program strategies everywhere more mutually reinforcing. We determined that having one program vice president in charge of domestic programs, and another in charge of our international work, would best serve that work overall, and the teams that carry it out. Along with reducing management complexity, this structure will enable more unified intellectual leadership for both the US and the international work—and create a real opportunity for synergy between them.
Therefore, effective February 1, Martín Abregú will begin serving as vice president for all our work outside the United States, which includes oversight of our international programs as well as our grant strategies in the ten regional offices. On the same date, Xav will begin serving as vice president for all our US programs, including oversight of six thematic teams. In her invaluable role as executive vice president for program, Hilary Pennington will continue to ensure that all of our work grows ever more linked and holistic.
Understandably, when we raised the prospect of this new structure with the vice presidents, Xav felt it was incumbent upon him to share his thinking about his own future. I am immensely grateful to him for this customary display of thoughtfulness and leadership, which has allowed us to seek his successor with the luxury of knowing there will be plenty of overlap and a thoughtful transition.
Indeed, anyone who has had the good fortune of working with Xav knows that he approaches everything he does with precisely that kind of thoughtful leadership. It would be difficult to overstate the ways the foundation has benefited from his vision, his fierce intelligence, his creativity, his rigor, and his deep kindness.
I know the field will be stronger for having him in it, and that his experience at the foundation has equipped him to be an even greater asset. Personally, I’m grateful to Xav not only for his vital contributions to the Ford Foundation, but for his commitment to answering the call and seeking to advance justice in the world. We are all better for it.