Marking the board's historic visit, Darren Walker, president of the foundation, and Kofi Appenteng, chair of Ford’s board of trustees, co-authored an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press. They expressed gratitude to the Ford Family and Ford Motor Company “for the mission that continues to guide us” and pointed to “our focus on inequality” as central to the foundation’s contribution to the “grand bargain” and ongoing commitment to the city in which it was established.
“To fulfill the promise of the grand bargain,” wrote Walker and Appenteng, “all of us who care about the future of the city must understand inequality—in all its forms—as the challenge to be rooted out.” They envision a prosperous and inclusive future for Detroit, saying, “We are here for the long haul, and pledge to work tirelessly to tackle inequality and lift up the progress that Detroiters lead.”
Learn more about the Ford Foundation's history in Detroit.
The Detroit News, “Ford Foundation to invest in Detroit, target inequality,” June 18, 2015
Fighting inequality will be the focus of all grantmaking for the Ford Foundation, and president Darren Walker said Thursday the work will begin with additional investments in Detroit. ... "The most stark manifestation of inequality is between Detroit the city and the region of southeast Michigan. There has to be more support for efforts to build the community regionally," he said.
The Detroit News, “Detroiters' optimism captivates Ford Foundation head,” June 16, 2015
Walker said he spent part of the day exploring the city, touring Michigan Avenue, passing through Sherwood Forest and then into blighted areas near Seven Mile and Woodward.
The contrast, Walker said, is representative of inequality in society and the economy.
"We're used to seeing this in India and other locations, but to see it in our neighborhood is disturbing," he said. "What continues to inspire me is the optimism in the city. People in Detroit have a boundless capacity to be the best and look to the future."
The Detroit News, “Ford Foundation board making rare Detroit visit,” June 13, 2015
"We are visiting many of the sites and grantee partners to deepen the board's understanding of the work there and the implications of urban revitalization," [Darren] Walker said. "There are many lessons in Detroit for America around urban revitalization."
"We see our work in Detroit achieving two objective: making a material difference in lives of Detroiters, but using the opportunity to work in Detroit to inform our work nationally," he said.
The Detroit News, “Howes: Ford Foundation homecoming renewing family ties,” June 3, 2015
The New York-based Ford Foundation's decision to hold its first board meeting in Detroit since 1948 is a rapprochement long in the making.
In the wake of a $125 million commitment to the Detroit bankruptcy's "grand bargain," CEO Darren Walker is moving to reconnect the foundation and its $12.3 billion in assets to the city of its founding, and school his trustees on the challenges and opportunities here. He's also rebuilding ties with the family whose legacy has financed the foundation's causes around the world.