Published in Inside Philanthropy

By Martha Ramirez

In the Global South, civic space is shrinking and inequality is growing. To disrupt narratives that drive this, Ford and partners are investing $30 million to fund deeper collaborations between content creators and civic leaders.

From oral traditions to streaming movies, storytelling is central to the human experience. But beyond simple entertainment, stories have the ability to impact people and advance social change.

Take, for instance, Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle,” which exposed conditions in the meatpacking industry and led to the passage of new food safety laws. The story of how Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of a bus is often told to highlight the unjust conditions that Black Americans face and as a story of resistance during the civil rights movement.

It’s no surprise, then, that many organizers and institutions working for change are harnessing the power of narrative to strengthen the impact of their work. There’s also a set of philanthropies that have come to recognize the potency of storytelling as a funding strategy.

Earlier this year, the Ford Foundation partnered with other organizations to launch the Reclaiming the Border Narrative project to support authentic narratives from people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, with the hope of reshaping the national conversation about the region.

Now, Ford is turning its attention to the Global South. In partnership with the Compton and Skoll foundations, Ford is launching the International Resource for Impact and Storytelling (IRIS), a $30 million donor collaborative that will seek to strengthen the impact of creative moving image content as it intersects with social issues.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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