Tackling Inequality Through Social Innovation
Published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review
By Hilary Pennington
Twenty years ago this spring, in the very first issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, then-Ford Foundation president Susan Berresford called for sweeping social change to address systems that were “unfair, needless, or simply out of date.”
During the decades since, social innovators have delivered on much of Berresford’s vision. Multilateral partnerships and widespread economic-development initiatives have cut global poverty in half.2 An additional 82 million girls3 across the Global South now attend school. Meanwhile, maternal deaths have decreased by more than 38 percent,4 saving millions of lives.
At the same time, transformations in our markets, environments, cultures, and institutions have radically altered the way we live and work together. The proportion of people with internet access globally has quintupled.5 And socially responsible investment in the United States has grown by more than $12 trillion.6
And yet, for all that has changed, Berresford’s challenge remains urgent. Far too often, for far too long, advancing innovation has been accompanied by unfair, needless, and widening inequality.
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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.