The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of Rakesh Rajani as director of Democratic Participation and Governance.
Mr. Rajani, a global leader on issues of social justice, has been at the forefront of citizen engagement and government accountability for two decades. He will relocate to New York from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he currently serves as the head of Twaweza (“We Can Make It Happen”), the organization he founded to promote basic learning, advance access to information and enhance government responsiveness.
Prior to this position, Mr. Rajani served as the lead civil society chair for the Open Government Partnership, a novel initiative to promote government transparency and accountability. In three years, 65 countries have joined the Partnership and made over 2,000 commitments, the progress of which is assessed by an independent mechanism and the citizens they serve.
These powerful approaches to governance and civil society engagement have influenced similar work around the globe. Earlier Mr. Rajani founded and served as executive director for HakiElimu (“Education Rights”) and transformed it into a well-known entity by combining pioneering research with humor, and satire to engage citizens in education reform.
He has authored and published over 400 papers, articles and opinion pieces in English and Swahili and is notably interested in the political economy of policy-making and the nexus between public action, information and imagination.
After completing university, Mr. Rajani returned to his hometown of Mwanza, Tanzania, and co-founded Kuleana, which developed a leading center for children’s rights and established Tanzania’s first center for sexual health, linking work on HIV/AIDS, sexuality, youth, gender and human rights.
“Rakesh is a remarkable leader who understands the vital connection between governance and citizen engagement, and has used creativity and smarts to make a difference in the system as a whole,” said Martín Abregú, Ford Foundation vice president of Democracy, Rights and Justice. “We are thrilled that he is joining the foundation at this moment to lend his expertise to creating a more just world.”
Mr. Rajani graduated from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s in philosophy and English and American Literature, and he holds a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University. He serves on the steering committee of Making All Voices Count, the board of the Hewlett Foundation, the board of directors at the International Budget Partnership, and the Africa Program Advisory Board to ONE—the development advocacy group established by U2’s Bono.
“I look forward to working with partners to develop a deeper understanding of how citizens can make governments more open and responsive, and to advance the case for justice and inclusion throughout the world, ” Mr. Rajani said.
Mr. Rajani will begin his new position on January 5, 2015. He was selected after a broad international search.