The Ford Foundation was founded in 1936 with an initial grant from Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son. He wanted the foundation’s financial resources to be used “for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.” Built on fortunes from the Ford Motor Company, the foundation grew immensely with bequests from both Fords, and evolved throughout the 20th century to have a national and international scope. In 2013, Darren Walker became president and he has reoriented the organization to focus on funding projects that address the root causes of inequality. Ford now focuses on an integrated system of six program areas, with human dignity and human rights at the core:
Ford Foundation funding is also shifting because of this reorientation. Rather than a large number of smaller grants, there will now be more intensive core funding that gives grantees more financial support, but also more autonomy and flexibility. Representatives from Ford did not respond to several requests to participate in a survey about the organization’s media development funding and to provide feedback on this profile.
In the CIMA survey, each donor was asked to rate from high to low in terms of priority the types of media interventions it supports.
Funding for media development falls under the Freedom of Expression portfolio because “The free flow of information and ideas is essential to healthy, progressive societies. Our work offers space for creative expression and supports efforts to ensure that media systems and policies are open and equitable,” according to the Ford Foundation website.
Of the four Issues and Initiatives categories used for tagging media development programs, there were 213 grants given in the area of Advancing Public Service Media, worth $40.4 million, while 133 grants worth $27.7 million were made in the area of Advancing Media Rights and Access. For the category of JustFilms, 92 grants were give worth $24 million, and finally under Media and Justice, there were 39 grants worth $10.7 million.
Under the previous organizational structure, Ford classified “approaches” under each issue area. An analysis of two of the priority areas gives a sense of emphasis of approaches funded. This chart depicts the relative spending for each approach over the time period 2008-2014.
Ford has an online, searchable grants database that provides good data on past funding. This kind of transparency about funding, and in particular the ability to filter for media-related projects, is highly unusual across the funding landscape. The total funds disbursed in the time between 2008 and 2015 in the categories of advancing public service media and advancing media rights and access was almost $116 million, including money disbursed in the United States. Spending on media development represents 3 percent of the nearly $4.6 billion total portfolio during this time period.
Between 2008 and 2015, 476 media development grants were made, with a total value of $102,824,717. The money disbursed for 2015 is recorded as eight grants totaling $857,000, with an average grant just slightly above $100,000. Six of those grants were for work in East Africa, with one grant for West Africa and one for Brazil. Six grants were categorized as media and content development, and two were for research and public policy analysis. Ford publishes a glossary with a brief explanation of these and other approaches.
Between 2008 and 2015, grant amounts ranged from $30,000 to $1.1 million, with an average disbursement slightly above $215,000. This average is significantly lower than the average for all Ford grants, during that time period of almost $333,000. An analysis of grants by size reveals that most grants were in the small range, between $51,000 and $300,000.
Change in funding over time
A look at total spending on media over time reveals a pattern that is difficult to understand without better comprehension of internal decision-making, priorities and other economic forces in play at the Ford Foundation. The analysis looked at total grant size for grants disbursed in each fiscal year. Most grants were one to three years long. The relatively small amount of media spending in 2008 likely reflects the recession of 2007-2008. Spending on media shot up in 2009, rose steadily over the next two years, and took a huge dip in 2012. Spending rose again in 2013, and fell slightly in 2014.
Media Development Funding between 2008 and 2015
Percent of Ford Foundation Funding spent on Media Development
Average Grant Size between 2008 and 2015
The Association of Media Women in Kenya supports women journalists, convenes women’s radio listening groups, and drives other initiatives that heighten awareness of women’s issues and women’s leadership.
The Ford Foundation provided funding to scale up “PeaceOpoly,” an online game geared towards promoting learning and civic engagement for youth.