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The Ford Foundation’s U.S. Technology and Society thematic area seeks a dynamic, strategic, and collaborative Program Officer to join a team working together to ensure that the internet and digital technologies are increasingly equitable; designed and governed to advance social and economic justice, particularly for those experiencing persistent discrimination. Based in New York City, the Program Officer will largely manage a grantmaking portfolio that advances meaningful free expression online, counters unjust surveillance and algorithmic harms, and challenges power asymmetries and inequities in the current structure of the data economy. The Program Officer may also manage other grants or special projects that are related to the team’s broader goals of advancing more equitable, secure, and accessible digital technologies and infrastructure.
The ideal candidate will be grounded in the broad field of technology rights and justice. They will be deeply knowledgeable about topics at the various intersections of technology and social justice, and understand the roles that policy advocacy, organizing, research, narrative shifts, and philanthropy play in advancing social change. They will be well-networked within the technology policy, rights, and justice field as well as broader civil rights and social justice fields. They will be expected to bring a strong understanding of the politics of gender, disability, and racial dynamics in the field and a familiarity with organizations in the United States - and ideally, globally - working in the field, particularly those led by and for communities of color. The ideal Program Officer will also have excellent communication skills, be adaptive and flexible in the context of organizational change, have a great sense of humor, enjoy working across program areas, and demonstrate leadership inside and outside of the organization.
Digital communications technologies have transformed how we connect and engage with the world, creating opportunities in every area of modern life. But as often as these technologies are used to foster learning and promote justice, they have also been used in ways that amplify inequality. Too many people—particularly those who have historically been excluded or marginalized—aren’t able to access, benefit from, or influence digital platforms. The foundation’s core mission is to help reduce inequality in all its forms: political, economic, and cultural. The governance and use of technology are implicated in nearly all the drivers of inequality, underscoring the extent of this problem.
The Ford Foundation’s Technology and Society program grant making is focused, in part, on advancing a range of strong and effective legal, policy, social, and technical protections coupled with increasingly strengthened fields of technologists and social justice organizations working together to ensure that digital technologies are not used by corporate or government actors to exploit vulnerable communities or further entrench harmful and oppressive systems (or develop new ones).
We believe in universal access to, and fair regulation of, digital communications technologies that advance equitable and universal access to knowledge, self-determination, civic participation, and creative expression. As the speed of global technological change and innovation outpaces public understanding and democratic checks—and as technology continues to reshape relationships between citizens, governments, civil society organizations, and corporations—our grantmaking focuses on advancing civil and human rights and freedom of expression.
We support the growth of technically sophisticated, diverse civil society organizations dedicated to advancing more inclusive digital spaces and systems so that the internet and digital technologies are increasingly equitable; designed and governed to advance social and economic justice, particularly for those experiencing persistent discrimination. We seek to build the technological capacity of social justice organizations and support the development of a robust, diverse field of public interest technologists who bring a social justice lens to their work. We also invest in the capacity of civil society organizations working to ensure an open, secure, and trustworthy digital public sphere that can withstand disinformation and manipulation by state and non-state actors.
Working under the direction of the Director of the Technology and Society program and working within a multidisciplinary team, the Program Officer will further develop existing grantmaking strategies; identify prospective grantees; solicit, review and respond to grant proposals; and prepare recommendations for Foundation funding. The Program Officer will also be expected to collaborate internally with other Program Officers within the Technology and Society program, as well as others throughout the Foundation and externally to provide intellectual leadership on areas related to the technology rights and justice field.
Specifically, the Program Officer will:
Contribute in the ongoing development of the Foundation’s Technology and Society strategy. The Program Officer will largely focus on a policy portfolio that aims to advance meaningful free expression online, counter unjust surveillance and algorithmic harms, and challenge power asymmetries and inequities in the current structure of the data economy.
Manage, monitor and coordinate a grants portfolio of approximately $7 million annually, including: long-term grant planning; identifying and working with prospective grantees to develop proposals for grant recommendations (including helping determine the goals for a grant, its activities, expected results, indicators of success and budget); conducting organizational assessments; undertaking periodic reviews of progress with grantees; and reviewing financial and narrative reports.
Identify ways to support grantees in the portfolio to become more resilient and more effectively networked with each other. This includes support for strategic planning, leadership, communications, management systems, financial stability, and organizational diversity, equity and inclusion.
Develop and implement grant-making approaches that support the use of strategic communications and narrative change as part of the program strategy.
Continually scan the fields related to technology and society in the US and globally, follow key developments and debates, keep abreast of the academic and popular literature, share key findings and lessons among colleagues and the field.
Build relationships with other donors to increase philanthropic coordination and contributions to the field.
Promote and participate in fostering open-mindedness and a culture of learning – including learning and evaluation activities to guide the evolution of programmatic work – seeking to continually ask hard questions, gather independent data and evidence about effectiveness of the foundation and grantees’ strategies, and help adapt practice as needed.
Work collaboratively with Technology and Society team members to develop, define and implement program strategies to achieve meaningful and measurable impact towards team goals.
Represent the Foundation and its work in key venues through participation in relevant meetings, public speaking, writing, speeches, briefings, blog posts, and interviews, with guidance from the Technology and Society Director and Ford’s Office of Communications.
Work collaboratively as a member of the Technology and Society grantmaking team to manage all aspects of grants processing and compliance. Work collaboratively with the Technology and Society Program Associate and co-manage a Program Assistant to ensure effective support to grantees.
BA/BS plus at least 8 years of experience in the field of technology rights and justice, technology policy, public interest technology, or equivalent combination of education and experience.
Strategic thinker with an understanding of the various mechanisms and venues through which philanthropy and our grantees can affect change (e.g., organizing and movement building; policy change, including legislative, legal, regulatory, federal, state, and local; applied research; strategic communications and narrative strategies; corporate accountability, business practice shift; etc).
A strong understanding of multi-racial coalition building and how to apply economic, racial, gender, and disability analyses to strategy.
Proven track record of working closely with communities that have been historically marginalized in systems that affect their lives.
Exceptional leadership – internally and externally — and ability to lead high level engagement with donors and engage in strategic conversations throughout the field.
Demonstrated experience as a connector and convener across relevant sectors, including grantees, practitioners, government officials, academics, private sector representatives, and civil society representatives.
Exceptional communications skills – strong active listening skills, excellent verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills.
Superb analytical skills and ability to strategize, plan, prioritize and identify/assess opportunities, challenges and institutions with which to engage.
Proven ability to engage with a broad variety of stakeholders and in coalition with others; openness and curiosity about new approaches and different points of view.
Direct experience engaging in systemic change initiatives or campaigns, from the purview of government, non-profit advocacy organizations, public interest legal organizations, philanthropy, or academia.
Openness to an integrated approach to grantmaking that mixes different approaches to social change, and a willingness to try new things.
Ability to navigate a large and complex institution; willingness to participate constructively on organizational priorities beyond the immediate focus of this portfolio; comfort with institutional change and periods of ambiguity.
Demonstrated ability to be a flexible, collaborative, team-oriented, and productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working constructively toward shared goals, comfort with periods of organizational ambiguity.
Written and oral fluency in English.
This position is primarily a sedentary role. However, the person in this position may need to occasionally move about inside the office to liaise with internal staff, access files, office machinery and a copy machine/printer. Additionally, domestic/international travel will be expected when it is safe to travel, approximately 20% of working time. Some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also required to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.
The Ford Foundation is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment, its programs, and operations. As part of this commitment, the Foundation will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If a reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the job application process, please contact, email@example.com or call (212) 573-4627.
Ford Foundation is committed to practicing salary transparency. The minimum salary for this position is $145,000.
Deadline for Applications: June 27, 2022
Alignment to Culture and Values
Commitment to the Foundation’s mission and core values of equity, openness, collaboration, trust, accountability and urgency
Personal qualities of humility, capacity for self-reflection, and a sense of humor
Discretion and ability to handle confidential issues
Action-orientated and entrepreneurial self-starter who can work well independently and in teams
Hybrid Workplace and Flexible Work Arrangement policies
Medical and dental benefits for employee and immediate family on first day of work
Retirement savings account with matching company contributions of up to 13%
Three weeks’ paid vacation in first year of work; four weeks in subsequent years
Office closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day
Professional development initiatives for growth
Generous parental leave (maternal and paternal) during new child’s first year (born into family or adopted)
Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at The Ford Foundation, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/affectional preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law. The Ford Foundation does not discriminate against formerly incarcerated individuals.