The Ford Foundation’s U.S. Program in Technology and Society seeks a curious, strategic, collaborative Program Officer to help shape and implement the Foundation’s efforts to ensure that digital technologies are designed and governed in ways that advance equity and justice. Based in New York City, the Program Officer will manage a portfolio of grants and other activities to advance effective and equitable public interest technology policies, regulations, and social norms, as well as to deepen public understanding of the impact of digital communications technologies on society. Ford grantees in this portfolio work at the intersection of civil rights, social justice, and technology policy. They are challenging corporate and government surveillance and discriminatory technology tools and practices, advocating for digital rights and access, and working toward freedom of expression, digital security, accessibility, privacy, and an open internet.
Reporting to the U.S. Technology and Society Director and working in collaboration with other Program Officers within and across Ford program areas, the Technology and Society Program Officer will be responsible for recommending grants to advance equitable and just technology policy and will play a leading role in shaping specific grants and other initiatives, ensuring that activities are designed to advance the overall goals of the Technology and Society program. The PO will work collaboratively to develop grant recommendations, establish and implement a monitoring and evaluation framework and facilitate engagement and learning across programmatic teams. In addition, they will serve as a ‘connector’ of grantees and should be comfortable working with a diverse range of practitioners, individual activists, government officials, academics, NGOs, corporate sector workers and other donors to advance programmatic goals.
The ideal candidate will be deeply knowledgeable about topics at the intersection 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 US internet and tech policy field as well as broader civil rights and social justice fields. The ideal PO 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. 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.
The Program Officer must have a proven track record of working at the intersection of civil rights, social justice, and technology. Reporting to the Technology and Society Director and working with a multidisciplinary team, the Program Officer will:
- Contribute in the ongoing definition and development of the Foundation’s Technology and Society strategy, with a focus on work to advance effective and equitable public interest technology policies, regulations, and social norms, and to facilitate the participation and representation of communities most greatly impacted by discriminatory technologies in the policymaking arena.
- Manage, monitor and coordinate a grants portfolio, 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 durable, more resilient, and more effectively networked with each other. This includes support for strategic vision, leadership, management systems, financial stability, and organizational diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Work collaboratively with Technology and Society team members to develop, define and implement program strategies to achieve meaningful and measurable impact towards team goals.
- Continually scan the fields related to technology and society in the US (and globally to learn lessons for the US context), 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.
- Develop and implement grant-making approaches that support the use of strategic communications and narrative change as part of the program strategy.
- Contribute to the thinking and work of colleagues in the Technology and Society team and foundation overall and advancing team building and effectiveness.
- A minimum of eight years leading social justice strategies and/or subject-matter expertise related to the ideas and approaches outlined above, including significant experience with demonstrable impact in communities of color and/or other historically disadvantaged communities.
- Experience applying race, gender, and economic justice analyses to strategy.
- Knowledge of public policy mechanisms and venues for public policy change in the United States, including a nuanced understanding of various advocacy methods - legal, policy, constituent mobilization, strategic communication – and their interplay in advancing social change.
- Intellectually curious; demonstrated openness to new ideas.
- Exceptional communication skills – strong active listening skills, excellent verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills. Fluency in English.
- Demonstrated ability to be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, comfort with periods of ambiguity, constructive participation in ongoing organizational development.
- Demonstrated experience as a connector and convener across relevant sectors and parties, including grantees, practitioners, government officials, academics, private sector representatives, and civil society representatives.
- Exceptional leadership presence—internally and externally, with a flexible, collaborative, team orientation.
- Strong analytical skills and ability to strategize, plan, prioritize and identify/assess opportunities and challenges.
- A master’s degree in relevant field of study or a bachelor’s degree plus substantial experience with growing responsibility and leadership.
- Domestic travel expected, approximately 20%; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.
- 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, approximately 20%; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.
Applicants who are formerly incarcerated and/or have conviction histories are encouraged to apply.
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
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
Medical and dental benefits for employee and immediate family on first day of work
Professional development initiatives for growth
Retirement savings account with matching company contributions of up to 13%
Generous parental leave (maternal and paternal) during new child’s first year (born into family or adopted)
Salary: Salary is based on experience and on the Foundation’s commitment to internal equity. A generous benefits package is provided.
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.