Ford Foundation Appoints Javier Valdés as U.S. Director of Civic Engagement and Government

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ford Foundation Appoints Javier Valdés as U.S. Director of Civic Engagement and Government

New York, NY (May 4, 2021) -- The Ford Foundation announced today the appointment of Javier Valdés as U.S. director of its Civic Engagement and Government (CEG) program. Valdés will assume the New York-based role in August 2021, taking over from current CEG director Sanjiv Rao whose term ends this year, and will lead the strategy for the foundation’s work to strengthen representation, participation, and leadership in U.S. democracy.

With over 20 years in the social change sector, Valdés was most recently the Co-Executive Director at Make the Road New York (MRNY), New York’s largest immigration advocacy organization. During his 10-year tenure, he has led the organization’s overall mission, vision and strategy to advance equity, opportunity and justice for low-income communities of color throughout New York State.

Over the past decade, Valdés has played an integral role in securing new policies that limit the local presence of federal immigration enforcement, improve the quality of affordable housing, expand translation and interpretation services at government offices, and reduce biased policing. He was also involved in the creating the largest municipal identification card in the US and dramatically expanding guaranteed paid sick days for low-wage workers in New York City.

“Our Civic Engagement and Government team works to uplift and empower the organizations that push America to become the democracy it has always aspired to be, one that’s rooted in justice and equality,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “Javier’s many years of leadership and advocacy has perfectly positioned him to take the baton and build upon the work that our beloved colleague Sanjiv Rao has spearheaded for nearly a decade. We are thrilled to welcome him to the team.”

“Javier’s deep expertise and strategic vision will make him a transformational leader for our Civic Engagement and Government work, especially now, when it is more important than ever to dismantle this country’s legacy of voter suppression and build a true multi-racial democracy,” said Maria Torres-Springer, vice president of U.S. Programs at the Ford Foundation. “His dedication to empowering those impacted by disenfranchisement will remain crucial as we continue ramping up support for the grassroots leaders that are taking inclusive representation, participation, and leadership to the next level. We are deeply grateful to Sanjiv Rao for an exemplary record of accomplishment while at Ford and know he will continue the fight for social justice in his next endeavors.”

“I’m honored and humbled to join this talented and committed team, particularly at such a pivotal moment for historically excluded communities to more powerfully harness their influence through democracy,” said Javier Valdés. “The Ford Foundation has played a crucial role in supporting the frontline organizations and visionary leaders working to advance this work around the country, and I’m proud to be able to work in unison with these leaders as I step into this new role.”

Valdés succeeds Sanjiv Rao, who has worked with the Ford Foundation since 2012. During his tenure, Rao helped design the framework that guides the Foundation’s grantmaking approaches across program strategies. He was also one of the architects of the Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership initiative, which has significantly expanded the Foundation’s commitment to youth organizing and civic engagement...

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