You know change is in the air when one of the nation’s largest foundations releases a video of its President dancing on tables in the C-suite.
(Dancing starts at 1 minute 21 seconds)
Darren Walker – the Ford Foundation’s first openly gay African-American president – stepped into his job just over a year ago. And he is bringing with him new more open cultural values.
In this wonderful social media video he breaks cultural norms by dancing his way through the prestigious and usually quite formal Ford Foundation building, while a few staff look on like he’s crazy. It’s a great juxtaposition of new and old philanthropic worlds colliding within one of the giants of philanthropy.
There are other ways he is humanizing funding culture. He’s lifting the philanthropic veil of secrecy so common in the funding world by blogging avidly and openly about his own struggles to equalize power between grantees and funders. He sponsored what he called an ‘unsurvey’ – crowd sourcing from grantees questions that they wanted the new Ford Foundation website to answer. And he tweets avidly and often, sometimes more than twice a day–supporting grantee initiatives, expressing his feelings about current events and sharing inspiring quotes.
Having worked with the Ford Foundation for about 15 years, first as a grantee and most recently as a culture consultant, I was thrilled by the video’s release.
Ten years ago – Darren Walker would not have had permission to be the kind of leader he is today. He is both a pioneer and also a symbol of deeper changes happening in philanthropy and across the work world allowing people to be more authentic, more real and ultimately more human.