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Ford Foundation commits $10 million to Detroit projects in 2015

A handful of Detroit-based civic-building projects will receive grants totaling $10 million from the Ford Foundation this year.

The New York-based global charity, which has its roots with the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, has upped its philanthropic role in Detroit since the city’s bankruptcy.

The foundation contributed $125 million toward the “grand bargain”—the deal that smoothed Detroit’s path through bankruptcy by softening the blow to city pensioners, while safeguarding the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection.

That was the largest single foundation contribution to the grand bargain, which totaled more than $800 million in public and foundation funds.

Now the organization has committed to distributing another $10 million in 2015.

$1.3 million of that has already been committed to projects addressing inequality, civic engagement, and community organizing. Recipient organizations include the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, Detroit Voices, and the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.

Lisa Davis, the lead program officer spearheading the Ford Foundation’s Detroit investments, said the group has “a vision” for the remaining grants, but no grantees yet.

However, Davis said they will build on the work of prior grantees, and partner organizations already doing much of the work they hope to support.

“The idea there is that in order to really serve the residents of Detroit with our grant-making, we need to have a basis in institutions, organizations and people that are working on the ground,” Davis said.

Speaking just as the city was about to emerge from bankruptcy late last year, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said he was “radically optimistic about Detroit’s future.”

“Detroit can become a laboratory for cities across America,” Walker said. “The challenge and opportunity now is to rebuild the civic grid.

“The public commons in Detroit is frayed, and it needs to be strengthened. And the role of foundations like Ford is to support that effort.” 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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