Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression

Ford Foundation

New York, NY, United States


Ford Foundation seeks a Program Officer (PO) to help shape and advance the Foundation’s work at the intersection of art and social justice. The PO assesses and analyzes the field of the arts to identify its key ecosystems and work with various actors to shape and influence agendas to address diagnosed problems and opportunities. S/he is expected to share substantive knowledge with Foundation colleagues, and collaborate broadly across the Program Division. In addition, s/he will also serve as a ‘connector’ of grantees, and work with practitioners, government officials, scholars, NGO and corporate sector leaders, and other donors on issues of common concern to leverage positive impact toward common goals. This job is based in our New York office.


Ford Foundation is focused on challenging inequality in all its forms. This goal is reflected in all seven of the Foundation’s program areas, and in all of the regions and places where it works. The work of Creativity and Free Expression (CFE) explores how cultural narratives affect and shape contemporary reality, and how the arts, journalism, and film can contribute to fairer and more just societies. The CFE team seeks to elevate voices that have been marginalized, distorted, or ignored. In addition, it supports the organizations and networks that best sustain a just and equitable arts, film, and journalism sector; that ensure the safety and security of artists, filmmakers, and storytellers and that enable these fields to thrive.

Program Officers (PO) are the primary staff members responsible for the development of grant portfolios and all related activities, based on the strategies and approaches defined in the foundation’s thematic areas and regional context. Working as a member of the CFE team and under the management guidance of the CFE director, this PO will work alongside another arts and culture PO to support the areas of arts funding under the CFE strategy and will develop the Foundation’s grant recommendations, establish and implement a monitoring and evaluation framework, and ensure shared learning across programmatic teams. The PO will play a leading role in shaping specific grant activities, ensuring all activities are designed to deliver the goals of the CFE thematic strategy.

The Foundation’s current goal for its work in the arts field is to empower artists, cultural organizations, and networks. In keeping with its commitment to challenge inequality, the Foundation is developing an integrated multifaceted strategy to address the structural drivers of inequality in the arts landscape. CFE carries out its work through grant-making; support for programs and convenings for the field; and research and learning.


The Program Officer should be dedicated to social justice, and must also be able to thrive within a large institution with internal demands and address organizational responsibilities with the same amount of care as those in the external field. He or she will have strong relationship management skills and organizational processing skills to manage a large volume of grants and constituent correspondence and advocacy; the ability to prioritize, write and communicate clearly and project manage are crucial. Additional responsibilities include:

  • Contribute in the ongoing definition and development of team strategies, working toward team goals; continuously review for relevancy and contribute ongoing analysis of strategies for achieving significant and scalable impact;
  • Develop grant making activities in a team-oriented context that are aligned to the strategic goals of CFE;
  • Manage a grants portfolio, including annual grant planning, undertaking periodic reviews of progress with grantees, performing grantee site visits, reviewing financial and narrative reporting from grantees, and reviewing and approving grant status reports;
  • Work with the Foundation’s grantees to develop proposals for grant recommendations, determine the goals for a grant, its activities, expected results, indicators of success and budget. Conduct grantee site visits as part of the grantee due diligence process and prepare an organizational assessment on the health of potential grantees;
  • Manage, monitor, and coordinate grant making activities through the grant life cycle, providing clarity and direction to Program Assistants and Grant Managers as needed, to advance the goals of CFE;
  • Develop and implement grantee convenings relevant to review opportunities, challenges and advances;
  • Recommend and participate in learning and evaluation activities to guide the evolution of programmatic work;
  • Report regularly on the progress of the strategies including planned activities and emerging impacts;
  • With guidance from the Director, represent the Foundation and its work to the government, media, academic, business, philanthropic, and civic leaders through meetings, updates, speeches, briefings and interviews;
  • Demonstrate outstanding professional relations with colleagues across the organization and with external constituents, serving as a substantive and reputational ambassador for the Foundation and CFE;
  • Collaborate with peers, Directors and Officers of the Foundation to promote learning, exchange and strategic partnership. Learn from and collaborate with key stakeholders inside and outside the Foundation;
  • Serve as direct co-manager, mentor and coach to Program Assistant.


  • BA/BS (or equivalent combination of education and experience) in relevant field of study plus a minimum of 8 years’ experience in the arts in a role that manages high volume people interactions and administrative processing, preferably in a global context;
  • Preferably experience working in the written or theatre arts;
  • Experience and understanding of either or both the Arab diaspora or Latino/Latina culture;
  • Deep understanding of social justice and geopolitical landscape in the United States and in developing countries;
  • Fluency in English; Fluency in Spanish a plus;
  • Exceptional leadership presence – internally and externally;
  • Exceptional communications skills – strong active listening skills, constructive verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills;
  • 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;
  • Strong knowledge of and expertise with Latin arts and culture is preferred along with international experience.

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