Regional Director

Ford Foundation | Nairobi, Kenya

Job Summary

The Ford Foundation, created in 1936, is a US-based philanthropic organization and private international donor focusing on social justice. It has ten offices across the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as in the US. The Director oversees the Foundation's activities in East Africa — providing overall leadership to the Foundation's strategy and grant making programs, managing the office and team in Nairobi, and representing the Foundation to government, business, nonprofit leaders, the media and the donor community. The Director reports to the Vice President for International Programs.

The Director is the Foundation's ambassador in the region to many important constituencies. Specifically, the Director assesses local political, social, cultural and economic developments and helps shape the Foundation’s strategy in the region and guides its programming and grant-making priorities in alignment with the Foundation’s mission, values and goals.  The Director facilitates development of an integrated office vision and innovative grant-making strategy; synthesizes learning and enhances the quality and impact of programming; and promotes a collaborative working environment in the office and across areas of expertise that maximize the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and skills of staff to accomplish Foundation goals. The Director manages, coaches, galvanizes and works closely with a small team of program staff in developing, monitoring and evaluating integrated grant programs and projects in support of regional goals. 

The Foundation's programs in East Africa strive to confront exclusion and expand justice to ensure all people are able to participate in a democracy in which underrepresented groups see their rights protected, and the advantages of progress are available to all.  The work of the East Africa office specifically focuses on ensuring governments and regional bodies in East Africa (focusing on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) address the political costs of corruption and increasingly protect civic space, enabling civic actors to ensure governments work in the public’s interest. The Director will ensure the grants and activities supported under its Civic Engagement and Government program in East Africa contribute to this goal. The Director also partners with Ford’s International Program Director for Civic Engagement and Government to ensure the grant making in East Africa is aligned with the larger global vision for a thriving civil space and civil society.

The Director maintains effective ties and promotes strategic partnerships with local leaders, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, the media and other donors to leverage new resources, scale impact, and advance the goals of the office. The Director also collaborates with staff in the Foundation’s New York headquarters to oversee all workforce needs and legal matters, ensures that the Foundation complies with all relevant local laws and statutory obligations in a timely manner, maintains constructive working relations with government.

Additionally, the Director manages the office’s $6 million annual grant budget and an additional $3 million in funding to strengthen institutions and networks.  They also prepare and manage an administrative budget and staff with responsibilities for accounting, grants administration and general services functions. The Director also works closely with senior management staff from around the world, including Regional and Program Directors from Ford’s offices in 11 countries in helping shape and integrate various aspects of the Foundation's work regionally and globally.


Specifically, the Director will:

  • Be accountable to Ford Foundation senior leadership and through them to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees for implementation of the East Africa office strategy, and in communicating progress to them.
  • Assess local political, social, cultural and economic developments and help shape the Foundation’s strategy in the region and guide its programming and grant-making priorities in alignment with the Foundation’s mission and values and the goals of the International Civic Engagement and Government program.
  • Provide intellectual leadership inside and outside the Foundation.
  • Represent the Foundation externally; and, initiate/foster strategic partnerships in the field of civic engagement and government--collaborating broadly with international scholars and practitioners, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other donors on issues of common program concern.
  • Lead/conduct annual reviews of strategy and propose changes to ensure greatest impact
  • Oversee and manage, mentor and coach a small team of professional, administrative and support staff including directing development of grantmaking plans by Program Officers; establishing annual performance delivery goals for the team and direct reports; and planning and implementing talent management strategies.
  • Prepare and manage the East Africa office annual grant and administrative budget.
  • Incorporate a rights-based and gender focus in the work and advance initiatives focused on youth and people with disabilities.
  • Establish learning goals for East Africa team, including working with Ford strategy and learning colleagues to build a monitoring framework to assess impact and synthesize learning.
  • Communicate with the team, senior Foundation leadership and external partners clearly and consistently in a transparent, timely and respectful manner, and enabling them to be strategic and achieve impact.


  • Proven record of leadership, strategic design, planning, and management success;
  • Subject-matter expertise on civil society and fighting corruption, preferred;
  • Substantial previous experience in and deep knowledge of the history, culture and social justice context of East Africa — as well as the region's broader engagement with the African continent and global developments;
  • Exceptional leadership presence — internally and externally;
  • Demonstrated exceptional people management and team management skills, including the ability to motivate and build teams, constructively lead, coach, mentor, develop and evaluate a staff;
  • Proven abilities to diplomatically manage complex relationships with private and public sector stakeholders in the region;
  • An understanding of development and social change processes and a proven track record of achieving change;
  • In-depth knowledge of the philanthropic sector and grant-making capabilities in social development sector;
  • Substantive expertise in and experience with applying gender analysis to work;
  • A proven ability to think analytically, independently and critically with agility to translate ideas and insights into action through coherent and viable program work;
  • An action-oriented, entrepreneurial person who is a self-starter than can work independently, as well as in teams;
  • Ability to effectively lead a regional office within a larger global organization with headquarters in New York and strategize/solve problems through solicitation of relevant internal expertise (Human Resources, Finance, Legal Services);
  • An understanding of the civil society landscape in East Africa;
  • Administrative skills, in particular an appreciation for the importance of strong fiscal management;
  • Strong facilitation skills — the ability to listen and learn from diverse perspectives;
  • Exemplary communications skills — strong active listening skills and 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;
  • Demonstrated organizational skills, and the ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously;
  • Strong time management proficiency;
  • Sound, mature judgment and integrity;
  • Personal qualities of humility and capacity for self-reflections;
  • A passion for social justice and reducing inequality as well as commitment to Ford’s mission and core values of equity and fairness, diversity, voice and participation, knowledge and creativity, humility and respect, and honesty and integrity.


The successful candidate will have the following minimum qualifications and experience:

  • A graduate level degree in a relevant field of study or BA and equivalent experience
  • 10+ years of experience leading strategies, people and teams
  • Ability to travel extensively on behalf of the Foundation
  • Creativity, energy and non-traditional thinking capacity
  • Written and oral fluency in English and preferably Swahili as well.


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 25%; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings—and may occasionally include travel to rural or remote places with difficult conditions.