According to the final publication issued by the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program, the $340 million graduate-level fellowship initiative has, over the past twelve years, helped more than forty-three hundred social justice leaders from twenty-two countries advance their education and bring new knowledge and skills back to their home countries.
Released at an event last week celebrating the achievements of the program, the report, The Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program: Linking Higher Education to Social Change (76 pages, PDF), offers a detailed look at how the IFP model helped establish a framework for NGOs and local governments to emulate, as well as a legacy that will continue to shape educational policies and practices in the developing world for years to come. Through the program, talented individuals from marginalized communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia received financial support and other opportunities to pursue advanced degrees at more than six hundred universities worldwide. Applicants were required to hold an undergraduate degree and be activists or practitioners in their communities. "Above all," the publication explains, "they would come from marginalized communities that by definition are far less likely to have access to advanced education than their more privileged counterparts."
Whether it is working to promote eco-tourism and conservation in China, develop drama therapy programs for youth in Tanzania, prevent early marriage and promote education for girls in Kenya, or advocate for the rights of disabled people in Vietnam, roughly 82 percent of all IFP fellows are back in their home countries implementing what they have learned. IFP alumni also have been elected to public office, hold leadership positions in nongovernmental organizations, or are spearheading change in basic, secondary, and higher education.
"IFP's success proves that with proper support structures in place, talented individuals from marginalized societies will not only succeed in first-class academic settings," said Susan Berresford, former president of the Ford Foundation, "but will also often return to their home countries to build opportunity ladders for others."