Support to culture in Africa, Latin America and Asia is not the preserve of governments. Large private funds with their own cultural policy operate worldwide. Their strategies are less coloured by political considerations and stem from socially responsible entrepreneurship or philanthropic ideals. Part six.

Ford Foundation

November 2007 -

Combating poverty and promoting justice and democracy are the primary forces behind the largest philanthropic foundation in the world: the Ford Foundation. Like knowledge, the foundation believes that creativity contributes to solving conflicts and the progress of societies. With its art and culture programme the Ford Foundation strives to expand opportunities for artistic and cultural expression. It also tries to encourage the documentation and dissemination of new and traditional types of art and to improve the economic position of artists.

The Ford Foundation was founded in 1936 as a charity institution in the mid-western state of Michigan, home to America's first automobile empire. After the death of its founding fathers, Henry and Edsel Ford, the foundation moved its headquarters to New York and began to spread its wings. In 1952, India became the first country outside of the United States where the foundation initiated programmes.

Today the Ford Foundation has twelve branch offices in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Russia. Indonesia was the country with the most cultural programmes supported by the foundation in 2006, including the publication of a cultural magazine for women and an exchange programme within the Asian Cultural Council. The foundation also gave financial support to Vietnam's first contemporary art event, Saigon Open City. Other beneficiaries included Kenya's Performing and Visual Arts Centre with an impulse for its infrastructure and capacity expansion.

Formal ties with either the Ford family or the Ford Motor Company have not existed since the 1970s. The foundation pays its subsidies from the investment income accrued over the original capital. The foundation's value in 2006 was 12.2 billion dollars while it issued 541 million dollars in subsidies in that year.