The Ford Foundation’s pioneering, decade-long International Fellowships Program (IFP) supported advanced studies for social change leaders from the world’s most vulnerable populations. The program was established in 2001 with an initial grant of $280 million—the largest single grant in the foundation’s history. By 2013, more than 4,300 fellows from 22 countries—spanning Asia, Africa, Latin America, Russia, and the Middle East—completed graduate or postgraduate degree programs.

Supporting a generation of social change leaders

By promoting greater equity in higher education within developing countries, IFP set a precedent in higher education scholarship programs. As envisioned, the vast majority of alumni returned to their home countries and dedicated themselves to improving conditions in their communities. They have gone on to make their mark in countries around the world—holding public office, heading international and government agencies, building civil society organizations, and mobilizing grassroots campaigns to defend the rights of all people.

Impact and learning

Because of these extraordinary alumni, IFP’s impact has continued, enduring far beyond the program’s conclusion in 2013. The IFP Alumni Tracking Study, supported by the foundation, is designed to assess the impacts of the program. Launched in 2013, this 10-year research project will explore the accomplishments of IFP alumni and analyze the impact they’ve had on their communities. It offers a rare opportunity to explore how higher education, and IFP specifically, affects the lives of IFP fellows as well as the countries in which they live and work.

Additionally, the Columbia University Libraries holds extensive documentation on the planning and administration of the program, as well as the selection, placement, and monitoring of the Fellows. A selection of digital records—including publications, the IFP media library, and archived websites—are available online via the Ford IFP Archive website. The archive provides researchers and practitioners with an in-depth look into the links between access to higher education, international development, and social change.