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Steven Solnick, Representative of Ford Foundation in New Delhi
Steven Solnick has been the Ford Foundation Representative in New Delhi since October 1, 2008. He oversees the Foundation’s annual grant making program in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, which has averaged around $20 million in recent years. He also directs all administrative aspects of the Foundation’s work, manages the Foundation’s relationships with host governments, local partners and the international community. Prior to his arrival in India, he was the Foundation’s Moscow Representative from May 2002 until July 2008. There he also managed the Foundation’s grant portfolios in the areas of HIV-AIDS and economic development in Russia.

Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2002, Dr. Solnick was Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and coordinator for Russian Studies at Columbia’s Harriman Institute. He is the author of Stealing the State: Control and Collapse in Soviet Institutions (Harvard Univ. Press, 1998) and numerous articles on comparative political economy and bargaining in federal systems.

Dr. Solnick earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University, a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Oxford University (where he was a Marshall Scholar) and an S.B. in Physics from M.I.T. He has also been a Fulbright Scholar at Moscow State University and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

 

How do you identify the NGOs to provide funds?

The common unifying theme in identifying the focus of the Foundation’s resources is the mission of social justice and a commitment to working with those closest to the problems to find new solutions. To ensure that the different offices of the Ford Foundation concentrate on issues most relevant to their unique settings, each has adopted a regional strategy that takes into account local challenges and opportunities. Based on these regional strategies, the New Delhi office will implement six initiatives for grant making.

The six initiatives identified by the New Delhi office are:

  • Promoting transparent, effective and accountable government
  • Advancing economic and social rights
  • Expanding livelihood opportunities for poor households
  • Expanding community rights over natural resources
  • Advancing public services media
  • Policies and programs for adolescent sexual and reproductive health

Our Program Officers who oversee the initiatives are experts in their respective fields and we engage in a very broad process of identifying NGOs and other recipients of our funds. We attend conferences, visit projects in the field, receive both solicited and unsolicited proposals that we review and are in constant touch with experts in the field.

What are other criteria’s from your side to select the NGOs for funding?

We look for work that is innovative, that seeks to have impact and is significant in the field. But beyond that we try to be very sensitive to the fact that every project has unique requirements, special needs, and that every organization has particular skills and unique talent. Finding ways to assess and evaluate our grant making makes our own strategies and practices more self-critical, transparent and successful, and it also helps our grantees become more effective by adding knowledge to their fields.

Which kind of steps needs to be taken by NGOs to approach you?

We ask that organizations that have not spoken or contacted us to send us a brief introduction of the organization and the project that they want funded. This may be a two or three page (at the most) concept note describing the problem that they seek to address, their approach and their particular skills. We will review this concept note in the context of our funding priorities along with other projects we may be funding and the resources available with us. If there is a possibility that we might provide funding we would contact the organization with a request to send a detailed proposal. While working in the field, our Program Officers are also looking at the most interesting work on the ground and we may start the conversation asking the organization to prepare a proposal.

Till the date how many NGOs have got benefited from you?
Our grants tend to be on the larger side and we do not provide too many each year. As an approximate number we make about 75 to 100 grants each year, and as you are aware, the Ford Foundation has been in India for close to 60 years now.