Ford Foundation Appoints NYU Wagner alumnus Javier Valdés as U.S. Director of Civic Engagement and Government

Bringing with him decades of expertise and a deep commitment to social justice, NYU Wagner alumnus Javier Valdés is joining the Ford Foundation as U.S. Director of its Civic Engagement and Government program. In this important New York-based role, he will lead the strategy for the Foundation's work to strengthen representation, participation, and leadership in U.S. democracy. 

With over 20 years in the social change sector, Valdés was most recently the Co-Executive Director at Make the Road New York, New York's largest immigration advocacy organization. During his 10-year tenure, he has led that organization's mission to advance equity, opportunity and justice for low-income communities of color throughout New York State. 

Over the past decade, Valdés has played an integral role in securing new policies that limit the local presence of federal immigration enforcement, improve the quality of affordable housing, expand translation and interpretation services at government offices, and reduce biased policing. He was also involved in the creating the largest municipal identification card in the US and dramatically expanding guaranteed paid sick days for low-wage workers in New York City.

He received his Master of Urban Planning (MUP) degree from Wagner in 2004.

"I'm honored and humbled to join this talented and committed team, particularly at such a pivotal moment for historically excluded communities to more powerfully harness their influence through democracy," said Valdés. "The Ford Foundation has played a crucial role in supporting the frontline organizations and visionary leaders working to advance this work around the country, and I'm proud to be able to work in unison with these leaders as I step into this new role."

Valdés began his career serving in the Peace Corps, where he worked with the Municipal Government in Cahabón, Guatemala. He later worked with the Federation of Municipalities of the Central America Isthmus (FEMICA) in Guatemala to create a virtual teaching tool for local mayors and staff. Additionally, he consulted for the United Nations Capital Development Fund on economic development and service delivery projects for Yemen and Nicaragua. He also served as a program officer for the Synergos Institute where he helped coordinate a partnership of 19 border foundations to draw investments and resources to the region. 

Before joining Make the Road, Valdés served in several roles at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), including managing New York State's Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, acting as a leader in the effort to pass the Safe Housing Act and Executive Order 120, and securing funding for the Immigrant Housing Collaborative and the Immigrants & Parks Collaborative. 

With a deep commitment to immigrant advocacy, Valdés worked on the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on Immigration. He also currently serves as Secretary of the New York Working Families Party, and recently held positions of Board Chair of the Center for Popular Democracy, Board Vice-Chair for the Center for Popular Democracy in Action, and Board Member at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. 

An accomplished and deeply respected advocate, Valdés was awarded the White House Champions of Change Cesar Chavez award by President Barack Obama and the Yoko Ono-John Lennon Peace Prize. (SOURCE: Ford Foundation).