CASBS secures core support from Ford Foundation

It’s back to the future for CASBS (Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University) and the Ford Foundation. And that’s a very good thing.

CASBS logoCASBS owes its existence to the Ford Foundation. In the early 1950s the foundation launched a major initiative in the social and behavioral sciences. The last of five program areas endorsed in a 1949 “Report of the Study for the Ford Foundation on Policy and Program” called for strengthening of basic knowledge of “individual Behavior and Human Relations.”  This “Program V” concept eventually led to Ford’s establishment of CASBS, embodying the foundation’s post-war optimism about the contribution of social science toward “advancing human welfare.” CASBS broadly was charged “through scientific work, to increase knowledge of factors which influence or determine human conduct, and extends such knowledge for the maximum benefit of individuals and society.”

The institutional connection was so inextricable that a few early acknowledgments and references by fellows casually identify CASBS as “the Ford Center.” A subtitle in a Sept. 24, 1954, San Francisco Chronicle article covering the opening of the center also refered to it as the “Ford Foundation Study Project.”

CASBS remains committed to the basic goals it was founded to advance. In a contemporary landscape of shifting means to best pursue those goals, CASBS and the Ford Foundation both acknowledge the importance of understanding the sources and consequences of societal inequalities. Both seek to identify points of leverage that can transform the norms, beliefs, institutions and practices of our societies in order to make them more equitable, inclusive and socially protective.

As a vote of confidence in the center’s approach and guiding principles, the Ford Foundation recently approved a one-year core support of $450,000 to the center. Furthermore, pending CASBS reports of its activities and accomplishments to Ford during the grant term, there is provisional agreement to extend the core support by the same amount for a second and third year.

“The Ford Foundation’s support of CASBS goes back to the center’s founding, and we are delighted to support the center’s historic renewal, including the effort to make the most of the center’s position at a great university in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Xavier de Souza Briggs, vice president of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Markets program. “We recognize the vital role of innovative discovery – of producing but also advancing cutting-edge ideas about some of the world’s most important problems.”

CASBS director Margaret Levi and California State Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, chair of the CASBS board, concur and are thrilled by the reestablishment of the center’s link with its founding sponsor.

“Few institutions can match CASBS’s singular and long-term focus on understanding human behavior and society,” said Cuellar. “Our commitment to working across disciplines and our location at Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley make CASBS sensitive to the importance of major technological changes as well as technical solutions seeking to improve the human condition. CASBS remains focused on exploring the human and societal dimensions of such change. Ford’s support will strengthen the center’s capacity to leverage all the social sciences to become more focused on inequality and its economic, health and societal consequences.”

Read more on why the timing of the CASBS-Ford Foundation reunion could not be better.