Ford Foundation representative on supporting disability inclusion

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On Nov 30, China Development Brief, in collaboration with the Ensan Foundation and Easy Inclusion, hosted an online event on inclusive employment for youth with disabilities in China. During the session, Ryan Etzcorn, the Program Associate in the Ford Foundation’s Beijing Office, shed light on the support for disability inclusion from a funder’s perspective.

What projects can receive support from the Ford Foundation?

According to Mr. Etzcorn, disability organizations can often be classified into three categories: service organizations, advocacy organizations, and hybrid organizations. In China, many disability inclusion organizations are hybrid organizations with both service and advocacy efforts for the disability community, with few pure advocacy organizations. This reflects Ford Foundation’s learning in China that if disability inclusion organizations in China seek to do effective advocacy, they often must earn social trust first via experience with frontline service provision. Mr. Etzcorn also addressed the principle of inclusion when making disability support. He proposed a hypothetical case where a project offers training to help disabled youth with vocational capacities, but segregates them into a particular department. This project betrays the ideal of disability inclusion and is thus unqualified to receive the grants.

Three types of support models from the Ford Foundation

In 2021, the Ford Foundation spent $190 million to support the inclusion of people with disabilities, representing 17% of the foundation’s total global funding. Etzcorn Ryan introduced two types of grantmaking support and one non-grantmaking support. The first one is called disability-specific grantmaking, for projects with a core focus on promoting disability inclusion. In 2022, the Ford Foundation provided $27 million worldwide to support work of this kind. The second one is disability-inclusive grantmaking, which is for projects with components related to disability inclusion. For instance, efforts in conducting research or interviews that include a disability dimension, can apply for this type of funding. The third one is non-grantmaking support. For example, the Ford Foundation can provide consultants to help organizations implement projects in the local community and contribute to the connections in the field.

Global experiences in disability inclusion projects

Mr. Etzcorn introduced three overseas organizations to discuss experiences of promoting disability inclusion in China. The first case is Docs with Disabilities, which focuses on promoting the representation of disabled healthcare providers through research and education, and involving awareness-raising practices and community building. The second case is the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. This organization provides employment training for youth with disabilities and encourages them to lead structural changes for disabled people in rural America. The last case is Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, which was jointly established by grantees with Ford Foundation support. It offers a diverse platform where members can publish and share the latest reports and related information. In addition, it also organizes conferences for discussing findings and future strategies. The platform has co-created media advocacy approaches to better disseminate research findings and influence policymakers in the United States.

In conclusion, Mr. Etzcorn believes it is important to support more organizations with services for disability inclusion in China’s ecosystem. At the same time, funders should also remain humble and learn from partner organizations’ experience to explore future changes together.

In Brief

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