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Michael Edwards is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading
authorities on civil society, philanthropy, and social change. For the
past thirty years, he has worked to strengthen the contributions of
ordinary citizens to their communities as a grant giver, writer,
advocate, organizer, and activist across five continents, and has lived
and worked in Zambia, Malawi, Colombia, India, the UK, and the United
States. Michael graduated from Oxford University with a “congratulatory”
first-class honors degree in geography, and was awarded a Ph.D. by the
University of London for his work on housing the urban poor in Latin
America. Dissatisfied with academic research, he entered the world of
NGOs in 1982 and spent the next fifteen years as a senior manager in
international relief and development NGOs, including Oxfam GB, Save the
Children UK, the Prasad Foundation, and Voluntary Service Overseas.
During this time, Michael became known for his innovative thinking about
NGOs and development, and in 1998 he was invited to join the World Bank
in Washington, D.C., as a senior advisor on civil society, where he led
a program to improve the agency’s engagement with a wide range of
nongovernmental groups. Two years later, he was appointed as director of
the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Program in New York,
overseeing grants totaling more than $900 million between 1999 and
2008, when he left to become a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a
Network for Ideas and Action, in New York; a senior visiting scholar at
New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service; and a senior
visiting fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute at Manchester
University in the UK. Michael also cofounded the Seasons Fund for Social
Transformation, which makes grants to voluntary organizations that
combine their work for social justice with spiritual principles.
is the author of thirteen books and hundreds of articles and op-ed
pieces, and his writings have changed the way we think about voluntary
action and the transformation of society. He writes regularly for
openDemocracy, the Financial Times, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and
many other newspapers and magazines, and is a featured speaker at
literary festivals and other events around the world. He lives with his
wife, Cora, a nonprofit-fund-raising consultant who also teaches at New
York University, in Swan Lake, a small community in the foothills of the
Catskill Mountains of New York, where they have painstakingly rebuilt
and renovated one of the first houses built by settlers who arrived in
the 1830s to establish a tanning industry in Sullivan County.
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