The Wisdom of Communities

How the Ford Institute helps rural people achieve their own vision of vitality

Former Ford Institute Director Tom Gallagher traces the Institute's history from an idea through program creation. Gallagher covers the development of the Institute's leadership program, its refinement and growth, and lessons learned. Short feature articles  bring the statistics to life. Organizations and individuals who are creating their own community-capacity program will benefit from this inside look at what transpired over a decade at the Ford Institute.

Anyone may download a PDF of the report here

40 pages. ©2013.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted April 2, 2019


After reading this publication, I've learned the context for how some of the foundations programs have evolved to what they are today. The trials of different programs, willingness to try to new ideas, and adapt accordingly, pillars of TFFF's success are inspiring view points gleaned from the short read.


Review posted August 27, 2018


This is a detailed description of the evolution of the Leadership Program, and the accompanying development of its evaluation. I was particularly interested in the discussion of the 'tension between metrics and non-metrics' in assessment.


Review posted February 13, 2017


This was a great, quick read that brought to light the work done through the Ford Leadership Program. I would recommend this to anyone doing community work!

Ann Mehaffy

Review posted May 31, 2016


Gallagher tells the story of the Ford Institute for Community Building and the Ford Institute Leadership Program, not from the outside looking in but from the inside. Gallagher served as the director of the Ford Institute for Community Building for eight years. The history of the FIBC is a compelling story, from the very beginning of the concept and the approval by the Ford Family Foundation Board in 1999. Gallagher writes of the development of the Institute’s programs, especially in terms of community building, leadership training, local community investment, and developing community scholars. It is especially interesting to read the key concepts, curricula, and the concept of community collaborations. Now that FICB has made the decision to transition into another more grass-roots approach to community building, I am happy to have read this document of the history of the FICB to date.

Niki Price

Review posted January 4, 2016


I enjoyed this look at the foundation and it's approach to giving and community building.


Review posted December 24, 2015


This offers an in depth look into the history of the Ford Institute. Great for people who are familiar with them already or love reading about the growth and successes/challenges of organizations.


Review posted November 25, 2015


I was delightful to read of Ford Institute


Review posted November 9, 2015


Excellent piece of work that explains the beginning and intention of the Ford Foundation. Well written and easy to quickly read.


Review posted November 7, 2015


It was very helpful to read about specific examples of how the Ford Institute builds the capacity of communities to help them define and achieve their own vision of vitality. We will refer to this document as we work toward employment sustainability for our community of Netarts/Oceanside. Thank you for sharing this book!


Review posted June 1, 2015


Should be required reading for all Ford Institute Leadership Program participants.

Mickey Edwards

Review posted February 10, 2015


The Wisdom of Communities, Tom Gallagher author, is a must read for every Ford Family Foundation Leadership participant. The 40 page book provides the why and how of the Ford Family programs and clearly defines the mission, goals and process of the Leadership program. The function and connectedness of the Leadership program to the other legs of the Foundation are made in a clear and understandable manner. Following the development and changing aspects of the Foundation and Leadership program demonstrates that it is an organic work - alive and moving. It was exciting to learn more fully where "we" (participants) come from and where our rural areas can go - anywhere we choose!


Review posted February 7, 2015


What a great story to share. This book provides history and context to the Ford Institute classes. I now have a much better understanding of how the program works to support rural community development through capacity building. The successes of the program and the challenges and lessons learned help shape the continuing efforts to develop leaders and build strong resilient and sustainable rural communities. This is a good read.