Sanjiv Rao is the Managing Director of Movements and Media at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Sanjiv oversees Democracy Fund’s Just and Inclusive Society (JIS) and Public Square programs, playing a leadership role in organization-wide strategy, grantmaking effectiveness, and organizational management and development.
Sanjiv has spent thirty years working at the intersection of community engagement and public institutions in roles across direct service, policy, research, advocacy, and philanthropy. He concluded a nearly decade-long program term at the Ford Foundation in the fall of 2021 as Director of the foundation’s Civic Engagement and Government program, which sought to strengthen representation, participation, and leadership in US democracy so that communities have the capacities and agency to shape their futures, animated by principles of dignity, inclusion, and fairness. Immediately before coming to Democracy Fund in 2023, he completed a year-long assignment in the Biden-Harris administration in the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President (on detail from Race Forward), where he served as a Senior Fellow supporting implementation of executive orders focused on racial equity and support for underserved communities.
Earlier in his career Sanjiv served as executive director of the New York State Network for Youth Success, where he led policy efforts to integrate youth development more effectively with the public systems that touch the lives of young people, particularly those from communities of concentrated poverty. He began his career as a public-school teacher in Oakland, California and has also held positions at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, and as a member of the research team studying the Ford-funded Leadership for a Changing World program at New York University.
Sanjiv serves on the boards of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, the FrameWorks Institute, the Interaction Institute for Social Change, and People Powered. He is trained as a social scientist and holds a PhD and MPhil in Public Administration from New York University, an MA in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.