Don Chen
Don Chen

Don Chen (he/him) is the President of the Surdna Foundation. He leads the century-old foundation’s efforts to advance social justice and racial equity in America’s communities.   

Before joining Surdna in 2018, Don directed the Cities & States program at the Ford Foundation. There, he supported urban development initiatives to make housing more affordable, promote more equitable land use practices, and bolster community voice and decision-making power in U.S. and Global South cities. He also led a multi-program team to support strengthening social justice organizations and networks in targeted U.S. states and oversaw the foundation’s grantmaking in Detroit.  

Previously, Don founded and served as CEO of Smart Growth America, the U.S.’s leading sustainable urban planning advocacy organization. At SGA, he led efforts to create the National Vacant Properties Campaign (which later became the Center for Community Progress) and Transportation for America. He also managed a merger with the Growth Management Leadership Alliance.  

Don serves as Co-Chair of the Presidents’ Council on Impact Investing and on the boards of Living Cities, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Philanthropy New York, and the Ms. Foundation for Women. He studied public policy and environmental justice at Yale College and the Yale School of the Environment. As a student, he received the New Prize and the Dwight Hall Humanitarian Award for his efforts to fight hunger, poverty, and homelessness in New Haven, Connecticut.

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