Xavier de Souza Briggs is Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Assets program and Associate Professor of sociology and urban planning in SA+P’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning at MIT. His research focuses on regional economic growth and inequality; environmental sustainability, risk and resilience; race/ethnicity and immigration; and democratic governance, problem solving and innovation.
He holds a BS in Engineering Resources and Development (1989) from Stanford University, an MPA (1993) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a PhD in Sociology and Education (1996) from Columbia University.
Early in his career, Dr. Briggs served as a community planner in the South Bronx, worked as Research Associate at Columbia University’s Teachers College and at the Community Development Research Center in the School of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social Research. Other professional experiences include serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as Faculty Affiliate at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, and as Associate Director of General Government Programs in the Office and Management and Budget at The White House, where he oversaw a wide array of policy, budget and management issues for roughly half of the cabinet agencies of the federal government.
In his position as Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Assets program Dr. Briggs promotes economic fairness, advances sustainable development, and builds just and inclusive cities in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He also oversees the foundation’s regional programming in China, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Published books include The Geography of Opportunity (Brookings, 2005) and Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities across the Globe (MIT Press, 2008), which examines efforts in the US, Brazil, India, and South Africa to lead change at the local level. Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty (Oxford, 2010) won the best book of the year from the National Academy of Public Administration.
Dr. Briggs' past research and planning work has also earned him national awards, including the American Planning Association President's Award for community development work in the South Bronx; the 2000 Best Article of the Year from the Journal of the American Planning Association for "In the Wake of Desegregation"; and the 1997 Dissertation Prize of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.
In addition, he has received numerous honors as an educator: the 2002 Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard Kennedy School; the 2007 Excellence in Advising Award, MIT DUSP; and the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award, MIT DUSP. Dr. Briggs’ extensive teaching experience began with a brief lectureship in the School of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social Research. From 1996 to 2004, he served first as Assistant and then Associate Professor (without tenure) of Public Policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
At the Institute, Dr. Briggs’ appointments have ranged from Founding Director of The Community Problem-Solving Project @ MIT and Associate Head of SA+P’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning (2013) to non-tenured (2005-2009) and tenured (2009-present) Associate Professor of Sociology and Planning. From 2002-2004, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT hosted him as a MLK Visiting Professor.