Xavier de Souza Briggs

SNF Agora Visiting Fellow, AY 21-22

Xavier (Xav) de Souza Briggs is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on democratic governance, social change, pluralism and racial equity, economic opportunity and inclusive growth, and urban and regional development, both in the U.S. and abroad. An award-winning educator and researcher, he is also an experienced manager in philanthropy and government. 

Briggs edited The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America (Brookings, 2005), which won planning’s top book award, as well as Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities Across the Globe (MIT Press, 2008), a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Prize for best scholarly book on a social problem, and Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty (Oxford University Press, 2010), winner of the Louis Brownlow Award. A frequent media source, his views have appeared in the New York TimesBoston Globe, CNN, and other major media, in English and in Spanish. 

In 2020, he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business, Public Service and Sociology at New York University and was a volunteer on the Biden-Harris transition team, conducting agency reviews, serving on the volunteer interviewer corps, and advising on business recovery, climate action, racial equity, worker empowerment, philanthropic partnerships, and other issues. 

Prior to joining Brookings, he served for six years as vice president of the Ford Foundation, overseeing its inclusive economies and markets work globally along with its regional program teams based in China, India, and Indonesia. Following a reorganization, he helped the foundation consolidate and launch the division of U.S. Programs—overseeing domestic programming in a wide range of areas, including civic engagement and government; creativity and free expression; gender, racial, and ethnic justice; the future of work and workers; technology and society; housing affordability and equitable urban development; and impact investing. He led the foundation’s efforts to build the field of impact investing and commit $1 billion of endowment assets, the largest-ever for a private foundation, for that purpose. He was a member of the board executive committee for Living Cities, a consortium of America’s largest private foundations and financial companies.  

Previously, Briggs was professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as head of MIT’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Group. From January 2009 to August 2011, while on public service leave from MIT, de Souza Briggs served as associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. There he oversaw a wide array of policy, budget, and management issues for roughly half of the cabinet agencies of the federal government. De Souza Briggs has also served as a community planner in the South Bronx, a policy adviser and R&D director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a faculty fellow of the Urban Institute, and associate professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. 

He serves on the boards of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Demos, Global Impact Investing Network, JUST Capital, and One Fair Wage and is an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration. Briggs holds an engineering degree from Stanford University, an MPA from Harvard, and a PhD in sociology and education from Columbia University. He also studied athe Federal University of Bahia in Brazil.