Open Society Foundations to close OSI-Baltimore after 25 years; will invest $20 million to seed the future of social justice philanthropy

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Open Society Foundations to close OSI-Baltimore after 25 years; will invest $20 million to seed the future of social justice philanthropy

The Open Society Foundations announced today that later this year it will close Open Society Institute-Baltimore, which has operated locally for 25 years, advancing criminal justice reform, civic engagement, health equity, restorative practices, economic justice, overdose prevention strategies, and other impactful progressive initiatives in Baltimore and the region.

In partnership with the leadership of Open Society-U.S. and Open Society Foundations, and with the generous contributions of our local donors, OSI has committed $20 million to date as part of the transition.

In keeping with Open Society’s legacy in Baltimore, the resources will enable OSI to make final investments in the community and sustainably deploy technical assistance to grantees for their near-term stability. The funds will also serve as a multi-year commitment to seed an evolution of the Baltimore Community Fellowship, which has supported more than 200 grassroots social entrepreneurs and social justice advocates since its founding. 

“The Open Society Foundations were built on a deep and abiding belief in the power of local knowledge. OSI-Baltimore has been a 25-year proof of concept, a center of excellence for testing and trying out solutions to the city’s enduring challenges in education, criminal justice, drug dependency and more. I am so proud of all that our colleagues there have accomplished. As the Foundations evolve to better meet the tests of these times, we will carry with us the lessons we have learned,” said Alex Soros, chair of the Open Society Foundations.

As part of OSI’s wind-down effort, Open Society will invest $10 million towards legacy projects, including an evolution of our Fellowship and the Maryland Black Futures Fund, which will be launched later this year. Spearheaded by placed-based movement organization CLLCTIVLY, and inspired by a California-based prototype, the Maryland Black Futures Fund is a new five-year, $100 million campaign to ensure that Black power-building and movement-based organizations in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland have the sustained investments and resources they need in their fight to eradicate systemic and institutionalized racism.

“True to our Baltimore spirit, we’ve decided not to view this development as a defeat but rather embrace it as a rare and timely opportunity. With the tremendous partnership of our national and global leadership, we have raised to date $20 million to facilitate a responsible closure of our office and seed an exciting evolution of this work,” said Danielle Torain, director of OSI-Baltimore.

“This effort is not about protecting the legacy of OSI; it’s about leaning into the brilliance and ingenuity of the people of our city and heeding to the next powerful generation of social justice philanthropy and grassroots movement in Baltimore. It’s about taking good care of the heart, soul and well-being of those who take care of us and fight on the frontlines each day to make Baltimore a better place,” Torain added.

OSI’s investment in CLLCTIVLY and the Black Futures Fund is an outgrowth of OSI’s Economic Justice portfolio, which has since 2021 supported a range of local funds focused on democratizing access to capital among local communities of color. Supported initiatives also include: BMore Invested, a local funders collaborative focused on supporting local community-based alternative solutions led by people of color; the Baltimore Immigrant Communities Fund, a public-private partnership and funder collaborative committed to increasing Baltimore’s capacity to better serve New Americans in Baltimore; and the Revolve Fund, a philanthropic initiative that provides patient, interest-free capital to Black/African-American, Latinx, and Native American-led businesses.

The wind-down of OSI is part of the Open Society Foundations’ global shift toward greater consolidation and focus, with an overall objective of having a leaner organizational footprint allowing the Foundations to direct more funds to programmatic work for greater impact....

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