The Open Society Institute (OSI) is a private operating and grantmaking foundation based in New York City that serves as the hub of the Soros foundations network, a group of autonomous foundations and organizations in more than 50 countries. OSI and the network implement a range of initiatives that aim to promote open societies by shaping government policy and supporting education, media, public health, and human and women's rights, as well as social, legal, and economic reform. To diminish and prevent the negative consequences of globalization, OSI seeks to foster global open society by increasing collaboration with other nongovernmental organizations, governments, and international institutions.
OSI was founded in 1993 by investor and philanthropist George Soros to support his foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Those foundations were established, starting in 1984, to help former communist countries in their transition to democracy. The Soros foundations network has expanded its geographic reach to include foundations and initiatives in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, Turkey, and the United States. OSI also supports selective projects in other parts of the world.
OSI’s initiatives address specific issue areas on a regional or network-wide basis around the world. Most of the initiatives are administered by OSI-New York or OSI-Budapest and are implemented in cooperation with Soros foundations in various countries and regions.
OSI initiatives cover a range of activities aimed at building free and open societies, including grantmaking to strengthen civil society; economic reform; education at all levels; human rights; legal reform and public administration; media and communications; public health; and arts and culture.
OSI is based in New York City and cooperates with the Hungary-based OSI-Budapest. OSI-New York is exempt from United States income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Together with OSI-Budapest, OSI-New York provides administrative, financial, and technical support to the Soros foundations. OSI-New York operates initiatives, which address specific issues on a regional or network-wide basis internationally, and other independent programs. OSI-New York is also the home of a series of programs that focus principally on the United States.
In the United States, OSI has offices in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. In addition to Budapest, other offices outside the United States are located in Brussels, London, and Paris.
Soros foundations are autonomous institutions established in particular countries or regions to initiate and support open society activities. The priorities and specific activities of each foundation are determined by a local board of directors and staff in consultation with George Soros and OSI boards and advisors. In addition to support from OSI, many of the foundations receive funding from other sources.
The foundations network consists of national foundations in 29 countries, foundations in Kosovo and Montenegro, and two regional foundations, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). OSISA and OSIWA, which are governed by their own boards of directors and staffs from the region, make grants in a total of 27 African countries.
Many Open Society Institute initiatives are established with pre-determined life cycles and funding levels. Over the years, several of them have been either closed down or spun off as independent entities.
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OSI-New York and OSI-Budapest are separate organizations that operate independently yet cooperate informally with each other. This website, a joint presentation, is intended to promote both organizations’ interests while maintaining their respective transparency.