The Open Society Institute works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI builds alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. OSI places a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.
Investor and philanthropist George Soros in 1993 created OSI as a private operating and grantmaking foundation to support his foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Those foundations were established, starting in 1984, to help countries make the transition from communism. OSI has expanded the activities of the Soros foundations network to encompass the United States and more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each Soros foundation relies on the expertise of boards composed of eminent citizens who determine individual agendas based on local priorities.
The Open Society Institute’s initiatives address specific issue areas on a regional or network-wide basis around the world. Most of the initiatives are administered by OSI offices in New York, London, or 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 Open Society Institute boards and advisors. In addition to support from OSI, many of the foundations receive funding from other sources.
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.