Program Officer

The Open Society Foundations currently seek a program officer for the Open Places Initiative in U.S. Programs. The Open Places initiative, launched in 2013, is a place-based program that makes deep, long-term investments in selected localities (cities and regions). It currently has made investments in Buffalo, San Diego County, and Puerto Rico. The initiative provides financial support, technical assistance, and assessment to help each site address critical local issues—that it has identified—affecting equality, justice, and democratic practice. Equally important, the Open Places Initiative aims to help each site build civic capacity—the ability to work collectively across sectors to accelerate the rate and scale at which it can bring about progressive change and to ensure that the change it achieves is not eroded over time. To build civic capacity, we envision that sites will need to develop new relationships, build new skills, and create new structures and resources. A set of nonprofit organizations in each site is initially leading this work.

The initiative responds to an interest within the U.S. Programs board and staff to understand and advance local capacity to address some of the greatest challenges to strengthening an open society in the United States. Without championing a particular issue or approach, the Open Places Initiative recognizes the potential of localities to craft and test solutions in the context of changing demographics, growing levels of inequity, limitations on state and local budgets, new inter-governmental relationships, advances in technology, and heightened interest in innovation. In addition to facilitating cross-site learning, including through an ongoing assessment, the Open Places Initiative connects local sites to national and local grantees, programs, and experts to encourage collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information as well as to increase the impact of national and local advocacy.

Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to criticism, whose laws and policies are open to debate and correction, and whose political institutions are open to the participation of all people. We seek to strengthen justice and the rule of law; broaden respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities; encourage pluralism and a robust diversity of opinion; deepen democratic practice and participation; expand economic equity; support effective governance; and invest in individuals, public and private organizations, and social movements that advance these goals.

We are a global network of foundations committed to local knowledge and national expertise. Our network includes national foundations, regional foundations, and other geographic programs operating in more than one hundred countries. At the same time, many programs with global reach operate from our four headquarters in Europe and the United States, including programs on digital information, documentary photography, drug policy, early childhood, education, fellowships, fiscal governance, higher education, human rights, international migration, justice, public health, scholarships, think tanks, and women’s rights. In addition to making grants to organizations and individuals, the Open Society Foundations engage in policy advocacy, legal advocacy and litigation, program-related investing, and public communications, as well as providing direct assistance to governments. Most programs and foundations in the network are governed or advised by their own boards.

The Open Society Foundations are the global philanthropies of George Soros, who, as chairman, plays an active role in the work of the foundations. 

Job Profile

The program officer will serve as part of a four person team carrying out the grantmaking, monitoring, assessment, technical assistance, convening, and educational activities of the Open Places Initiative. As the initiative has already identified, through a competitive process, the three sites in which it will initially invest, the program officer’s chief responsibilities will focus on identifying and addressing the sites’ individual and collective needs for assistance, connecting the sites to resources within and beyond Open Society Foundations’ networks, and overseeing and enhancing assessment and other activities to encourage reflection, learning, and revision. The program officer will also have responsibility for monitoring the sites’ progress and recommending ongoing grant support.

The successful candidate will be outgoing and entrepreneurial and have the capacity to translate ideas into action. He or she will also have a deep interest, familiarity, and growing expertise in the management and development of nonprofit organizations dedicated to systemic change, public/private partnerships to create opportunity, the changing dynamics affecting cities and local municipalities, and reforms in local policy and practice that encourage broad civic participation, government transparency and responsiveness, and inclusive economic development. He or she will be comfortable providing guidance and support to a locally based project whose direction, structure, and goals evolve over time. The program officer will also have sensitivity to the tensions inherent in a locally designed and governed initiative that is supported, through funding and capacity building, by a national entity.

Identifying and Addressing the Sites’ Individual and Collective Needs for Assistance

Consistent with a place-based philosophy that puts a premium on each site’s priorities, the program officer will work closely with each site to identify the kinds of assistance that will increase its ability to meet its substantive and civic capacity goals. In the early implementation period, this assistance will include special attention to the governance and leadership of the initiative in each site, the relationships among collaborating nonprofit organizations and individuals, and the development of relationships between actors in the social justice sector and government officials and business leaders. Through research and meetings, the program officer will stay abreast of pertinent developments and resources in the field relating to civic capacity, the assessment of social change initiatives, and several of the substantive issues and strategies on which the sites place priority. The program officer will also develop relationships with key advocates, practitioners, academicians, policymakers, civic and business leaders, and the media in each site as well as build a roster of local and national consultants and experts who could be of service to the sites.

Connecting the Sites to Resources within and beyond Open Society Foundations’ Networks

The program officer will work collaboratively and strategically with the Open Places Initiatives staff and consultants. He or she will also become sufficiently familiar with U.S. Programs’ goals and activities to engage other colleagues in a targeted manner, allowing them both to contribute to and benefit from each site’s work. The program officer will meet regularly with local and national funders, including those particularly focused on place-based philanthropy or on cities, to share lessons learned, cultivate interest in their supporting the Open Places sites’ work or complementary projects, and develop partnerships. He or she will also draft documents and make presentations to report on the progress of the Open Places sites and lessons learned to the U.S. Programs Board and staff and to others interested in promoting social change at the local level, understanding the new opportunities and challenges facing localities, and encouraging collective work across sectors to improve equity, justice, and democratic practice.

Overseeing and Enhancing Assessment and Other Activities to Encourage Reflection, Learning and Revision: In collaboration with other team members, the Program Officer will prepare grant recommendations, analyses following site visits, assessments and revisions of the Open Places Initiative’s strategies and goals, and documents to advance site planning, learning, and capacity building. He or she will also monitor and, as necessary refine, the external assessment of the initiative and use its findings to shape future initiative activities.

The position reports to the Director of the Open Places Initiative, who is also the Director of OSI-Baltimore. As part of the Open Places Initiative team, the Program Officer will contribute to the preparation, deployment and monitoring of work plans, timelines and budgets for the initiative annually and for particular events, such as all-site meetings. From time to time, the Program Officer will be called upon to take on assignments or participate in working groups and discussions on topics beyond the Open Places Initiative that are related to U.S. Programs or Open Society Foundations as a whole. Work is carried out independently and requires frequent travel.

  • Bachelor’s degree (BA) from a four-year college or university and five to eight years relevant experience and/or training, or equivalent combination of education and experience;
  • Advanced degree in public administration, urban policy, public policy, nonprofit management, or related field;
  • Experience strengthening NGO management and development and knowledge of key organizations, networks and technical assistance programs in the field;
  • Strong background with local or state programs advancing social justice through advocacy, community organizing, research, policy reform, leadership development, or public/private partnerships; 
  • Fluency in Spanish strongly preferred;
  • Demonstrated problem-solving skills and ability to implement a multi-year policy reform or advocacy initiative in a not-for-profit organization, foundation and/or government agency, particularly in a complex organization;
  • Experience identifying needed systemic reforms in complex environments, effective strategies and practices, and the stakeholders and opportunities to implement reform;
  • Ability to work effectively as a team member and independently, with a high-level of self-motivation and ability to set and meet goals;
  • Ability to manage multiple priorities under pressure, troubleshoot, and to meet short- and long-term deadlines with a heavy workload;
  • Demonstrated experience in budget and financial management;
  • Outstanding written and verbal communication skills and listening skills;
  • Broad intellectual curiosity and comfort with robust debate;
  • Proven ability to build and maintain relationships with a wide array of people with diverse backgrounds, including from the public and business sectors;
  • Interest in continued professional growth and in the professional development of colleagues; and
  • Strong awareness of the intersection of race, gender, and class.
Work Environment and Physical Demands

Essential functions are typically performed in an office setting with a low level of noise. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits package.
Application Instructions

Please email resume and cover letter with salary requirements by November 24, 2014, to: Include job code in the subject line: PO-OPI.