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Open Society Fellows Developing Approaches to Counter Economic Inequality

NEW YORK—Responding to growing global agitation over the effects of concentrated wealth, the Open Society Foundations announced today that 16 fellows will take part in a collaborative effort to combat economic inequality.

The cohort includes experts working on building labor’s power in the digital economy, a musician-activist uplifting the voices of marginalized communities, a lawyer examining the role of the judiciary in enabling economic concentration, and a former finance industry professional looking to use shareholder influence to distribute corporate power more fairly.

The Open Society Fellowship was founded in 2008 to support individuals pursuing innovative and unconventional approaches to open society challenges. Since 2017, the fellowship has invited proposals around a single topic, which allows these individuals to work independently but then come together as a group over regular intervals over the course of their terms.

“It is our hope that this extraordinarily talented group, working in concert and perhaps even at odds with each other, will generate the creative friction and energy to generate new mechanisms for tackling the root causes of global economic inequality,” said Alethia Jones, director of the Open Society Fellowship Program. “As we enter a new decade, we must vigorously pursue fresh approaches to address enduring open society challenges.”

The Open Society Fellows will receive project support and living stipends, ranging from $80,000 to $100,000 for one year, to pursue their projects.

Current Open Society Fellows

Bama Athreya will develop a long-term communications strategy to help workers in the “gig” economy overcome some of the main structural disadvantages which often go ignored by policymakers.

Mark Blyth will write a book about policies to mitigate generational inequality and help those in the “bottom 80 percent” of the U.S. economy increase their assets.

Imani Jacqueline Brown, an activist, writer, and organizer, will illuminate fossil fuel corporations’ responsibility for decades of economic and environmental injustice in Louisiana by using advanced mapping techniques.

Fumba Chama, a musician and activist, will produce an album of 10 new and original songs about economic inequality in Zambia.

Raphaële Chappe will produce a book and a series of videos to show how the unequal distribution of risk between corporations and individuals helps fuel economic inequality.

Imani Countess will build a robust new social movement to connect groups working against illicit financial flows with new constituencies in the United States, including African diaspora activists and people of color faith communities.

Amelia Evans, an international human rights lawyer, will draw on her experience with multi-stakeholder initiatives to debunk the myth of the “ethical corporation.”

Leilani Farha, an expert and advocate on economic and social human rights, will document the growing financialization of residential real estate, globally, and its role as a primary cause of rising inequality.

William Lazonick will write a book and a series of articles about how a range of harmful corporate behaviors have been legitimized by a philosophy in which maximizing shareholder value is considered as an end in itself.

Zachariah Mampilly will write a book about the rise of social movements throughout Africa focused on democratic reform and combating economic inequality.

Hanaan Marwah, a finance industry professional and economic historian, will work on a book and conduct a series of seminars about the evolution of state-owned enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa and their influence on economic inequality.

Paul Rissman will develop a variety of strategies for pressuring U.S.-based investment advisers into taking actions to mitigate economic inequality.

Delilah Rothenberg, a finance professional, will co-create private equity fund prototypes to narrow compensation ratios between fund managers, corporate executives, and workers and ultimately address such systemic risks as income inequality and climate change.

Nathan Schneider, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, will work to promote specific entrepreneurial and policy strategies for increasing user co-ownership of online platforms.

Trebor Scholz will use a multipronged strategy—which includes writing books, engaging with diverse communities, and building new institutions—to promote integrating the cooperative model into the digital economy.

Luciana Zaffalon will investigate how court and legal systems around the world exacerbate inequality and convert her findings into a toolkit for overcoming structural biases.

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