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Open Society Foundations Announce 2021 Leadership in Government Fellows

NEW YORK—A former Florida state-level representative. The first African American woman elected to Washington’s statehouse in 18 years. An authority on transportation policy in Massachusetts. A former New York City commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. The first African American and the youngest mayor of Stockton, California, and a policy expert on social justice issues in Guam.

The Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the Leadership in Government Fellowship, an initiative supporting accomplished, senior public servants from federal, state, and local governments, who have dedicated their careers to advancing economic, social, and racial justice.

The fellows have made their marks in diverse fields in communities across the country, and at all levels of government. Their projects include a mass communications effort designed to combat disinformation and educate Latino voters on the role of government; support and organizational tools to combat systemic oppression and exclusion in public policy development; assistance for advocates and government officials to create a more equitable economic recovery through rebuilding public transit networks in the aftermath of COVID-19; a project to promote livable and sustainable working conditions, pushing companies to put people before profits; basic income pilots with mayors across California as an innovative solution to address poverty; and a burial protections guidebook and workshop series calling for adequate and equal protection of cultural and environmental resources in Guam.

“At a time when our political landscape is undergoing rapid and profound shifts, the innovations these former public servants are working on will help build a more just and equitable democracy,” said Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S. “We are proud of the talent our fellowship program continues to produce and we look forward to their contributions in the years to come.”

The program, now in its fifth year, is intended to help fellows build on their time in the public sector and to develop ideas and strategies that advance the values of an open society. Fellows are also encouraged to reflect on their public service as they decide on the next steps in their careers, and to share with advocates insights about effectuating policy change in a low-trust public opinion environment.

Grantees and staff from Open Society may also learn from the fellows about how to better navigate government and leverage its resources in order to confront the challenges that are facing the country, including the turmoil caused by COVID-19, antidemocratic voter restrictions, and the moment for racial justice.

“I’m thrilled to welcome the fifth cohort of Leadership in Government Fellows,” said Elizabeth Guernsey, the program officer at Open Society-U.S. who oversees the program. “They bring a diversity of experiences and backgrounds to their fellowship work and offer much-needed perspectives and experiences to advance the values of an open society.”

Awards for the fellowship range from $100,000 to $133,000 to facilitate projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. Fellows will devote up to 32 hours per week to their projects.

2021 Leadership in Government Fellows

Cindy Polo will work on mass communications plans designed to educate Latino voters on policy and the role of government.

Kristine Reeves will develop a public policy process model and toolkit for addressing the perpetuation of systemic oppression and exclusion through the promotion of intercultural sensitivity coaching, training, and policy evaluation.

Laurel Paget Seekins will build collaborative tools for advocates and government change-makers to use to promote equitable transit services, whose necessity has been made clear by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lorelei Salas will promote livable and sustainable working conditions and consumer participation by giving worker-centers, unions, and policymakers the tools they need to ensure people come before profits.

Michael Tubbs will work with community-based organizations and governments to launch innovative programs and policy experiments—including basic income pilots with mayors across the state to address poverty and economic mobility.

Nic Santos will create a burial protection guidebook and an accompanying workshop series to empower the movement for adequate and equal protection of cultural and environmental resources in Guam.

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