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Open Society Foundations Announce Summer 2018 New Executives Fund Recipients

NEW YORK—Eight newly appointed leaders of nonprofit organizations, in countries ranging from the United States to Senegal, have been awarded New Executives Fund grants to help implement their vision of change, the Open Society Foundations announced today. The recipients represent a wide array of organizations focused on open society concerns, including but not limited to youth empowerment, women’s rights, antidiscrimination, and drug policy reform.  

Since its inception in 2013, the New Executives Fund has awarded 94 grants for a total of $9,162,000. These competitive two-year awards—ranging from $20,000 to $250,000—are designed to give a new executive the flexibility to invest in the organization’s development or their own leadership.

The awards are given out twice per year. The latest grantees received their awards in summer 2018 and include the following:

Blair Franklin, Youth Empowered Society

Blair Franklin was appointed the executive director of Youth Empowered Society (YES) in September 2017. YES is a direct service and advocacy organization serving Baltimore youth who are experiencing homelessness. Prior to joining YES, Franklin worked in various capacities at the University of Maryland’s STAR TRACK Adolescent Health Program and at the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. He is the recipient of the BMe Community Award and the Gardarev Center Fellowship and was recognized as one of the 100 Black LGBTQ/SGL Emerging Leaders to Watch by the National Black Justice Coalition.

Christina Swarns, Office of the Appellate Defender

Christina Swarns became the president and attorney-in-charge of the Office of the Appellate Defender in August 2017. The Office of the Appellate Defender is one of New York City’s longest-standing indigent defense offices and its oldest provider of appellate representation to indigent persons convicted of felonies. Previously, Swarns served as the litigation director for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, where she served as lead counsel on some of the United States’ highest-profile death penalty cases. One of the few Black women to have argued before the Supreme Court, Swarns argued, and won, Buck v. Davis—a Texas death penalty case which challenged the introduction of explicitly racially biased evidence at trial.

Eric Ward, Western States Center

Eric Ward was appointed the executive director of Western States Center in October 2017. The Western States Center is a research, organizing, training, and civic engagement hub for grassroots leaders from diverse communities in the United States’ Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West regions. Before joining the center, Ward served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation and as a program executive at the Atlantic Philanthropies. A published author and oft-cited public speaker, Ward is a Southern Poverty Law Center Fellow and the recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures Media Award, Arab American Association of New York Community Impact Award, and Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award.

Godwin Murunga, CODESRIA

Godwin Murunga became the executive secretary of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa in June 2017. The Council, otherwise known as CODESRIA, is an independent pan-African research organization primarily focused on social sciences research in Africa. Prior to joining CODESRIA, Murunga was the director of the African Leadership Centre in Nairobi, a joint initiative of King’s College London and the University of Nairobi, where he serves as a senior research fellow. Murunga has served as a visiting fellow at the African Studies Centre of Oxford University and the Nordic Africa Institute, as well as a visiting professor at the Global Institutes at King’s College London.

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, Drug Policy Alliance

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno joined the Drug Policy Alliance as executive director in July 2017. The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the United States fighting to end the so-called war on drugs. Previously, Sánchez-Moreno held several positions at Human Rights Watch, including as senior Americas researcher and as codirector of the United States Program. As a result of her work, in 2013, Human Rights Watch became the first major international human rights organization to call for decriminalization of the personal use and possession of drugs—as well as for global drug reform in general. A lawyer by training, Sánchez-Moreno is the author of There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia, released by Nation Books in February 2018.

Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Arab American Association of New York

Rama Issa-Ibrahim became the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York in June 2017. The Arab American Association of New York delivers services to the Arab American and Arab immigrant community in New York City and empowers its members to participate fully in public life. Previously, Issa-Ibrahim was the lead advisor on Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Relations at the NYC Commission on Human Rights. She has also worked at the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC as well as the Arab-American Family Support Center, and has spent time working with refugee youth in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

Salih Booker, Center for International Policy

Salih Booker became the executive director of the Center for International Policy (CIP) in September 2017. CIP is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that works to promote transparency and accountability in U.S. foreign policy and global relations. Before joining CIP, Booker served as the vice president of external relations at the United States Institute of Peace. He has held leadership posts at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Global Rights, and Africa Action. Booker was a senior fellow and director of Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and served twice on Capitol Hill as professional staff for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Stephanie Futter-Orel, Women Against Violence Europe

Stephanie Futter-Orel became the executive manager of Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) in July 2017. WAVE is a Europe-wide network of organizations working to address and eliminate all forms of violence against women and children. Prior to joining WAVE, Futter-Orel served as the senior manager at Solace Women’s Aid and as the general manager at Latin America Women’s Aid, where she was responsible for a wide range of direct support services to women who experienced gender-based violence. Futter-Orel has worked with several community projects dedicated to empowering women and young people around the world, including in Bolivia, Brazil, India, and Portugal.

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