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Open Society Foundations Announce Winter 2019 New Executives Fund Recipients

NEW YORK—Seventeen new leaders of nonprofit organizations, in countries ranging from Mongolia to Kenya, have been awarded New Executives Fund grants to help implement their visions of catalytic organizational change, the Open Society Foundations announced today. The recipients represent a wide array of organizations focused on open society concerns, including legal protection of LGBTI rights, criminal justice and prison system reform, and community-centered policymaking and civic engagement. This most recent cohort of recipients also includes support for two sets of co-executive directors, notable firsts among New Executives Fund grantees.

Since its inception in 2013, the New Executives Fund has awarded 117 grants for a total of $11,397,000. These competitive two-year awards—ranging from $25,000 to $250,000—are designed to give new executives flexibility to invest in their organizations’ development and their own leadership. 

The latest grantees received their awards in mid-2019 and include the following:

Alexandra Llegus and Sofía Unanue, La Maraña

Alexandra Llegus and Sofía Unanue became co-directors of La Maraña in August 2018. Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, La Maraña is a women-founded and women-led participatory design and planning organization that seeks to strengthen the transition of Puerto Rican communities to more livable and sustainable environments. Unanue, an experienced community activist with a background in youth engagement, was one of La Maraña’s original co-founders in 2015. Llegus, who has a strong environmental design background, worked with La Maraña as a design coordinator for two years before being appointed co-director with Unanue last year.

Andy Marra, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

Andy Marra became executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund in December 2018. Founded in 2003 and based in New York City, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s mission is to end discrimination and achieve equality for transgender people through litigation and “friend of the court” briefs on key issues of employment, health care, education, and public accommodations, as well as through public education on transgender rights. Prior to joining the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Marra led external communications at the Arcus Foundation; managed public relations at GLSEN, a national organization focused on LGBTI issues in education; was co-director at Nodutdol for Korean Community Development; and served as a senior media strategist at GLAAD, which works through entertainment, news, and digital media to share stories from the LGBTI community that accelerate acceptance.

Anggara Suwahju, Institute for Criminal Justice Reform

Anggara Suwahju became executive director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform in February 2018. Founded in 2007, the Institute is an independent research and advocacy organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Its core mission is to ensure that criminal law and justice reforms remain prioritized and supported in Indonesia’s ongoing democratic transition process. Anggara previously served as senior researcher associate with the Institute and was later an active member of the group’s governing board. He also served as secretary of the Policy Research Department with the National Executive Board of the Indonesian Advocates Association and has a background in criminal and constitutional litigation and the intersection of law and technology.

Ann Campbell and Steven Allen, Validity

Ann Campbell and Steven Allen became co-executive directors of Validity in September 2018. Validity, based in Budapest, Hungary, was established in 2002 as a legal advocacy organization to tackle the generations of isolation, segregation, and exclusion faced by people with mental disabilities. Originally named the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, Validity provides specialist legal support—including strategic litigation, law and policy advocacy, capacity building, research, and community mobilization—to disability rights movements in Europe and Africa. Prior to her co-leadership role, Campbell served as legal officer and later litigation director at Validity. She has also held positions at the Irish Refugee Council and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific. Allen previously served as advocacy and research officer and later campaigns director at Validity. He is also an experienced educational practitioner in areas of conflict transformation, mediation, and peace education.

Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

Chris Melody Fields Figueredo became executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center Foundation in June 2018. The Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is the only national progressive organization in the United States focused solely on the strategy of implementing and aligning effective ballot measure campaigns across sectors and networks. Fields Figueredo previously served as associate director for voting rights at ReThink Media, where she developed communications and capacity-building strategies for partner organizations. She also led right-to-vote programs at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and worked on campaign finance reform and access to education at Common Cause and DC ParentSmart, respectively.

Claire Fernandez, European Digital Rights

Claire Fernandez became executive director of European Digital Rights in November 2018. European Digital Rights, based Brussels, Belgium, is an association of European civil and human rights organizations working to defend rights and freedoms in the digital environment, with emphasis on privacy, surveillance, net neutrality, and copyright reform. Previously, Fernandez was deputy director of the European Network Against Racism. Prior to that, she led the Open Society Foundations’ campaign on reforming the European Court of Human Rights and was an advisor to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. 

DeAnna Hoskins, JustLeadershipUSA 

De Anna Hoskins became president and chief executive officer of JustLeadershipUSA in July 2018. Founded in 2014 and based in New York City, JustLeadershipUSA works at the forefront of the U.S. de-carceration movement, with a goal to cut the correctional population in half by 2030, while empowering a network of formerly incarcerated advocates to lead the movement. Hoskins is a nationally recognized policy and advocacy leader and a formerly incarcerated person with expertise at the local, state, and federal levels. Prior to JustLeadershipUSA, she served as a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, managing the Second Chance Act portfolio and serving as deputy director of the Federal Inter-Agency Reentry Council. Before that, she served as a county director of reentry in her home state of Ohio.

Enkhjin Batjargal, GerHub

Enkhjin Batjargal became executive director of GerHub in May 2018. Founded in 2016 and based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, GerHub is a nonprofit social enterprise working to build creative solutions to pressing environmental and sustainability issues faced by residents living in unplanned “ger” settlements on Ulaanbaatar’s urban fringes. Prior to becoming executive director, Batjargal was GerHub’s research and engagement lead and one of the organization’s co-founders. Before that, she served as senior program coordinator at the Zorig Foundation, leading various education, environment, and community development projects in Mongolia.

Florian Irminger, Penal Reform International

Florian Irminger became executive director of Penal Reform International in September 2018. Headquartered in London, Penal Reform International is an international, independent organization that works to support the implementation of fair, effective, and proportionate criminal justice systems that are nondiscriminatory and respect the rights of disadvantaged people globally. Penal Reform International places an emphasis on advocacy, practical assistance, research and analysis, and local capacity building. Prior to joining Penal Reform International, Irminger served as head of advocacy at Human Rights House Foundation in Geneva. He also co-founded Stop Suicide, an NGO dedicated to the prevention of suicide among young people in Switzerland. He served for four years as the chair of the board of the House of NGOs in Geneva.

Iveta Kazoka, Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS

Iveta Kazoka became director of the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS in April 2018. PROVIDUS is a leading public policy think tank based in Riga, Latvia, with a mission to promote evidence-based policy and the development of open society values. Its main areas of work include good governance, anticorruption, and migration. Prior to becoming director, Kazoka served as a policy researcher for PROVIDUS and helped to create innovative methods of citizen involvement, such as interactive voter education tools, communication platforms, and new techniques for public deliberation. Before joining PROVIDUS, she worked for the Ministry of Justice in Latvia. 

Jessie Ulibarri, State Innovation Exchange

Jessie Ulibarri became executive director of State Innovation Exchange in September 2018. Founded in 2014 and based in Madison, Wisconsin, the Exchange is a national resource and strategy center that supports state legislators in advancing and defending progressive policies across the United States through research, training, policy expertise, communications support, political strategy, and creation of spaces to network and share ideas. Ulibarri has extensive experience in the progressive movement at the local, state, and federal levels in the United States, having served as an elected state senator in Colorado, a senior nonprofit executive, a trainer, and a community organizer. Ulibarri served most recently as co-executive director of Wellstone Action before joining the Exchange. 

Njeri Gateru, National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Njeri Gateru became executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in August 2018. The Commission is an independent human rights institution based in Nairobi, Kenya, that seeks legal and policy reforms promoting equality and full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities. Prior to the Commission, which she co-founded in 2012, Gateru worked with Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. She has also consulted on and written papers on the lived realities of LGBTI women in Kenya, gender nonconforming refugees and the asylum regime, and activism and online spaces. 

Nolundi Luwaya, Land and Accountability Research Centre

Nolundi Luwaya became director of the Land and Accountability Research Centre in January 2019. The Centre is a land rights organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, working to push for community-driven land reforms reflecting the input and needs of populations living in South Africa’s former homelands regions. Prior to becoming director, Luwaya worked with the Centre as a researcher and played a central role in coordinating and assisting with the Traditional Courts Bill campaign and the Restitution Amendment Bill campaign alongside the Alliance for Rural Democracy. She has taught extensively on customary land rights, including teaching African Customary Law at the University of Cape Town. 

Oleksii Kolesnykov, Association for Community Self-Organization Assistance

Oleksii Kolesnykov became head of the Association for Community Self-Organization Assistance in December 2018. Founded in 2005 and based in Odessa, Ukraine, the Association’s mission is to strengthen democratic practice and facilitate development of strong communities across Ukraine through self-organization and effective systems of civic engagement in local affairs. Kolesnykov previously served as senior sectoral policy fellow with the office of the secretariat of the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine and the office of vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, respectively. He also served as a policy analyst for the Association and was a research fellow at Chernivtsi National University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

Sonya Sceats, Freedom from Torture

Sonya Sceats became chief executive of Freedom from Torture in March 2018. Headquartered in London, Freedom from Torture is dedicated to healing and protecting people who have survived torture. The organization provides physical and psychological therapies, medical documentation of torture, and legal and welfare assistance to survivors. The group exposes torture globally, fights to hold torturing states to account, and campaigns for fairer treatment of survivors in the UK. Prior to assuming her current role, Sceats served as Freedom from Torture’s director of policy and advocacy. She previously worked at Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights and is an associate fellow in International Law at Chatham House.

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