Open Society Institute–Baltimore Announces New Director
BALTIMORE—The Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce the appointment of Danielle Torain as the new director of Open Society Institute-Baltimore, effective January 21, 2020.
A proud Baltimore native, Torain brings a decade’s experience in the public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors to the job. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Torain worked in the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, leading a citywide initiative to strengthen systems of support for incarcerated youth. She has also worked on local jobs programs with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. Torain was senior director of strategy and development at the Center for Urban Families, and spent four years at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Baltimore Civic Site, leading its place-based strategies in workforce development and economic inclusion, community capacity building, and resident leadership. For the past several years, she has worked as an organizational development consultant, helping to advise and build capacity for social justice nonprofit groups.
In the aftermath of Baltimore’s 2015 uprising following the death of Freddie Gray, Torain helped launch several initiatives aimed at connecting emerging activists with the philanthropic resources needed to carry out their work. In 2016, while with Baltimore Civic Site, Torain helped plan Open Society Institute-Baltimore’s Solutions Summit and led a panel discussion about job and economic development.
“I am incredibly excited to welcome Danielle to the Open Society family,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Foundations. “She embodies the promise of Baltimore’s next generation of leadership and the power of community. Open Society has made significant strides in the 20 years since we first opened our doors in Baltimore—dramatically reducing school suspensions through reform of disciplinary rules, increasing community influence on the policies of the Baltimore Police Department, working with the state to introduce reforms that helped reduce the prison population, and fostering the growth and development of a new cadre of social entrepreneurs. Under Danielle’s leadership, I foresee great progress in meeting the challenges of the city, and taking our philanthropic work there to the next level.”
“Danielle is a rising star in the social justice firmament who brings fresh energy and ideas to our critical work in Baltimore,” said Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S., which manages the Foundations’ Baltimore office. “She brings a history of impact and training from inside movements, philanthropy, and city hall that shapes her exciting vision for taking this institution and this city to new heights. Open Society is excited to redouble our commitment to our mission, team, and partners in Baltimore for the long term.”
“It is a tremendous honor to join the Open Society Institute-Baltimore team, and at such a pivotal moment,” said Torain. “This is an important year for Baltimore and for the field of philanthropy as we reflect on the fifth anniversary of the uprising and important lessons from our long history of place-based investment. I look forward to working with the team, our local and national partners, and Baltimore’s residents and community champions to thoughtfully mine these lessons and chart our path forward. The future is bright for our beloved hometown and this moment is critical.”
Torain’s work has been recognized through numerous honors and awards. In 2012, she was named one of the Maryland Daily Record’s Leading Women, an honor given to women under 40 for their “professional experience, community involvement and commitment to inspiring change.” She was also named a Maritime Magic Rising Star of Baltimore by the Baltimore Business Journal, and given a Spirited Women Award in recognition of “everyday women who are making extraordinary contributions to their community and those around them.”
The Open Society Foundations opened their office in Baltimore in 1998, seeking to support meaningful change on the local level and learn lessons that could be leveraged nationally. Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in the city and the state of Maryland: drug addiction, an over-reliance on incarceration, and obstacles that impede youth in succeeding inside and outside of the classroom. Open Society Institute-Baltimore also supports a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in the community.