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Allegations of Discrimination, Including Sexual Harassment, Within Grantee Organizations

  • Last updated
  • September 18, 2019
  • Contact
  • Open Society Foundations
    224 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019
    United States
    P. +1-212-548-0600
    F. +1-212-548-4600
Contact us
Open societies are not open for those communities and individuals who cannot freely exercise their voice, agency, and power. An open society is one that is marked by the full and equal participation of all of its members. Creating and strengthening an open society requires people and institutions to acknowledge structural oppression and legacies of injustice and inequality. Once people and institutions recognize and become aware of oppression and inequality, they can work together to overcome these challenges by promoting the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The Open Society Foundations recognize that discrimination, including sexual harassment, occurs throughout society and around the globe. Neither our own network nor our grantee organizations are free from unacceptable behaviors. We see ourselves in a process of continuous learning. Open Society also recognizes that the behavior of an individual associated with an organization does not always or necessarily reflect the values, policies, practices or work culture of the organization. However, the manner in which organizations respond to such behaviors is critical to the Open Society Foundations.

This document sets out the Foundations’ expectation of organizational grantees in handling allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, within their organization and provides information about how we approach these situations. The document also outlines the general approach employed in Open Society’s guide and protocol that Open Society Foundation’s staff are required to follow when responding to these cases. 

The Open Society Foundations’ Expectations for Organizational Grantees 

  • Grantees will create an environment that does not tolerate or condone discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Grantees will seek to foster a work culture of openness and will encourage the raising of concerns about discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Grantees will support those who raise allegations in good faith and ensure that they do not suffer detrimental treatment for reporting discrimination, including sexual harassment, and support them by ending any inappropriate behavior.
  • Grantees will take all allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, seriously and will investigate allegations with due respect for the rights of all involved, including the alleged perpetrator, as well as the complainant, whistle-blower and/or survivor.
  • Grantees will respect requests for confidentiality from complainants or survivors to the greatest extent possible, respecting the fact that they may be experiencing trauma, while also recognizing that in certain situations a grantee may have an ethical or legal obligation to share information with others and to investigate.
  • Grantees will hold accountable any perpetrator of acts of discrimination, including sexual harassment, and will take action to prevent further acts.
  • Grantees should address issues of discrimination, including sexual harassment, as a matter of organizational culture. Policies and processes will often play an important role in building a culture of respect and inclusion, but are never enough on their own. 

The Open Society Foundations’ Guidance and Protocol for Open Society Staff

The Open Society Foundations have guidance and a protocol that all Open Society staff are required to follow when addressing allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment. It contains the following elements.

  • If Open Society staff members receive allegations, directly observe, or have reason to believe there has been discrimination, including sexual harassment, within a grantee organization, they are required to treat this information and these allegations and concerns seriously and make addressing them a priority.
  • Open Society staff members are required to share information about allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, immediately with program management, as well as with relevant staff in Open Society’s operational units, so that the staff member can receive guidance and support.
  • All involved Open Society staff members must be careful not to hurt or harm complainants, whistle-blowers or those who may have already been victimized and must respect their agency.
  • Open Society staff members will respect requests for confidentiality from complainants or survivors. Staff members will recognize that in certain situations the Open Society Foundations may have an ethical or legal obligation to share information with others. Open Society staff must be transparent with complainants and survivors about what information the Foundations will share and with whom they will share it.
  • Open Society staff members will endeavor to ensure that Open Society Foundations contact with the grantee organization and others involved in the situation is well coordinated, with attention to maintaining a clear line of communication between the Foundations and the grantee and reducing the number of staff who engage with the grantee about allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Open Society’s approach will involve engaging the grantee organization’s senior management to understand what procedures the organization has to address discrimination, including sexual harassment, and how the organization responds to these incidents. In cases where senior management is implicated or becomes implicated as a result of failing to respond effectively to the situation, we will engage directly with the grantee organization’s governing body.
  • The Foundations’ primary role is to determine whether the grantee organization is taking allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, seriously and addressing these issues in accordance with our expectations for grantees. We do not see our role as becoming the finder of fact or as taking sides in a dispute.
  • The existence of allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, within a grantee organization will require a range of actions and responses by Open Society staff. We do not take the approach that such allegations should automatically disqualify a grantee from receiving Open Society funding. The way an organization responds to allegations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, and its efforts to prevent them will be critical in determining how we respond. All solutions must account for the specifics of the organization, such as the location and culture within which the organization operates. We do not consider a situation resolved when a case is “closed” or a policy is adopted. As long as the Foundations remain engaged with an organization, we will continue to inquire about the progress that grantees are making and the challenges they are facing in addressing issues of discrimination, including sexual harassment. We will also inquire about how the grantee’s efforts are helping to strengthen its organizational culture.

Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Through Our Grant Making

The Open Society Foundations are deeply concerned about situations involving discrimination, including sexual harassment. Our concerns, however, are only one aspect of our consideration of how grantees reflect values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizational culture and their work. Our effort to improve these areas is an ongoing process for all organizations. At the Open Society Foundations, we are taking steps to improve our own culture and practice when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage those we fund to do the same. We recognize no organization will achieve perfection in these matters, which makes it important for all organizations to continue to address these issues. 

Open Society Ombudsperson

The Open Society Foundations have established the position of Ombudsperson to receive complaints about abuse of authority by any Open Society staff member or any entity or program within our organization, including members of boards, in connection with our work. Grantees (including individuals associated with grantees) should address any complaints, including complaints relating to discrimination including sexual harassment to the ombudspersons at ombudsperson@opensocietyfoundations.org. For more information about the role of the ombudspersons, please see the Addressing Complaints—Ombuds Office page.

  • Last updated
  • September 18, 2019
  • Contact
  • Open Society Foundations
    224 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019
    United States
    P. +1-212-548-0600
    F. +1-212-548-4600
Contact us

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