Foundations Announce New Fellowship for Experienced Public Servants

NEW YORK— The Open Society Foundations is pleased to announce the recipients of the Leadership in Government Fellowship, a new initiative supporting seasoned public servants whose work in government has advanced economic and social justice.

The eight fellows, chosen from the senior ranks of federal, state, and local government, will work on a wide variety of issue areas: devising new ways to bring criminal justice reform to local prosecutors’ offices; developing new strategies for helping school children exposed to trauma; improving life outcomes for low-wage workers, immigrants, and boys and men of color; and closing the digital divide, and more.

The program is intended to help fellows build on their time in the public sector 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 share insights with advocates and others about how to make policy change—at a time when public confidence in government has reached historic lows.

“We are thrilled to launch this fellowship program and are honored and humbled to have the level of expertise, diversity, and talent that this cohort brings,” said Andrea Batista Schlesinger, deputy director of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, who conceived of and launched the initiative. “Our fellows have tackled some of the toughest issues facing our country in their previous work. We are confident that this fellowship will allow them to continue to work toward economic and social justice while deepening our understanding of the government perspective in advancing change.”

The 2016 Leadership in Government Fellows, the inaugural recipients of what will become an annual award, will receive stipends of $100,000 to $133,000 to help facilitate projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. Fellows will devote up to 32 hours a week to their projects.

“I think this is a time for groundbreaking, a time of transition in our governments,” said Anurima Bhargava, a Leadership in Government Fellow who recently left her post as chief of the Educational Opportunities section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The fellowship provides me the space and flexibility to return to the transformative work I had the privilege to engage in at the Department of Justice, but allows for the use of a different set of tools, room to engage with a different set of partners, and an opportunity to learn and build different bridges. I look forward to the time to reflect and strategize, after years of feeling a constant need to triage and react quickly within government.”

Says Charles West, another new Fellow who has led the Innovation Delivery Team for the office of the mayor in New Orleans: “My time in government service has been incredibly fulfilling. I look forward to using this fellowship to expand the reach of my government service to help other cities across America. This fellowship also provides an opportunity to reflect on whether I’ve spent my time wisely, in particular whether I invested the city’s and my personal resources in the most impactful interventions. As I transition out of my current government service, the fellowship will help me decide where I will focus my future efforts.”

2016 Leadership in Government Fellows

Adam J. Foss will develop a new training program for junior prosecutors, helping them learn how to use their discretion more effectively and improve outcomes for defendants while improving public safety.

Anurima Bhargava will work to improve the way schools treat students exposed to racial trauma and violence, developing civil rights remedies and integrating the mental health and emotional well-being of children and young adults into school interventions.

Charles West will create a guide to help local government officials develop and implement policies and programs to improve the life outcomes of boys and men of color.

Chiraag Bains will write a book addressing the need to reform policing in the United States and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Gigi B. Sohn will use multi-platform storytelling techniques to help demonstrate how public policy can improve access to communications networks, new technology, and media for communities too often left behind in the digital age.

Ralph Becker will create a guide for local leaders featuring solution-oriented approaches to making policy change in contrary political environments.

Rashida Tlaib will develop a step-by-step training program to help communities transcend barriers to full civic participation and make their voices count in policy making.

Terri Gerstein will develop the capacity of state and local government agencies to improve the conditions of low-wage and immigrant workers through strategic enforcement of labor laws, including through ongoing partnerships with NGOs. 

Editor's note (December 7, 2018): Rashida Tlaib was awarded a Leadership in Government fellowship from the Open Society Foundations in the fall of 2016. When Ms. Tlaib informed us that she was planning to run for the U.S. Congress, we mutually agreed to suspend her fellowship and no further payments were made.