Open Society Foundations Launch Worldwide Fund to Support Nonprofits Navigating Leadership Transitions

NEW YORK—To help nonprofit organizations during their first two years of new leadership, the Open Society Foundations today announced a fund designed to provide key financial support so that a new generation of leaders around the world can implement their initiatives.

“The initial period when a new executive is appointed can be the most challenging and simultaneously the most promising time for an organization,” said Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations. “When I became director of the Vera Institute in 1994, dealing with recent losses could have prevented me from starting any of the new initiatives that excited me. To this day, I remain grateful for the additional, discretionary support from foundations that allowed me to jump-start a new program and strengthen the core team. I’m glad we will be helping today’s new directors to start early in implementing their visions.”

Leadership transitions in nonprofit organizations are just as important as those in the for-profit sector, although they often receive less attention. New executive directors come to the position with innovative projects, but often face internal limitations and a lack of resources. This fund gives new leaders the discretionary support to implement the ideas that got them hired in the first place. This new fund is the only available support of its kind for nonprofit leaders at the outset of their tenure.

“New leaders share a common experience of deferring their visions because they are bound by constraints. We want to avoid this problem,” said Stone. “Periods of transition for nonprofits should be fertile moments for positive change and growth and help inject new vitality into an organization.”

The Open Society Foundations are committed to supporting a new generation of civil society leaders as part of their efforts to strengthen the nonprofit sector worldwide. The New Executives Fund will support executive directors and chief executive officers who have the potential to be leaders in fields that are central to Open Society’s mission.

The Open Society Foundations have long made individual decisions to support new directors, including directors at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the PEN American Center this year. The New Executives Fund expands this kind of support, making it a regular part of how Open Society is helping to build a new generation of nonprofit leadership.

The inaugural cohort of the fund includes leaders from around the globe whose organizations are advancing a range of human rights and social justice issues. Organizations will receive a two-year grant, which will be allocated at the executive director’s discretion.

New Executives Fund Recipients:

(includes four new recipients added December 2013)

Brad Brockman, Equal Education

Equal Education is a movement of learners, parents, teachers, and community members working for quality and equality in South African education. The organization has run successful campaigns around school infrastructure, late-coming, access to textbooks, school closures, illegal exclusions of students and the use of corporal punishment in schools.  In July 2012, Brad Brockman was elected to the position of general secretary of Equal Education. Born and raised in Cape Town, Brockman previously worked as an editor, researcher, and community organizer at Equal Education.

Andrea Coomber, JUSTICE

JUSTICE is an all-party law reform organization promoting access to justice, human rights, and the rule of law, and encourages improvements to the UK legal system through research, education, and intervention in the courts. Andrea Coomber has been the director of JUSTICE since February 2013. Coomber is a recognized international expert on equality litigation, particularly on violence against women and on the human rights of persons with disabilities, and was formerly the legal director of INTERIGHTS.

Jonathan Even-Zohar, European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO)

EUROCLIO is an umbrella organization for national teacher associations throughout Europe with significant networking in other regions, including Russia and the Middle East.  EUROCLIO advocates the sound use of history and heritage education towards the building and deepening of democratic societies, connecting professionals across boundaries of communities, countries, ethnicities and religions.  Jonathan Even-Zohar assumed responsibilities as executive director in October 2013, after successfully serving eight years in a range of capacities in the organization, including the management of EUROCLIO’s exploration of expanding its work beyond Europe.

Phil Lynch, International Service for Human Rights

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) aims to promote and protect human rights around the world by supporting human rights defenders, strengthening international and regional human rights systems, and building and supporting human rights coalitions.  Phil Lynch brings over a decade of experience in human rights work and NGO management to ISHR, having successfully established and directed two of the foremost human rights organizations in Australia.

Soe Naing, International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Myanmar

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Myanmar works closely with grassroots community-based organizations focused on promoting the health and rights of people living with, and most affected by HIV/AIDS, including female sex workers and men who have sex with men. Soe Naing joined the Alliance as executive director in May 2013. Prior to this role, he held leadership positions at international NGOs, the United Nations, and the government of Myanmar.

Udi Ofer, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ)

The ACLU-NJ is a leading human rights organization in New Jersey and the eleventh largest affiliate of the national ACLU.  The organization works on a range of civil liberties issues such as freedom of speech, privacy, equal treatment, fairness and the right to make personal decisions without unnecessary government intrusion.  Before joining the ACLU-NJ, Udi Ofer founded the advocacy department at the New York Civil Liberties Union, which focused on issues of racial justice, immigrant rights, police accountability, students’ rights, and national security.

Oluwakemi Okenyodo, The CLEEN Foundation

The CLEEN Foundation in Nigeria was established with the mission to promote public safety, security, and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programs and publications, in partnership with government and civil society. The organization is a leader in the field of criminal justice and security sector advocacy in Africa.  Oluwakemi Okenyodo was appointed executive director in February 2013.  Okenyodo has worked extensively in the area of police reform, particularly police accountability, in Nigeria and within Anglophone West Africa.

Marc A. Schindler, Justice Policy Institute (JPI)

JPI is a Washington, DC-based research and policy development organization that works to end the United States’ reliance on incarceration by promoting fair and effective criminal and juvenile justice policies and practices.  Marc Schindler has over 20 years of experience working in legal representation, policy advocacy, government, and philanthropy in the fields of youth development and juvenile and criminal justice.  Schindler was previously a partner at Venture Philanthropy Partners, interim director for the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, and staff attorney with the Youth Law Center.

Christine Stegling, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC)

ITPC is a worldwide coalition of people living with HIV and their supporters dedicated to advocacy on HIV treatment, prevention, care, and support. The ITPC network includes nine regional offices and supports thousands of members from 125 countries. Christine Stegling joined the ITPC as the executive director in May 2013.  She started her work in the field of HIV and human rights in Botswana, initially working for the Ministry of Health, and for eight years as the executive director of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS.


INTERIGHTS is an international legal human rights NGO that provides leadership and support in the legal protection of human rights and works to ensure that human rights standards are protected and promoted effectively in domestic courts and before regional and international bodies. John Wadham joined INTERIGHTS as executive director in February 2013. Wadham was previously general counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and director of Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties).


The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.