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Democratic Practice

The Open Society Foundations support efforts to engage citizens not just in voting, but in ensuring that governments respond to the challenges of the day and the needs of all their people.

$140.5M 2020 budget for Democratic Practice
11.6% Percentage of global budget
18.5% Average annual change in budget since 2016

2020 Democratic Practice Budget by Region


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      Explore our full budget by theme and region

      Our Work

      The simple act of voting has often been contested—in some countries, now more than ever amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to protecting voter rights and addressing issues of campaign finance and electoral reform, we support groups that monitor government action and promote transparency and accountability as a check on corruption and abuse in the democratic process.

      Two people sit at a polling table in a laundromat
      A presiding officer and a poll clerk drink a cup of tea while waiting for early morning voters at a polling station near Oxford, United Kingdom, on June 23, 2016. © Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty

      Election Support

      A group of people sit together in a room while working on their laptops and speaking on their mobile phones.
      National election observers in their "situation room" in Freetown, Liberia, on November 16, 2012. © Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty

      Monitoring work by NGOs and civil society groups can play an important role in preventing electoral fraud and manipulation in countries where democratic institutions remain weak. The Open Society Initiative for West Africa has developed an internet-based election observation platform called the Election Situation Room. It pools independent reporting by monitors during voting, helping electoral officials to respond to emerging issues before they become critical. The model has been successfully piloted during elections in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Nigeria.

      Voting Rights

      A woman stands in line.
      A woman waits in line to vote, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 2, 2020. © Jessica Kourkounis/Getty

      Open Society-U.S. supports a range of groups working on protecting voting rights, including supporting efforts to promote voting by mail and safe access to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic, and advocating for minority voters who have been targeted by partisan gerrymandering. In January 2018, for instance, a federal court agreed with one of our grantees, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, that the state’s most recent electoral map was drawn to prevent non-Republican voters—in this case, often African American voters—from being able to meaningfully affect political outcomes, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

      Transparency and Freedom of Information

      A woman on a city street hands a political flyer to a passerby.
      People hand out leaflets and listen to speeches at a housing rights demonstration in London, United Kingdom, on May 1, 2018.  © Peter Marshall/ZUMA/Newscom

      Access to information reinforces the ability of citizens to hold their governments to account, and to combat corruption. The Open Society Foundations have supported the passage of right to information laws in over 50 countries since the 1990s by providing technical and legal advice. We have also actively supported efforts to establish the institutional machinery that is needed to deliver an effective response to freedom of information requests from the public—developing resources for judges, information commissioners, and civil society groups to help ensure that the public’s questions are answered.

      Community Engagement

      From Kazakhstan to the Balkans, our foundations support local groups that engage people in local decision-making that affects their quality of life—on issues such as promoting education, planning new bus routes, and protecting local parks and green spaces. 

      Children at a playground.
      Children at a playground in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on October 6, 2018. © Savostyanov Sergei/TASS/Newscom

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