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Soros Justice Fellowships Program - Advocacy Fellowships

Fellowships to USA Individuals to Advocate
for Reform of the Criminal Justice System

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Open Society Foundations

Deadline Date:

12/06/17 11:59 PM EST


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Fellowships to USA individuals for projects that reform, advance, catalyze, and spur debate on a broad range of criminal justice system issues. Applicants could include lawyers, grassroots organizers, researchers, advocates, and other outstanding individuals who can provide unique perspectives. Projects must address criminal justice reform on a local, state, or national level. Projects may range from litigation to public education to coalition building to grassroots mobilization to policy-driven research.

The Foundation will consider projects that focus on one or more of the broad criminal justice reform goals: reducing the number of people who are incarcerated or under correctional control, challenging extreme punishment, and promoting fairness and accountability in the justice system the United States. In the Foundation’s view, there are a number of things that can be done to advance these broad goals — for example, challenging the extremely long prison terms that have become the accepted norm as a response to serious and violent crimes; ending the punishment and harsh treatment of youth who come into conflict with the law; promoting police accountability; contesting prosecutors’ orientation toward harsh charging and sentencing practices; and fostering health-informed responses to drug use.

However, the Foundation does not have a defined list of topics or issues will be considered. Instead, the Foundation expects applicants themselves to make the case that their projects have the potential to contribute something valuable to a particular issue or in a particular place. In this way, the fellowships are designed to be flexible and open — a space for projects that build effectively on work that has come before, that explore new and creative ways of doing things, that take risks, that offer new insights and perspectives.

The Foundation believes that the fellowships can be a useful platform for supporting people whose work experiments and pushes boundaries, challenges convention, elaborates novel ways of approaching deeply entrenched and intractable problems, anticipates emerging issues, or seizes upon particular opportunities in creative ways; and that if these things are done well, people supported through the fellowships can, over time and in conjunction with others, exert some influence on the broader field of criminal justice reform.

Strategies Supported by the Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships and “Reform” Requirement:
Applicants may employ, either alone or in combination, any number of strategies to achieve the goals and objectives set forth in their projects. These strategies include but are not limited to: impact litigation, public education, strategic communications, policy advocacy, coalition-building, grassroots organizing and mobilization, and policy-driven research and analysis.

Regardless of the strategy employed, all Advocacy Fellowship projects must, during the term of the fellowship itself, actively seek some measure of reform. The Foundation generally defines “reform” as a change to a policy or practice, whether formalized by law or not, that has a particular effect on individuals, families, or communities. Reform can promote or create good policies or practices, as well as change or lessen the harmful effects of bad ones. Moreover, reform should involve more than simply achieving a specific result for a specific person; instead, groups of people defined by certain characteristics or circumstances should benefit from achieving a particular change.

Advocacy Track I:
Advocacy Track I is for people at a range of phases in their careers, including but not limited to: people just entering the field following post-graduate education; advocates with a few years of work experience; and those beginning to work on criminal justice reform issues after a career in another field or after some other life experience.

Advocacy Track II:
Advocacy Track II is for seasoned, established, and accomplished leaders and experts in the field — ideally people who have distinguished themselves on a local, state or national level; and who have the kind of stature, experience, and capacity necessary to have a meaningful impact on an important criminal justice reform issue.

Intersectional Projects:
The Foundation recognizes that criminal justice reform issues are exceptionally complex and involve an array of interrelated social, economic, political, and historical dynamics. The Foundation therefore encourages applications that demonstrate a clear understanding of the intersection of criminal justice issues with the particular needs of low-income communities; communities of color; immigrants; LGBTQ people; women and children; and those otherwise disproportionately affected by harsh or unfair criminal justice policies. The Foundation also welcomes projects that cut across various criminal justice fields and related sectors, such as education, health and mental health, housing, and employment.

Directly Affected Individuals:
The Foundation in particular welcomes applications from individuals directly affected by, or with significant direct personal experience with, the policies, practices, and systems their projects seek to address. This includes but is not limited to applicants who have themselves been incarcerated; applicants who have a family member or loved one who has been incarcerated and whose fellowship project emerges from that experience; and applicants who are survivors of violence and crime. It also includes people with deep ties and connections to the communities or constituencies that are the focus of their projects.

Host Organization:
Advocacy Fellowship applicants are encouraged, but not required, to secure a host organization. Host organizations — which can be advocacy or community groups, scholarly or research institutions, government agencies, or other nonprofit organizations or associations — can provide access to resources such as space, technology, and networks, as well as mentoring and guidance. They can also enhance the credibility and raise the profile of the project.

Advisory Board:
Regardless of whether they partner with a host organization, Advocacy Fellowship applicants must assemble an advisory board for the project. The advisory board must be comprised of a minimum of three (3) individuals who can lend guidance and expertise to the project.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 161095

Estimated Size of Grant:

Advocacy Track I comes with an award of $87,000, plus project-related expenses.

Advocacy Track II comes with an award of $120,000, plus project-related expenses.

Term of Contract:

Advocacy Fellowships are 18 months in duration and can begin anytime between July and November 2018.

Applicants must be able to devote at least 35 hours per week to the project if awarded a fellowship.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships support outstanding individuals, including lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, researchers, and others with unique perspectives.

Advocacy Track I applicants must have at least two (2) years of relevant experience, which may include: full-time and part-time employment; paid or unpaid internships; sustained volunteer work; or other pertinent experience (e.g. advocacy while incarcerated). Individuals who are between the ages of 18 – 25 and who have fewer than two years’ experience should consider applying for the Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowships.

Advocacy Track II applicants must have at least ten (10) years of relevant advocacy experience.

All applicants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Under the Advocacy Fellowship category, the fellowships do not allow multiple individuals to apply jointly for a single Advocacy Fellowship.

The fellowships do not fund enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research. Also, fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.

Past recipients of a Soros Justice Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

Applicants may be based outside the United States, as long as their work directly relates to a U.S. criminal justice issue.

Projects that include lobbying activities will not be funded. Please carefully review the Tax Law Lobbying Rules (attached below) before applying. If awarded a fellowship, applicants must agree to refrain from engaging in restricted lobbying activities during the term of the fellowship.

If awarded a fellowship, applicants with host organizations can choose to receive grant payments directly or have some (or all) of the grant payments passed through the host. Under the latter arrangement, the host must have the appropriate organizational status, as well as grant management and finance/accounting systems and safeguards, to be able to receive the grant award and make regular payments to the fellow, e.g. 501(c)(3) or supported by a designated fiscal agent; and must agree that the grant payments are made to the host on the fellow’s behalf. While the Foundation encourages host organizations to provide in-kind contributions such as office space and necessary overhead, as well as to augment the stipend award and provide other benefits, the Foundation does not provide the host organization with supplemental funds.

Fellowship projects cannot duplicate the host organization’s existing work; and fellowship funding cannot be used to replace, supplant, or supplement funding for activities or projects already being, or reasonably expected to be, carried out by the host organization.

The fellowships do NOT fund the following:
-Enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research
-Projects that address criminal justice issues outside the United States (applicants themselves, however, can be based outside the United States, as long as their work directly relates to a U.S. issue)
-Lobbying activities

Pre-Application Information:

There are four stages to the application and selection process. First, all applicants must submit a brief Letter of Intent (LOI), as well as a resume or bio. Second, from the pool of initial LOIs, the Foundation will select a smaller number who will be invited to submit a full proposal. Third, from the pool of full proposals, the Foundation will select a group of finalists, who’ll be invited to interview with a selection committee consisting of Open Society Foundations staff and outside experts.

From the pool of finalists, the Foundation will select 12 – 15 individuals to receive fellowships (this final number of fellowships — which is contingent on availability of funding — will be a mix of Advocacy, Media and Youth Activist Fellowships).

Application and Selection Timeline
-Letters of Intent Due: December 6, 2017 (11:59 PM EST)
-Full Proposals Invited: Late-January 2018 (all applicants will be notified via email whether they have been selected to submit a full proposal)
-Full Proposals Due: Late-February 2018
-Finalists Notified: Early-March 2018
-Finalist Interviews: Late-March 2018 (all finalist interviews will be held on the same day, to be determined, at the Open Society Foundations offices in New York City)
-Selected Fellows Notified: Mid-April 2018
-Projects Begin: Anytime between July and November 2018

Application Information:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Apply Online:

Open Society Foundations
224 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
United States

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming