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Advocacy Fellowships and Media Fellowships

Fellowships to USA Individuals to Develop Projects
Addressing Criminal Justice Issues and Reform

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Open Society Foundations

Deadline Date:

10/22/18 11:59 PM PDT


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Fellowships to USA individuals for projects that catalyze change and advance reform on issues related to the criminal justice system. The fellowships are intended to mitigate the harmful impact of current criminal justice policies on communities, families, and individuals in the United States.

Fellowships should involve projects that focus on one or more 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. 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 draconian responses to drug use.

Applications are strongly encouraged for projects 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 criminal justice policies, as well as applications for projects that cut across various criminal justice fields and related sectors, such as education, health and mental health, housing, and employment.

Applications are especially welcomed from individuals directly affected by, or with significant direct personal experience with, the policies, practices, and systems their projects seek to address (e.g., 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, or applicants who are survivors of violence or crime).

Two types of fellowships are included - Media Fellowships and Advocacy Fellowships.

Media Fellowships

The Soros Justice Media Fellowships support writers, print and broadcast journalists, artists, filmmakers, and other individuals with distinctive voices proposing to complete media projects that engage and inform, spur debate and conversation, and catalyze change on important U.S. criminal justice issues. The Media Fellowships aim to mitigate the time, space, and market constraints that often discourage individuals from pursuing vital but marginalized, controversial, or unpopular topics in comprehensive and creative ways. Media Fellowships are one year in duration, and fellows are expected to make their projects their full-time work during the term of the fellowship.

Individuals with projects that seek, as their primary purpose, a specific reform goal or objective, should determine whether their work is better suited for the Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships.

There are two Media Fellowship tracks: Track I, which is for new and emerging media makers; and Track II, which is for more experienced individuals, i.e. those with at least ten (10) years of full-time work as a media maker. The award for Media Track I is $58,000, plus project-related expenses, over 12 months. The award for Media Track II is $80,000, plus project-related expenses, over 12 months.

Unlike for the Advocacy Fellowships, Media Fellowship applicants do not have host organizations. While applicants are welcome to explain any relationships or collaborations they may have with specific entities, networks or organizations, the expectation is that Media Fellowship applicants will be operating without any formal connection to an existing organization.

A wide range of media projects and products will be considered, including but not limited to: print and broadcast journalism, documentary films, books, digital media, as well as projects that utilize a mix of platforms or mediums. Open Society neither requires nor expects Media projects to reflect or endorse a particular viewpoint or position on any policy or practice that relates to its criminal justice reform goals; and accommodate a wide range of perspectives and professional orientations to the issues that are the subject matter of applicants’ work. The Foundation will consider work that remains decidedly neutral, as well as work that explicitly seeks to achieve or otherwise contribute to particular advocacy objectives. The overriding consideration is whether the project is likely to engage and inform, spur debate and conversation, or catalyze change.

Advocacy Fellowships

The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships support outstanding individuals — including lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, researchers, and others with unique perspectives — to undertake U.S. criminal justice reform projects at the local, state, and national levels.

Projects may range from litigation to public education to coalition-building to grassroots mobilization to policy-driven research. Advocacy Fellowships are 18 months in duration and may be undertaken with the support of a host organization.

Individuals with projects that propose, as their primary purpose, the completion of books, print or radio journalism, documentary film or video, or other similar media should apply for the Soros Justice Media Fellowships.

There are two Advocacy Fellowship tracks: Track I, which is for people at the earlier stages of their careers in the field of criminal justice reform and who demonstrate the potential to develop into leaders in the field; and Track II, which is for more experienced individuals with a proven record of achievement and expertise.

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.

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. “Reform” is generally defined 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.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 161096

Estimated Size of Grant:

Individuals can apply for one of two awards, depending on the applicant’s level of experience.

Advocacy Fellowships: Advocacy Track I comes with an award of $87,000, plus project-related expenses, over 18 months. Advocacy Track II comes with an award of $120,000, plus project-related expenses, over 18 months.

The award for Media Track I is $58,000, plus project-related expenses, over 12 months. The award for Media Track II is $80,000, plus project-related expenses, over 12 months.

Term of Contract:

Media Fellowships are 12 months in duration and can begin anytime between July and November 2019. Applicants must be able to devote at least 35 hours per week to the project if awarded a fellowship; and the project must be the applicant’s only full-time work during the course of the fellowship.

Advocacy Fellowships are 18 months in duration and can begin anytime between July and November 2019. Applicants must be able to devote at least 35 hours per week to the project if awarded a fellowship; and the project must be the applicant’s only full-time work during the course of the fellowship.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

General Eligibility

All projects must, at a minimum, relate to one or more of the following U.S. 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 our systems of justice. Please carefully review the complete guidelines for more details on the specific requirements for each category of fellowships.

All applicants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.

The fellowships do not fund enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research. 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.

Eligibility for Advocacy Fellowships

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

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

Eligibility for Media Fellowships

Applicants are ideally full-time writers, print or broadcast journalists, filmmakers, artists, or other media makers, with well-established records of publication, exhibition/performance, dissemination, or broadcast in local, regional or national markets, or among targeted audiences or constituencies. Applicants who are not professional writers, journalists, filmmakers, or other types of media makers must demonstrate that they nonetheless have the experience and capacity to accomplish the project.

Media Track I applicants must have at least two (2) years of relevant full-time experience.

Media Track II applicants must have a minimum of ten (10) years of relevant full-time experience. Applicants with fewer than 10 years of relevant full-time experience may nonetheless be considered for a Media Track II fellowship, provided they can demonstrate that they have truly distinguished themselves over the course of their careers.

Joint Applications
Up to three (3) individuals can apply jointly for a Media Fellowship. However, joint applications carry a single award. For joint applicants, the “full-time work” requirement does not apply to each applicant; instead, the applicants’ combined time spent on the project must be at least 35 hours per week.

Pre-Application Information:

The application deadline is October 22, 2018 (11:59 pm PDT). Applications must be submitted online via the application portal, which will open on October 15.

Applicants who are uncertain whether some aspect of their proposed project fits within the parameters of the fellowships guidelines or whether the project is otherwise likely to be of interest may submit an email inquiry. The email should provide a brief (no more than 200 words) description of the proposed project, as well as some background information on the applicant. The Foundation will attempt to respond to all email inquiries within a week of their receipt. Those who submit email inquiries but do not receive a timely response will have to make their own determination of whether the proposed project fits within the guidelines. Please be aware that an email inquiry does not constitute an application

There are three stages to the application and selection process. First, all applicants must submit a full application by the application deadline. Second, from the pool of applicants, a group of finalists will be selected, who’ll be invited to interview with a selection committee consisting of Open Society Foundations staff and outside experts (finalists will also be asked to submit additional materials to supplement their initial applications).

And finally, from the pool of finalists, 12 – 15 individuals will be selected 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

- Application Deadline: October 22, 2018 (11:59 pm PDT)
- Finalists Notified: Early- to mid-December 2018 (all applicants will be notified via email whether they have been selected as a finalist)
- Supplementary Materials: Early-January 2019 (those selected as finalists asked to submit letters of recommendation, host commitment letters, advisory board details, and detailed project timeline, as well as any project updates)
- Finalist Interviews: Early-February 2019 (all finalist interviews will be held on the same day, to be announced, at the Open Society Foundations offices in NYC)
- Selected Fellows Notified: Early-March 2019
- Projects Begin: Anytime between July and November 2019

Contact Information:

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

Email inquiries to:

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