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Soros Justice Fellowships - Advocacy Fellowships and Media Fellowships

Fellowships to USA, Canada, and International 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:

11/20/19 11:59 PM PST


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Fellowships to USA, Canada, and International individuals for projects that foster change and catalyze reform on issues related to the U.S. 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.

The Soros Justice Fellowships are part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations that challenges the over-reliance on incarceration and extreme punishment, ensuring a fair and accountable system of justice.

Fellows receive funding through the following categories:

  • Advocacy Fellowships: The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships fund lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, researchers, and others with unique perspectives to undertake full-time 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.

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. 

Host Organizations for Advocacy Fellows:

  • 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. 

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. 

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.

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).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 161096

Estimated Size of Grant:

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

Advocacy Fellowships: Advocacy Track I comes with an award of $94,500. Advocacy Track II comes with an award of $127,500 over 18 months.

Media Fellowships: The award for Media Track I is $63,000. The award for Media Track II is $85,000.

These award amounts are all-inclusive. We do not provide additional funds for project-related expenses (however, any costs associated with attending fellowship related conferences, gatherings or meetings organized by the fellowships program may be covered).

Term of Contract:

Media Fellowships are 12 months in duration and can begin anytime between July and November 2020.

Fellowships are 18 months in duration and can begin anytime between July and November 2020.

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. Fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

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.

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

Pre-Application Information:

Application and Selection Timeline
- Application Deadline: November 20, 2019 (11:59 p.m. PST)
- Finalists Notified: Mid-January 2020 (all applicants will be notified via email whether they have been selected as a finalist)
- Supplementary Materials: Early-February 2020 (those selected as finalists asked to submit letters of recommendation, and detailed project timeline, as well as any project updates)
- Finalist Interviews: Late-February 2020 (all finalist interviews will be held on the same day, to be announced, at the Open Society
Foundations offices in NYC)
- Selected Fellows Notified: Late-March 2020
- Projects Begin: Anytime between July and November 2020

Two important notes regarding the portal: (1) when you register, be sure to click on “Individual Grants” and not “Organizational Grants” (even if you are applying with a host organization); (2) once registered, do not fill out the information for the “Bank Accounts,” “Academic History,” and “Work Experience” tabs in your user Profile.

Contact Information:

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

Apply online:

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

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

Canada: Alberta   British Columbia   Manitoba   New Brunswick   Newfoundland and Labrador   Northwest Territories   Nova Scotia   Nunavut   Ontario   Prince Edward Island   Quebec   Saskatchewan   Yukon


International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.