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Fellowships to USA Young Adults to Pursue
Projects Related to Criminal Justice Reform

Soros Justice Fellowships - Youth Activist Fellowships

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Open Society Foundations

Deadline Date:

03/02/22 11:59 PM PST


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Fellowships to USA and territories young adults for projects that address criminal justice in the United States. Selected fellows must be affiliated with a nonprofit host organization and are expected to work with a mentor on projects. Funding is intended to support activities such as public education, curriculum development and training, social media campaigns, and other strategic and creative forms of public communication, policy advocacy, coalition-building, grassroots organizing and mobilization, and research and analysis.

The Soros Justice Fellowships fund outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. The fellowships are part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations to reduce the destructive impact of current criminal justice policies on the lives of individuals, families, and communities in the United States by challenging the overreliance on incarceration and extreme punishment, and ensuring a fair and accountable system of justice.

Youth Activist Fellowships

The Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowships, in partnership with the Open Society Youth Exchange, support outstanding individuals aged 18 to 25 to take on projects of their own design that address some aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system. 


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 the the justice system in the United States. Whether it’s efforts to combat police abuse, to end the punishment and harsh treatment of youth who come into conflict with the law, to dismantle the barriers that people face following a period of incarceration, or to challenge harsh and punitive responses to drug use, there are countless ways to advance these broad goals.

Open Society strongly encourages applications 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, LGBTI 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.

Open Society especially welcomes applications 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).

Award amounts are all-inclusive, i.e. they are intended to cover a fellow’s living expenses, project-related expenses, travel, conference fees, health insurance, etc. This includes costs associated with attending fellowship-related conferences, gatherings or events that the fellowships program organizes.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 193863

Estimated Size of Grant:

Youth Activist Fellowships come with an award of $57,500.

Term of Contract:

Fellowships are either 12 or 18 months in duration and can begin anytime in the fall of 2022.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants must be between the ages of 18 – 25 at the time of application.

Fellows cannot be full-time students or have full-time jobs during their fellowships, even if the fellowship is only part-time.

The Youth Activist Fellowship is likely a good fit for a range of people at different points in their activist lives, including but not limited to, people just entering the field following postsecondary education; people both working and attending college part-time; people who’ve had some relevant volunteer or internship experience; and people joining the activist world after some other type of life experience (e.g. post-incarceration). However, the ideal candidate will be someone who isn’t already deeply entrenched in a particular body of activist work or obviously in a leadership pipeline or on a clear path to further achievement and accomplishment. And while Open Society doesn’t have a rigid cut off, in terms of the number of years of experience or types of experiences that would make someone “too experienced” for the Youth Activist Fellowships, those with more than two (2) years of full-time experience as an activist or advocate, as well as those who have completed or are soon to complete graduate school, are unlikely to be well suited for this fellowship.

Open Society is also looking for young people who demonstrate a passion for and commitment to social justice but who are at the earliest stages of their careers and are just now learning about what it takes to be most effective as an activist; show strong signs that, if given the time, opportunity, and exposure that the fellowships offer, they have the potential to develop into the kind of leader that the field needs; would bring fresh thinking and fresh perspectives to the work; and would teach some important lessons about how to best identify and support the next generation of activists leaders. In addition, Open Society is looking for candidates who have not had easy access to existing leadership pipelines or other paths to achievement and accomplishment, but who nonetheless have the drive, aptitude, savvy, and tenacity to seize upon opportunities for growth and development.

Projects must be based in the United States (including U.S. territories).

Host Organization:
- Youth Activist Fellowship applicants are 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 — should provide access to resources such as office and meeting space, technology (computer, internet access, phone, etc.) and networks (i.e. connections to other individuals and organizations), as well as supervision, mentoring and guidance.
- If awarded a fellowship, grant payments must be passed through the host (unless there are compelling reasons to pay the fellow directly), which means that the host must have the appropriate organizational status, as well as grants 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 award is made to the host on the fellow’s behalf.

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
- Lobbying activities

Pre-Application Information:

Timeline (dates subject to change):
- Application Deadline: March 2, 2022 (11:59 pm PST)
- Finalists Notified: April – May 2022
- Supplementary Materials Due: May – June 2022
- Finalist Interviews: June 2022 (All finalist interviews will be held via videoconference.)
- Selected Fellows Notified: July 2022
- Projects Must Begin: Fall 2022

Applications must be submitted online through the application portal. Please note that the portal will open on February 8, 2022.

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 funding source reserves the right, at any stage of the application and selection process, to request that an applicant be considered for a fellowship category (Advocacy, Media, Youth Activist) different from the one for which the applicant applied.

Mentor/Supervisor/Champion: Applicants should identify at least one person (and up to three people) who will provide them with advice, guidance, and support on a consistent basis throughout the project — someone who would be considered an applicant’s mentor, supervisor, or “champion.

The fellowships do not allow multiple individuals to apply jointly for a single Youth Activist Fellowship.

Contact Information:

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

To submit an email inquiry, email

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

URL for Full Text (RFP):

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