Harris and Open Society Foundations Partner to Offer International Internships

Harris School first-years and prospective students interested in rights and governance issues will have a new international internship opportunity starting next summer thanks to a partnership with the Open Society Foundations. 
Harris is the 15th university and only the second American institution, after Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, to be invited to participate in the OSF Summer Internship for Rights and Governance. The program also includes institutions in Turkey, Colombia, Hong Kong, Morocco, Palestine and Lebanon, with more likely to join in coming weeks.

Investor and philanthropist George Soros is the founder and chairman of Open Society—a network of foundations, partners, and projects in more than 100 countries. Open Society—where rights are respected, government is accountable, and no one has the monopoly on the truth—makes the Open Society Foundations unlike any other private philanthropic effort in history. 
“Many of our students are interested in this space of rights and governance,” says Adam McGriffin, associate director of nonprofit sector relations at the Harris School, who brokered the agreement. OSF saw a “great fit” when officials first visited Harris, in part because of the school’s heavy emphasis on immersing students in a data-driven approach to public policy, which dovetails nicely with trends in the foundation world, McGriffin says. 
“Our data-driven approach provides a unique skill set that our students will bring and complement the other universities that are part of the program,”
McGriffin adds. “More and more foundations are looking for what our students bring as they’re becoming more reliant on a data-driven approach to measurement, evaluation and overall project management. Measuring the impact is what Harris students are uniquely qualified to do.” 
The 8- to 12-week internships begin with two weeks of seminars at The School of Public Policy at Central European University, one of the partner institutions, located in Budapest. (OSF is interested in Harris faculty participation, but nothing has been firmed up on that front.) The interns then choose an area of interest and are typically, though not exclusively, placed at an OSF-funded organization.
“It’s a really unique experience where they’re going to attend a two-week clinical seminar and training from thought leaders around the world on rights and governance, and then apply that newly gained knowledge to help advance a project,” McGriffin says. The seminars and the work opportunities themselves will reflect OSF’s “multidisciplinary approach: journalism, legal, grassroots activists, communications. It is really a full-on approach with pairing these students to take their knowledge and help lead change.”
Harris alum Jonathan Kaplan, ’96, who is now communications officer for the Washington, D.C.-based Open Society Foundations, foresees great synergies in the partnership. 
 “The Open Society Internship for Rights and Governance (OSIRG) is a great opportunity for Masters-level students because it allows participants to examine and engage with issues of rights and governance in bold and creative ways,” he says. “The Harris School, like Open Society, challenges its students to find innovative solutions to solve both local and global challenges. This makes Harris students and the Harris School great additions to the OSIRG program.”
At least two Harris students are expected to be accepted for the internship after a rigorous selection process and then placed at OSF grantees and other organizations around the world, with expenses, housing and a living allowance 100 percent covered. The 40 institutions slated to potentially host interns cover a topical and geographic reach that includes the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in India, the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement in France, the International Detention Coalition in Mexico and Central America, and the West African Civil Society Institute in Ghana.
OSF takes a broad view of human rights and governance spanning “promoting fundamental freedoms, expanding public access to information, challenging inequalities through development and rights, and advancing opportunities that ensure transparency and accountability in a global context,” the organization says.
Harris will narrow its applicants to a maximum of eight. OSF will then consider and select between two and four of them for the internship. The internship application process begins in November, and an OSF recruitment session is scheduled for October 3. 
—Ed Finkel