Program Officer, Human Rights Initiative

Open Society Foundations
  • Location
    Washington, D.C.
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
    Mid Career / Advanced
  • Posted
    May 24

Position description

Program Officer, Human Rights Initiative. Washington, D.C.. Posting Date: 05/23/2019. Deadline: 06/16/2019

The Human Rights Initiative (HRI) works across issues and countries to promote a diverse and powerful human rights movement, which is critical to the struggle of all people to realize their rights. We support the movement to engage directly with the public to elevate support for human rights values, prioritize the voices of activists rooted in and able to mobilize communities, and ensure greater solidarity across rights struggles and social movements. Our vision is one in which the human rights movement is grounded in communities, is able to build partnerships with actors from within and outside the movement, has skills for developing and communicating its message with impact, and is able to push back against the growing politics of fear. To learn more about the Human Rights Initiative, please click here .

Job Profile

The Human Rights Initiative seeks a Program Officer to develop and implement grant-making strategies that support civil society and allies from other sectors to promote the transformation of criminal justice systems, with a focus on challenging the deprivation of liberty and the use of incarceration whenever possible. The position will preferably be based in Washington, DC, but we will consider applicants in our London or Berlin offices.

Grantees address a range of human rights violations in the system such as police violence, abuse in detention, disproportionate sentencing, discrimination and racial/ethnic disparities in the system, and punitive drug policy. In this role, the Program Officer will advance our work in these areas while exploring opportunities to expand our portfolios to include efforts to improve justice outcomes for both offenders and victims, and the communities they inhabit. This could include new work on restorative justice models, and exploring the links between system transformation and the reinvestment of public spending away from law enforcement and imprisonment and into community development. The person in this role will need to build strong partnerships with activists on the ground, other OSF programs, and with grantees working on marginalization and economic inequality. The Program Officer will also work to increase the number of organizations in the portfolio led or staffed by people from communities impacted by the criminal justice system, seeking to elevate directly affected people in advocacy efforts.

The successful applicant will be a part of a global team, and grant making will primarily occur in Latin America and East Africa, among other regions. While not a supervisor, the Program Officer will manage projects and will be responsible for the effective use of time and resources. Building and maintaining strong, trust-based relationships internally and with grantee partners across diverse cultures and geographies is an important function of the Program Officer role.

Typical responsibilities include:
  • Construct, and regularly review, portfolios of work primarily through grant making, but also advocacy, convening, communications, and other activities required to advance strategic goals;
  • Manage all grant-making activities related to the portfolios, including reviewing grant proposals, conducting site visits, and providing feedback on organizational health and capacity of grantees.
  • Develop, plan and organize program-related workshops, trainings and events;
  • Stay abreast of developments in criminal justice reform and economic inclusion through research and attendance at conferences and/or meetings;
  • Build and establish strategic relationships with other philanthropic partners and NGOs


Candidate Profile

  • At least 7 to 10 years relevant work experience in the field of criminal justice or civil society development, including proposing and launching new work
  • Strong analytic and strategic skills; proficiency in a second language preferred (Spanish and French a plus)
  • Experience working in or with civil society organizations seeking to advance systemic reform
  • An entrepreneurial approach, personal initiative and intellectual curiosity
  • Outstanding written and oral communications skills, including the capacity to write clearly and succinctly
  • Sensitivity to cultural differences and commitment to inclusion and respect
  • Experience working in multiple countries or regions preferred
  • Willingness to travel internationally.


Application instructions: People who have been involved in the criminal justice system or come from communities most affected by rights violations in the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply. Please submit a cover letter and resume.

Competitive rates of pay apply.

We are strengthened by the diversity of our colleagues across the Open Society Foundations. We welcome applications from people of all cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, and are committed to providing reasonable adjustments so that colleagues with disabilities are able to fulfill the essential functions of the job.
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