Billionaire George Soros’ family foundation is reducing its workforce as part of a significant restructuring initiative. The Open Society Foundation (OSF), which is affiliated with Soros, is in the midst of its second restructuring within a three-year span. This recent restructuring will lead to a substantial reduction in the foundation’s global workforce, cutting it by nearly half.
In emails obtained by Bloomberg, it was revealed that the OSF’s board of directors made the decision during the summer to reduce staff and close offices across the globe.
“With the decision by the board in June to cut the staff by more than 40%, our staffing size and footprint by necessity needs to diminish,” OSF Vice President of Programs Binaifer Nowrojee wrote in one of the emails seen by the outlet.
“We no longer have the bandwidth to operate multiple small offices, and thus the decision to further reduce our locations,” Nowrojee added.
Following the recent staff reductions, OSF’s workforce will number fewer than 500 employees. In 2021, the organization had nearly 1,700 employees. Bloomberg reported that six OSF offices in Africa will close by the end of the year, leaving them with no employees. The outlet also noted that Inside Philanthropy had observed that “more than a dozen offices across Africa and Asia” had been removed from the organization’s website.
In July, Inside Philanthropy had reported that the OSF would lay off “at least 40%” of its staff. Additionally, offices in Barcelona and Baltimore were being closed, as reported by Bloomberg. Africa Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki conveyed her regret to the staff in an email, stating, “I’m very sorry that it’s turned out this way…”
“It’s obviously not what any of us expected and I’m also very sorry that I didn’t have the information on this earlier.”
In what may have been a bitter note, Wanyeki noted that the cuts ran contrary to what the organization’s leadership had “committed to two years ago.”
The OSF has historically provided grants exceeding $1 billion annually, with approximately 10 percent of these funds allocated to Africa, as reported by Bloomberg. OSF President Mark Malloch-Brown explained in a recent interview that the staff reductions are primarily related to a heightened emphasis on evaluating the effects of these grants. He asserted that the cuts are not a result of rigorous “due diligence” in the initial stages of grant decisions.
Assessing impacts, he mentioned, should necessitate fewer personnel, and the restructuring is intended to render OSF more agile.
“The huge bureaucratic process preceded the grant and then it was much lighter thereafter,” Malloch-Brown explained.
“We’re reversing that balance.”
Nonetheless, despite the reductions on a global scale, the OSF has stated that it doesn’t anticipate making program changes in the United States until after the pivotal 2024 presidential election. Back in August, the organization had previously declared its intention to “largely terminate funding within the European Union, with further funding becoming exceedingly restricted,” as reported by Bloomberg. Alex Soros, George Soros’ son, who was designated as his father’s successor in June, contested this notion.
“It’s news to me that OSF is leaving Europe,” he said at an August conference in Austria, Bloomberg reported.
“It was reported in various outlets that that’s the case but we’re simply changing our strategy.”
He later reiterated that position in a Politico Op-Ed dated August 31.
“So, as OSF retools the way it works globally, we are shifting our priorities in Europe accordingly,” he wrote.
“Yes, this means we will be exiting some areas of work as we focus on today’s challenges, as well as those we will face tomorrow.
“And yes, we will also be reducing our headcount significantly, seeking to ensure more money goes out to where it’s most needed.
“But this isn’t any kind of a retreat.”