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Transnational Philanthropy, Policy Transfer Networks and the Open Society Institute

Diane Stone

CSGR Working Paper 238/08

March 2008



A good many people from the Center for Policy Studies at the Central European University, and in the Local Government and Public Sector Initiative of the Open Society Institute shared their thoughts and views with me since 2002. They know who they are. Any mistakes or misinterpretations remain my own. 


The Open Society Institute ( OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation that serves as the hub of the Soros foundations network, a group of autonomous national foundations around the world. OSI and the network implement a range of initiatives that aim to promote open societies by shaping national and international policies with knowledge and expertise. The OSI provides an excellent case study of the strategies of transnational activism of private philanthropy. It is an institutional mechanism for the international diffusion of expertise and ‘best practices’ to post communist countries and other democratizing nations. This paper avoids assumptions that civil society is an entirely separate and distinguishable domain from states and emergent forms of transnational authority. Focusing on the ‘soft’ ideational and normative policy transfer undermines notions of clear cut boundaries between an independent philanthropic body in civil society and highlights the intermeshing and mutual engagement that comes with networks, coalitions, joint funding, partnerships and common policy dialogues.

Contact Details:

Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR)

University of Warwick
CV4 7AL Coventry (UK)