Abstract Open Society 2008 | World Economic Forum | Non Governmental Organization

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An abstract on George Soros' Open Society Institute. Interesting tidbit of information.
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   1   Transnational Philanthropy, Policy Transfer Networks and the Open Society Institute  Professor Diane Stone 1  , University of Warwick GARNET Working Paper No: 41/08April 2008 A BSTRACT   The Open Society Institute (OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation thatserves as the hub of the Soros foundations network, a group of autonomous nationalfoundations around the world. OSI and the network implement a range of initiatives that aimto promote open societies by shaping national and international policies with knowledge andexpertise. The OSI provides an excellent case study of the strategies of transnationalactivism of private philanthropy. It is an institutional mechanism for the internationaldiffusion of expertise and ‘best practices’ to post communist countries and otherdemocratizing nations. This paper avoids assumptions that civil society is an entirely separateand distinguishable domain from states and emergent forms of transnational authority.Focusing on the ‘soft’ ideational and normative policy transfer undermines notions of clearcut boundaries between an independent philanthropic body in civil society and highlights theintermeshing and mutual engagement that comes with networks, coalitions, joint funding,partnerships and common policy dialogues.Keywords:- transnational networks, philanthropy, civil society, policy transfer. Correspondence for address Diane StoneDepartment of Politics and International StudiesUniversity of Warwick Coventry Cv4 7ALUnited KingdomDiane.stone@warwick.ac.uk   1   Acknowledgements: A good many people from the Center for Policy Studies at the Central EuropeanUniversity, and in the Local Government and Public Sector Initiative of the Open Society Institute shared theirthoughts and views with me since 2002. They know who they are. Any mistakes or misinterpretations remainmy own.     2 Introduction  Founded in 1993 by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Institute(OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation based in New York City that servesas the hub of the Soros foundations network, a group of autonomous foundations andorganizations in more than 60 countries. OSI and the network implement a range of initiatives that aim to promote open societies by shaping national and international policieswith knowledge and expertise. This paper evaluates its roles and activities as a transnationalpolicy actor through the analytical lens of firstly, policy transfer and norm brokerage andsecondly, transnational networks.OSI provides an excellent case study of the strategies of transnational activism of privatephilanthropy. OSI is an institutional mechanism for the international diffusion of expertiseand ‘best practices’ to transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and theformer Soviet Union (fSU). The ‘open society’ discourses of transition and reform is multi-faceted. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law,education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI works to buildalliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rightsabuses. The idea is to give ‘voice’ to communities, and emerging policy elites, in transitioncountries through capacity building, the spread of ‘best practices’ and country-specifictranslation of ‘open society’ values.The discussion will draw upon the related literatures of policy transfer and policy diffusion(Ladi, 2005; Levi Faur, 2005; Simmons, Dobbin & Garret, 2006). These ideas will beconnected to recent scholarship on knowledge networks (Parmar, 2002; Stone & Maxwell,2004). In undertaking this conceptual synthesis, this paper is concerned to widen ourunderstanding on two fronts:First, an objective is to broaden cognition of the potential domains where policy transfertakes place from its horizontal intergovernmental focus to vertical supra-national policyvenues. In this regard, this paper is distinctive from some international relations analysesoperating within a frame of methodological nationalism that explain norm diffusion in termsof its impacts only upon domestic politics (Checkel, 1997). The focus here will be on atransnational actor seeking to inform and give shape to the domains of global and regionalgovernance in addition to national and sub-national venues of policy making. This is in line   3 with the argument that civil society actors represent a new logic of governmentality (Sending& Neumann, 2006). The involvement of non-state actors, and specifically transnationalphilanthropy, in certain fields of policy making and policy delivery can promote the‘transnationalization of policy’. The spread of policy and practice does not always occur in asimple bilateral exchange between sovereign states but can be complemented or by-passed bytransnational policy networks.Second, the aim is to extend the range of  who (or what) engages in policy transfer and thediffusion of international norms to include transnational non-state actors such as OSI andincluding the various academics, specialists and consultants engaged by OSI in knowledgenetworks or in ‘global public policy networks’ (Reinicke & Deng, 2000). Rather thantreating such arrangements only as extensions of state action, networks can develop their owninterests and objectives as well as powers and influences, allowing them to transcend thestate. Transnational policy communities of experts and professionals share their expertise andinformation and form common patterns of understanding regarding policy through regularinteraction via international conferences, government delegations and sustained e-communication (Bennett, 1991: 224-25); that is, an international policy culture. By focusingon the role of international actors in transferring policy and diffusing knowledge, a dynamicfor the transnationalization of policy comes into analytical sight. In particular, ‘soft’ forms of transfer – such as the spread of norms and expertise in which non-state actors play a moreprominent role – complements the hard transfer of policy tools, structures and practicespursued by government agencies and international organizations.As a philanthropic entity, OSI has multiple identities as a global, regional, national and localpolicy actor. To be sure, its capacities as a policy actor at all these levels are quite limitedand constrained. However, given OSI’s resources, its innovative organizational form, andovert policy (transfer) ambitions, analysis of this network’s regional and global impact is longoverdue (Stubbs, 2005: 79).The paper is structured into two parts. The first section outlines the concept of policytransfer, knowledge networks and their connection to global public policy via transnationalphilanthropy. The second section applies some of the ideas of the preceding two sections tothe Open Society Institute which is portrayed as having the multiple character of differentkinds of network. Sometimes it conforms to the concept of a transnational advocacy network    4 (TAN). For instance, the OSI’s East-East Program is an exchange program to “developadvocacy networks for the transnational promotion of open society” (OSI, 2004: 156).Occasionally, parts of OSI display features of a knowledge network or epistemic community(Haas and Haas, 1995) while at other times the OSI is a stakeholder alongside otherinternational partners in ‘global public policy networks’.The legitimacy and credibility of OSI’s expertise is drawn through a circular process betweenthe knowledge it produces and the audiences that help legitimize and institutionallyconsolidate that knowledge. It becomes a mutual validation process, but one that helps giveintellectual credibility to OSI norm advocacy and policy transfer. This credibilityconstruction so as to better inform policy deeply implicates OSI in global governance. Itsguise as an independent philanthropic network, sponsoring autonomous foundations in theseparate domain of (global) civil society becomes questionable. 1. Policy Transfer, Networks and Philanthropy Policy Transfer  Policy transfer is a transnational policy process whereby knowledge about policies,administrative arrangements or institutions in one place is used in the development of policyelsewhere. The objects of transfer can include (i) policies, (ii) institutions, (iii) ideologies or justifications, (iv) attitudes and ideas, and (v) negative lessons (Dolowitz, 1997).Additionally, there are different degrees of transfer in that actors engage in straight-forwardcopying of policy, legislation or techniques as well as various forms of emulation, synthesisand hybridization, and inspiration (Dolowitz & Marsh, 1996: 351).Policy and normative transfers can be either voluntary or coercive or combinations thereof.Terms such as ‘lesson-drawing’ portray transfer as a voluntary and somewhat rational activity(Rose, 1993). Other terms emphasize compulsory conformity; that is: ‘penetration’ byinternational policy actors (Bennett, 1991). By contrast, the more atmospheric term of ‘diffusion’ has been used in World Bank circles (Stiglitz, 2000). For this institution, the wordhas more neutral overtones of a natural, gradual and apolitical process. In some of theinternational relations literature, the word ‘diffusion’ been used in more precise manner torecognize the roles played by agents and the prospects for individual and organizational
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