A Soros Foundation is one of a network of national foundations created by the international financier and philanthropist, George Soros, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe. They fund volunteer socio-political activity and have been coordinated since early 1994 by a management team called the Open Society Institute. He claims the principles underlying the philosophy of the Open Society is that there can be no absolute answers to political questions because the same principle of reflexivity applies as in financial markets.
Soros foundations are autonomous institutions established in particular countries or regions, especially those emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, to initiate and support open society activities. Such countries include the former Communist bloc in Central and Eastern Europe, parts of the former Soviet Union, South Africa, and Haiti.
The priorities and specific activities of each Soros foundation are determined by a local board of directors and staff in consultation with George Soros and OSI boards and advisers. In addition to support from the Open Society Institute, many of the foundations receive funding from other sources. Intended programs include "the education of librarians and others; expansion of a free press, Internet, and e-mail communication; publishing; human rights; arts and culture; and social, legal, and economic reform".
One such program, for example, is the Library of Congress - Soros Foundation Visiting Fellows Program for librarians. Soros insists that staff in local Soros Foundation offices conduct the initial interviews of applicants and then allow LC to make the final decisions. He very much seeks to "influence the future of the newly democratized Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union...[through] educating librarians about how to improve their libraries and assist the policymakers of their countries..[in order to] provide a strong foundation for democracy". Soros pledged $206 million USD to endow the Central European University. In 1997, he received the James Madison Award from the Coalition on Government Information. Barbara Ford, president of the American Library Association, compared Soros to Andrew Carnegie in honor of his philanthropy, implying that its influence on the world's libraries rivals that of the Carnegie family on the United States'.
However, his critics point out that "[In] 2010, tax records show that Soros, a convicted inside trader ... deployed grantees from his Open Society Foundations to lobby for and acquire federal contracts for job training, green energy, and community redevelopment programs." By employing such coordinated activities, critics aver, Soros "advanced his agenda for "green economics", open borders, and increased government handouts."
- Soros on Soros John Wiley, ISBN 978-0-471-11977-7
- Hoduski-Abbott, Bernadine E., Lobbying for Libraries and the Public's Access to Government Information, Lanham: Scarecrow, 2003. p. 75
- Hoduski-Abbott, Bernadine E., Lobbying for Libraries and the Public's Access to Government Information, Lanham: Scarecrow, 2003. p. 76
- Soros Pledges $206 Million to Hungarian University", Chronicle of Philanthropy, July 2005, Vol. 17 Issue 19, p. 20
- Criticism of Soros' activities at sorosfiles.com (April 2012 entry)