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  • Lisa Dewberry

Leading positive change in over 120 countries


George Soros established the Open Society Foundations, a network of foundations, partners, and projects in over 120 countries, 30 years ago so people across the world can create positive change and improve their lives. The network supports individuals and organisations across the globe fighting for freedom of expression, accountable governments and societies that promote justice and equality. Soros has given over $32 billion to support human rights, freedom of expression and access to public health and education in more than 100 countries since 1984. He experienced ethnic and political intolerance being born in Hungary in 1930, where he lived through the Nazi occupation of 1944 to1945, which resulted in over 500 000 Hungarian Jews being murdered. Soros' own Jewish family survived by securing false identity papers, concealing their backgrounds and helping others do the same. He says not only did they survive, but they managed to help others and instead of submitting to their fate, they resisted an evil force much stronger than they were and prevailed. As the Communists consolidated power in Hungary after the war, Soros left Budapest in 1947 for London, working part-time as a railway porter and as a night-club waiter to support his studies at the London School of Economics. In 1956, he emigrated to the United States of America (USA), entering the world of finance and investments where he made his fortune. He launched his own hedge fund in 1973 and went on to become one of the most successful investors in the USA, using his fortune to create the Open Society Foundations. The fund reflects the philosophy of Karl Popper shared in his book Open Society and Its Enemies, that no ideology is the final arbiter of truth and that societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression and respect for individual rights. Soros began his philanthropy in 1979 giving scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid. In the 1980s, he helped promote the open exchange of ideas in Communist Hungary by funding academic visits to the West and supporting fledgling independent cultural groups as well as other initiatives. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he created the Central European University to foster critical thinking, which at that time was an alien concept for most universities in the former Communist bloc. Soros gradually expanded his philanthropy to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the USA, supporting a wide range of new efforts to create more accountable, transparent and democratic societies. He was one of the early prominent voices to criticise the war on drugs as arguably more harmful than the drug problem itself and helped start America’s medical marijuana movement and in the early 2000s, he became a vocal backer of same-sex marriage efforts. His giving has reached beyond his own the Open Society Foundations, supporting independent organisations and now in his 80s, Soros continues to take an active personal interest in the network, traveling widely to support the work and advocating for positive policy changes with world leaders. Throughout his philanthropic career, one thing has remained constant which is a commitment to fighting the world’s most hard to deal with problems. Soros has been known to emphasise the importance of tackling losing causes and many of the issues he has taken on are the types of problems for which a complete solution might never emerge. “My success in the financial markets has given me a greater degree of independence than most other people. That independence has allowed me to forge my own path toward a world that’s more open, more just and more equitable for all. I believe that in philanthropy one should do the right thing, whether or not it succeeds,” says Soros. VIDEO: Open Society Foundations

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