Program Officer, International Harm Reduction, Public Health

  • Posted on 3 June 2019

Job Description

The Open Society Public Health Program is seeking a full-time Program Officer with experience in programmatic work in Latin American and/or Eastern or Western Africa. Our preference is for this position to be based out of our New York office.

The successful candidate will assume responsibility for a grants portfolio that advances the health and human rights of people who use drugs. They will bring to the position a deep understanding of how criminalization, discrimination and social exclusion impact the health/mental health of marginalized populations of people who use drugs, and how ethnicity, race, class and gender (including gender non-conformity) contribute towards further advantage or disadvantage. They will have a vision for how grants to civil society organizations and movements can improve health outcomes for marginalized individuals and communities.

The Program Officer collaborates with other colleagues in PHP and across the Open Society Foundations to support organizations that work to increase community-based health services for people who use drugs, and that connect harm reduction programming to broader issues of mental health, community empowerment, economic development and access to justice. The work is international, with a current emphasis in Latin America and Eastern and Western Africa. The Program Officer will manage an existing body of grants with scope for further development.

The funding priorities include organizations and initiatives that:

  • Advocate for the development and implementation of community-based health services that do not require abstinence from drug use as a precondition for support
  • Improve health and rights protections for people who use drugs, including by improving access to quality health care, legal services and by protections against violence
  • Support connections between harm reduction and mental health
  • Move beyond a harm reduction approach focused primarily on prevention of blood-borne infections to encompass community empowerment, development and justice
  • Engage people who use drugs in the formation of policies and programs, and broaden the base of allies supportive of this work.

Typical duties and responsibilities include the following:


  • Manage and refine existing portfolios of grants to advance the health and human rights of people who use drugs in specific regions
  • Conduct grantee site visits and other monitoring activities, provide technical assistance and evaluate outcomes
  • Assess the health, capacity and effectiveness of potential grantees, solicit and review grant proposals, and develop new grants portfolios over time
  • Combine grant making with direct advocacy, convening, communications/narrative change work, and other tactics to maximize impact


  • Provide input into the development of International Harm Reduction Development’s strategic plan
  • Write strategy and position papers to provide direction on specific policy or capacity-building issues in the field
  • Develop, plan and organize program-related workshops, trainings and events
  • Recruit and supervise consultants and manage special projects
  • Participate in OSF task forces and working groups as requested
  • Build and establish strategic relationships with other philanthropic partners and NGOs
  • Stay abreast of developments in the field through research and attendance at conferences and/or meetings


  • Forecast and plan annual budgets
  • Execute budgets and manage financial reports to track spending and ensure compliance with internal accounting protocol

Candidate Profile

  • Seven to ten years of relevant field experience working on issues related to the health and/or human rights of people who use drugs, including experience with community-based health or social services
  • Demonstrated experience and understanding of the health impacts of criminalization, discrimination and exclusion on marginalized groups of people who use drugs
  • Knowledge of key organizations and arguments in fields of harm reduction and drug dependence treatment
  • Experience working with or in non-governmental organizations
  • Project management experience, with grant making experience preferred
  • Excellent written and oral English skills, with fluency in one additional language (Portuguese, Spanish, French) strongly preferred
  • Experience working in Latin America or Eastern/Western Africa, preferably on drugs-related issues
  • High level of emotional intelligence including the ability to grasp and work within a complex organizational environment, to show sensitivity and respect for people working in different roles, and to empathize with different points of view
  • Exceptional collaboration skills including the ability to identify opportunities from working with others and to innovate and increase impact based on synthesis of different topics and portfolios
  • Excellent strategic and analytical skills including the ability to combine external and internal inputs into a compelling strategy and theory of change
  • Ability to work in conditions of change and ambiguity, and to stretch oneself to adopt new skills for changing circumstances and challenges
  • Commitment to the Open Society Foundation’s values of diversity and inclusion
  • Willingness to undertake extensive travel

To apply, please submit a cover letter and CV, preferably as one document.

Competitive rates of pay apply.

We are strengthened by the diversity of our colleagues across the Open Society Foundations. We welcome applications from people of all cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, and are committed to providing reasonable adjustments so that colleagues with disabilities are able to fulfill the essential functions of the job.

About the Organization

The Open Society Public Health Program (PHP) is seeking a full-time Program Officer for International Harm Reduction Development (IHRD).

The Public Health Program advances a human rights approach to health, with an emphasis on social inclusion and reclaiming the public good in health. We work to make justice systems more responsive to health, to shift power dynamics in health-related decision-making, to challenge the health establishment to advance human rights, and to influence the funding environment for health and rights. The PHP is unique in explicitly focusing on the political nature of health, not seeing it solely or primarily as a technical or biomedical issue. The Public Health Program works to build open societies where all people enjoy health and human rights. We work to fight discrimination and abuse in health care and support communities that receive minimal or substandard care because of who they are—including Roma and other minorities, transgender and intersex people, people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, sex workers, people who use drugs, and migrants and refugees. We also seek to advance this inclusive vision by reclaiming health as a public good—so that health care is available to all, laws and policies governing health are transparent and democratically accountable, and medical innovation delivers solutions that are accessible to everyone, from affordable medicines to palliative care. More information about the work we support can be found here:

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