Jonathan Peizer is an American information technologist and social entrepreneur.
Peizer earned an undergraduate degree in History at New York University with a minor in Computer Science. Prior to joining the Open Society Institute, Peizer was Systems Director for Cheyenne Software, and prior to that he held the same title at AFS International, a student exchange organization.
He is best known for his creation and direction of the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute’s global Internet initiatives as its CIO, which engaged in Eastern Europe’s transition from communism to liberal democracy and saw some of the earliest use of the Internet strategically for the promotion of human rights, civil society, and independent media globally with initiatives in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Peizer’s work bridges the intersection of emerging technology and political consciousness to try to harness the Internet for social change. Peizer founded and chairs Aspiration, a values-driven nonprofit technology organization whose mission is to connect nonprofit organizations, foundations and activists with software solutions and technology skills that help them better carry out their missions. Aspiration's Social Source Commons library of GNU software provides resources for non-governmental organizations. Peizer is also the creator of Capaciteria, a user-managed database of management resources assembled to empower non-profit initiatives.
Reviewer Martin Ince once wrote of Peizer, "Peizer is one of the few people ... doing something useful instead of criticizing what everyone else is doing." Social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellowship award winner Jim Fruchterman said in 2006 that "Jonathan Peizer has been one of the most influential thinkers in my evolution with Benetech."
Peizer authored the book The Dynamics of Technology for Social Change which among other things summarized work on over 250 Internet-related projects in over 40 countries for the Open Society Institute. He has also written two freely available manuals: 25 Tips for Evaluating (And Writing) Successful Technology Grant Proposals and 20 Tips Every Strategic Grant Seeker Should Know which is recommended by GuideStar and over a dozen articles on philanthropy, nonprofit capacity, open source and technology.
Peizer’s tenure at the Open Society Institute from 1993 to 2005 saw advances in informational and communication technologies as well as political upheaval, placing him, in the words of philanthropic journal Alliance magazine’s Oliver Denton, "in an almost unique position of being able to share the discoveries of an organization thriving during the Internet boom and attempting to harness this momentum for social change." Peizer observes that the Institute had "the unique opportunity and responsibility to change the world using new concepts in philanthropy and technology that were tested and deployed thanks to Soros' largess."
In 2006, Wired marked the fifth anniversary of the Institute's $25 million Manhattan-based Internet program with an interview with Peizer. He discussed new initiatives, and said of his boss, George Soros, "Soros doesn't always understand the details of the technology, but he has a great intuitive sense for what needs to happen. It's an ideal situation -- he provides the funding, then leaves it to me to make sure the projects get done."