Awale (Wally) Osman joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2020 as an equity associate working to expand the boundaries for inclusion at the Foundation. His collaborative approach to advancing equity clears complexity and pioneers new pathways for change. Osman listens and watches; explains and persuades. His brand of deepening equity builds consensus and motivates by doing.
Previously, Osman served as a Community Innovation Associate with the Bush Foundation in Saint Paul, Minn. In this role, he managed a portfolio of 16 grantees and more than $5.5 million in grants. He led Community Innovation (CI) teammates in equity initiatives that expanded proposal cultivation to include proactively coaching, sourcing, and funding strong proposals in LGBTQ+, aging, policing, housing, immigrant, refugee, and indigenous communities, in addition to other emergent issues. Osman also shared responsibility for designing, implementing, and evaluating CI’s three grant programs—Ecosystem Grants; Community Innovation Grants; and Bush Prize for Community Innovation—with an annual investment of $10 million over a 3-state region.
Osman’s numerous efforts in the public sector also include:
- Expanding leadership opportunities for indigenous youth. He supported undergraduate Native students by building links with local and national indigenous communities through ongoing education and awareness programs.
- Amplifying youth voice. He created the first Somali Debate Initiative in the United States for K–12 Somali youth to give voice to important discussions and cultivate leaders and facilitators of debates in multiple areas of their lives.
- Increasing postsecondary success. He created a variety of evidence-based retention initiatives to improve persistence and graduation rates among black males, Latinos, women, low-wealth individuals, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.
Osman earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, from Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minn. He is a 2019 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow. He is also a graduate of the Humphrey Institute Policy Fellowship and the Dr. Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy. Osman continues to receive multiple accolades including: NAACP McGee Youth in Action Award; Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul’s Emerging Legend Award; and the National TRIO Achiever Award.
When he is not working, Osman enjoys exercising, hiking, writing, reading, meditating, taking in live performances and art shows, trying to make Somali food as well as his Mom or Gram, and traveling as much as possible.