Atlas Economic Research Foundation

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Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Atlas Economic Research Foundation (logo).png
Mission To support individuals and groups who want to create local think tanks in various countries.
Budget Revenue: $8,651,314
Expenses: $8,153,489
(FYE December 2012)[1]
Location Washington, D.C., United States

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation, also known as the Atlas Network, is a nonprofit organization based in the United States which organizes and convenes workshops, offers training, runs prize programs, and provides advisory services to support and expand more than 400 free market think tanks in 84 countries.

The organization was founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher. After founding the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 1955, Fisher had helped in the establishment of the Fraser Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Pacific Research Institute in the 1970s. Fisher conceived of Atlas as a means of institutionalizing his work and therefore replicate the "independent think tank" model all over the world.

According to the 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Atlas is number 25 in the "Top Thirty International Development Think Tanks".[2]


Since its formation in 1981, Atlas has provided over $20 million in grants to think tanks that have passed its screening process. Atlas aims to increase that amount tenfold in the next decade. In 2009, Atlas provided $2,733,021 in grants to its network of think tanks.[3] While the large conservative foundations take the approach of making large sustained and often untied grants, Atlas believes less is more, providing new think tanks with only small grants of $5,000 or less. Atlas's goal is to wean their think tanks and projects they support off of the modest annual funding within five years, making exception only for specific innovative projects.

In its 2003 review of activities, "Investor Report", Atlas said that it worked with "70 new think-tank entrepreneurs from 37 foreign countries and several states of the U.S.", including Lithuania, Greece, Mongolia, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil and Argentina.[4]


Named after the Greek god condemned to bear the heavens on his shoulders, Atlas identifies, screens and offers initial support to individuals and groups who want to create local think tanks in various countries. "Our ideal 'intellectual entrepreneur'", says Atlas, is "someone who communicates effectively with businessmen, academicians and the general public". By facilitating the establishment of local think tanks, Atlas increases both the reach and local credibility of their "free market" message, thereby having "the most cost-effective impact".


Training and networking[edit]

Atlas often gives support to enable think tank leaders to participate in conferences that feature training sessions on non-profit management and provide opportunities to network and learn from peers at other market-oriented institutes. The conferences and workshops are organized by Atlas itself, like the annual Liberty Forum meeting, or by think tanks in the Atlas network. The Atlas Experience is an annual international conference hosted by Atlas to bring together people from around the world who support Atlas' ideas, featuring speakers like John Mackey, the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, at the 2011 conference held in Dallas, TX.[5] The Liberty Forum is Atlas' annual conference that brings together its global network of think tanks and policy makers for strategy and training regarding the programs in their respective countries.[6]

Events feature prominent intellectual and policy leaders, such as economist Milton Friedman, Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar, political scientist Charles Murray, economist Walter Williams, journalist George Will, and former president of El Salvador Francisco Flores.

Atlas also directly operates two training programs, The Think Tank MBA (TTTMBA) and Think Tank Leadership Training. The Think Tank MBA is a two-week program held near Washington, DC designed for leaders of think thanks and other public organizations. Over the course of the program students develop and refine a strategic plan for their organization or program. The course includes seminars, classroom exercises, a day-long group project, and lectures from outside speakers and Atlas staff. Think Tank Leadership Training is a three-day program for individuals starting policy organizations and other intellectual entrepreneurs. The training focuses on fundraising, marketing, program management but includes other topics as well. The program includes a half-day discourse on liberty based on pre-assigned readings.[7]

Atlas co-operates with Free Enterprise Training Centers (FETCs) in order to identify and train future think tank and public policy leaders in their home countries. FETCs also train young people, hold essay contests, and offer internships. Atlas has partnered with the F.A. Hayek Foundation in Slovakia, the Association for Liberal Thinking in Turkey, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, and Libertad y Desarrollo in Chile to establish four FETCs.[8]

The Atlas Energy Policy Initiative helps state and local think tanks counter environmental policies in their areas that limit energy production by regional companies.[9] The Online Education Initiative is an initiative to gather information on the online education practices and opportunities for youth in 80 countries.[10] Working with FreedomWorks and Representatives Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, Atlas Sound Money Project's A Guide to Sound Money was published in December 2010.[11] The project seeks to define principles of "sound money," countering the government policies Atlas considers to be inflationary.[12]


Atlas provides limited amounts of seed funding to new think tanks on a case-by-case basis. Grants are usually given for specific projects and range between $2,000 and $5,000.[13] Organizations considered particularly promising may receive benefits from the Fisher Venture Grants. Grants awarded under this program are paid out over a three-year period and require the raising of matching funds in order to encourage recipients to cultivate local donors.[14]

Outreach and discovery programs[edit]

The Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace and Prosperity is dedicated to promoting individual liberty, human rights, and limited government across linguistic and cultural barriers abroad. The program includes the publication and distribution of books, distributing articles through traditional media, promoting web content, encouraging the application of social media, organizing events, and numerous other activities.[15]


Templeton Freedom Awards[edit]

The Templeton Freedom Awards have been awarded by Atlas since 2004 using funding from the John Templeton Foundation. The awards honor free-market think tanks in various countries and are given in eight categories. Two winners are named annually in each category. Winners receive a prize of $10,000.[16]

Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Awards[edit]

This award has been given since 1990 in honor of Sir Antony Fisher, the late founder of Atlas. $10,000 is awarded annually to the think tank that produces the best book or other publication that improves public understanding of free society. The Fisher Awards Dinner is held in honor of the winner every April.[17]


The President of the organization is Alejandro Chafuen,[18] founder of the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research


All funding comes from foundations, individuals, and corporations. In 2009, foundations represented 74.8% of Atlas's contributions, with individuals and corporations accounting for 21% and 5%, respectively.

Atlas requires its protégé think tanks to be "independent", described by Atlas's president in 1999 as "independent of corporations, independent of governments, independent of political parties and even independent of universities".[19] Atlas stresses that think tanks should be independent, functioning much like corporations in a free economy, in order to be successful.

Atlas has gained financial support from the philanthropist and mutual fund pioneer, Sir John Templeton. The Templeton Foundation contributed $2 million to Atlas in 2003 to establish the Templeton Freedom Prizes for Excellence in Promoting Liberty. Within the program, prizes of $10, 000 for the winner and $5, 000 for the runner up have been given in categories such as "market-oriented poverty programs; ethics and values; social entrepreneurship and student outreach".


Some of the other organizations that Atlas has supported include:

Affiliated organizations include:


  1. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "GuideStar Summary". GuideStar. 
  2. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (January 20, 2012). "The Global Go To Think Tank Report, 2011". Retrieved June 10, 2014.  By "Special Achievement" Atlas' rating is #10 in Best Use of the Internet or Social Media to Engage the Public and #27 in Best External Relations/Public Engagement Programs.
  3. ^ Form 990
  4. ^ Atlas Investor Report
  5. ^ "The Atlas Experience". Atlas Network. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  6. ^ "2010 Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner". Economic Freedom Network Asia. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ Training & Networking, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  8. ^ Free Enterprise Training Centers, Atlas Economic Research Institute
  9. ^ "2011 Initiatives". Atlas Network. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Online Education Initiative". Atlas Network. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ "A Guide to Sound Money". Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Monetary and Economic Policy". C-SPAN Video Library. December 7, 2010. 
  13. ^ Awards & Grants, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  14. ^ Fisher Venture Grants, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  15. ^ Global Initiative, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  16. ^ Templeton Freedom Awards for Excellence in Promoting Liberty, Atlas Economic Research Foundation [1]
  17. ^ Awards, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  18. ^ "Programs and Operation Staff". Atlas Network. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  19. ^ Lehrer, Eli (April 19, 1999). "The Atlas Foundation Shoulders the World". Insight on the News. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°54′14″N 77°01′43″W / 38.9038°N 77.0285°W / 38.9038; -77.0285