Atlas Network

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Atlas Network
Founder(s)Antony Fisher
Established1981; 39 years ago (1981)
Mission"To strengthen the worldwide freedom movement by cultivating a highly effective and expansive network that inspires and incentivizes all committed individuals and organizations to achieve lasting impact."[1]
ChairmanLinda Whetstone[2]
PresidentAlejandro Chafuen
BudgetRevenue: $10,815,000
Expenses: $12,585,000
(FYE December 2017)[3]
Formerly calledAtlas Economic Research Foundation

The Atlas Network, formerly known as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, is a nonprofit organization based in the United States. The group aims to promote free-market economic policies across the world.[5] The stated mission of the Atlas Network is "to strengthen the worldwide freedom movement by cultivating a highly effective and expansive network that inspires and incentivizes all committed individuals and organizations to achieve lasting impact."[1] The Atlas Network has awarded grants of over $20 million.[6] Atlas promotes think tanks that support private-property rights, limited government, the rule of law, and market economics.[7] The Atlas Network is not named after Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.[8]

According to journalist Lee Fang, writing for The Intercept, the libertarian Atlas Network has "reshaped political power in country after country," operating as an extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-affiliated think tanks receiving funding from the United States Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy. The organization's methods include providing grants for new think tanks, providing courses on political management and public relations, sponsorship of networking events around the world, and encouraging libertarians to influence public opinion through social media and online videos.[9]


Atlas was founded in 1981 by Sir Antony Fisher. After founding the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 1955, Fisher had helped to establish the Fraser Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Pacific Research Institute in the 1970s. Fisher conceived of Atlas as a means to connect various think tanks via a global network through which the organizations could learn best practices from one another and "pass the best research and policy ideas from one to the other, and so avoid the need to reinvent the wheel."[10] Atlas has been described as "self replicating, a think tank that creates think tanks."[11]

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, Atlas is ranked number 57 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[12]

The president of Atlas is Alejandro Chafuen.[13] Chafuen was named the group's president in 2009 after serving as CEO since 1991.[6]


As of 2005, Atlas had received $440,000 from ExxonMobil,[14] and has received at least $825,000 USD from the tobacco company Philip Morris.[15] Of Atlas Network partners, 57% in the United States had received funding from the tobacco industry.[15] Atlas has received funding from Koch family foundations.[9]

As of 2017, the Atlas Network had assets of $7,483,000.[3]


Training and networking[edit]

Atlas offers financial support to enable think tank executives to participate in conferences that feature training sessions on non-profit management.[7] The Atlas Experience is an annual international conference hosted by Atlas. Atlas runs an annual Liberty Forum which brings together think tank staff from around the world.[6]

Atlas directly operates two training programs, the Think Tank MBA and Think Tank Leadership Training. The Think Tank MBA is a two-week program held near Washington, DC designed for leaders of think tanks 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, and program management.[16]

Atlas runs or supports four Free Enterprise Training Centers that conduct training programs for young people focused on public policy and the role think tanks play in shaping it. 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 Free Enterprise Training Centers.[6]

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.[17] The project seeks to define principles of "sound money," countering the government policies Atlas considers to be inflationary.[18]


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.[19] In 2014 Atlas Network provided funding in the form of grants at USD 4,340,000 to 177 partners in 68 different countries.[15]

The organization has provided hundreds of grants to free-market think tanks in Latin America, including to groups that supported the Free Brazil Movement. Atlas provided funding to a think tank that merged with the political party formed by Mauricio Macri, a businessman who became the president of Argentina. Atlas has also supported the anti-government movement in Venezuela and the campaign of Sebastián Piñera, the president of Chile.[9]

Outreach programs[edit]

The Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace and Prosperity has a mission of advancing 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, organizing events, and other activities.[6]

Templeton Freedom Awards[edit]

Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton.[20] The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is supported by Templeton Religion Trust and was presented during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner closing ceremony Nov. 12, 2015, at New York City’s historic Capitale. The winning organization received a $100,000 prize and the five runners-up received $5,000.

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.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Our Mission". Atlas Network. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Board of Directors". Atlas Network. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2017" (PDF). Atlas Network. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Global Directory". Atlas Network. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Peck, Jamie (2010). Constructions of Neoliberal Reason. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0191625015.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ball, Stephen (2012). Global Education Inc: New Policy Networks and the Neo-liberal Imaginary. Routledge. p. 19–40. ISBN 978-0415684095.
  7. ^ a b "Fighting the war of ideas". Washington Times. June 6, 2004. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  8. ^ FAQS (2014-08-14). "Was Atlas Network named after the book Atlas Shrugged?". Atlas Network. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  9. ^ a b c Fang, Lee (August 9, 2017). "Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians Are Remaking Latin American Politics". The Intercept. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  10. ^ Steinmo, Sven (2007). Growing Apart?: America and Europe in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press. pp. 145–149. ISBN 978-1139468619.
  11. ^ Meagher, Richard (2008). Right Ideas: Discourse, Framing, and the Conservative Coalition. City University of New York. p. 94. ISBN 978-0549807100.
  12. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015. Other "Top Think Tank" rankings include #26 (of 80) in International Development, #8 (of 75) for Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks, #18 (of 65) for Best Managed Think Tanks, #2 (of 55) for Best Think Tank Conference, #8 (of 60) for Best Think Tank Network, #15 (of 60) for Best Use of Social Networks, #14 (of 60) of Think Tanks with the Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program, and #13 (of 40) for Best Use of the Internet.
  13. ^ "Programs and Operation Staff". Atlas Network. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  14. ^ "Put a Tiger In Your Think Tank". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
  15. ^ a b c Smith, Julia; Thompson, Sheryl; Lee, Kelley (2016-01-01). "The atlas network: a "strategic ally" of the tobacco industry". The International Journal of Health Planning and Management. 32 (4): 433–448. doi:10.1002/hpm.2351. ISSN 1099-1751. PMC 5716244. PMID 27125556.
  16. ^ Stone, Diane (2013). Knowledge Actors and Transnational Governance: The Private-Public Policy Nexus in the Global Agora. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 40. ISBN 978-1137022912.
  17. ^ "A Guide to Sound Money" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  18. ^ "U.S. Monetary and Economic Policy". C-SPAN Video Library. December 7, 2010.
  19. ^ Wyszomierski, Sara (2010). Guide to Funding for International & Foreign Programs. University of Michigan. p. 409.
  20. ^ "The Templeton Freedom Award | Research Funding". Retrieved 2020-01-28.

Further reading[edit]

  • Marie Laure Djelic: Building an architecture for political influence: Atlas and the transnational institutionalization of the neoliberal think tank. In: Christina Garsten, Adrienne Sörbom (eds.), Power, Policy and Profit. Corporate Engagement in Politics and Governance. Elgar, Cheltenham 2017, ISBN 978 1 78471 120 7

External links[edit]

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