Atlas Network’s annual Smart Bets program invites ten partner organizations to participate in a year-long program featuring access to unique networking, grant, and institutional development opportunities. In addition, partners have the chance to win the Smart Bets Impact Award and its US$25,000 prize, which is presented to the organization that achieves the greatest progress toward a better world during the twelve months of the program. Lebanese Institute for Market Studies (LIMS) is the winner of the 2022 Smart Bets Impact Award for their Lebanon News and Opinion Website (or “Lebanon NOW”) project, which offers an alternative to state-controlled media outlets.
During the 2021 Investors Summit for Liberty, Kristelle Mardini—director of LIMS—pitched to donors her organization’s plan to counter the regime-influenced media narratives on the economy through Lebanon NOW. By publicizing hard data and market-based analysis, the website would show the people of Lebanon that poor governance is the root cause of the country’s economic woes—which include frequent rolling blackouts, food shortages, and massive inflation—and mobilize voters to push for a more market-based approach to the economy and more sound fiscal and monetary policies. Investors were excited by Mardini’s strategy and chose her pitch as the most compelling—winning LIMS the summit’s US$50,000 top prize to help put the project into action. Soon after, Mardini had the opportunity to present and improve her plan for Lebanon NOW at Antigua Forum, which Atlas Network had nominated LIMS to attend. This annual event, held by Universidad Francisco Marroquín, presents an environment where freedom-oriented organizations, including Atlas Network partners, are invited to workshop and focus-group a strategic project.
Less than a year later, Lebanon NOW is showing exciting results. On May 10, 2022, Lebanon NOW went live, offering coverage focused on Lebanon’s economy, including unique analysis, user-friendly data presentations, and exclusive stories censored by state media. The website has secured impressive Google search rankings on key topics, and data shows that visitors spend significant amounts of time perusing the data on offer. Lebanon NOW is also making a splash with mainstream media, including frequent quotes in the country’s most widely read newspaper and news website and the most watched television news channel. In just the first six months of operation, Lebanon NOW writers appeared in 42 TV interviews, 23 radio interviews, and 449 newspaper articles, offering free-market views on critical topics such as the recent discovery of gas deposits. The news website is making exciting progress toward its goal of becoming the go-to source for economic news and analysis in Lebanon. Thanks to the website’s integration with social media, LIMS’s reach has grown by leaps and bounds—both their Facebook and Instagram reach tripled. In addition, 160 journalists, 94 members of parliament, 19 ministers, and 220 community leaders receive daily economic analysis from Lebanon NOW.
With this already-successful launch, LIMS is planning the future of Lebanon NOW. To celebrate the website’s wins and boost its recognition and credibility among key stakeholders, the organization plans to hold a launch ceremony for the project in early December 2022. Throughout 2023, they will continue to build out features on the website to make it even more user-friendly, and they look forward to enhancing its integration with their social media platforms to boost their reach, particularly on Twitter and YouTube. By October, they plan to launch a section of the website dedicated to documenting the history of the free market and free-market ideas in Lebanon and offering users an accessible, interactive means of engaging with their country’s past as they look forward to a better future. LIMS is excited to continue to enhance the reputation of Lebanon NOW as a source for accurate and engaging economic news for journalists, policymakers, and everyday people alike.