After combing through over one hundred inspiring grant applications received in the last quarter of 2021, Atlas Network has chosen several dozen projects to support in the new year. Of this latest batch of grantees, we’ve chosen ten we’re excited to watch in this article. Grouped into five categories based on topic and geographic region, these ten organizations promise to make the world a better place for countless everyday people across the globe.
Educational choice in the United States
In the United States, two organizations are stepping up their efforts to expand educational choice in their respective states. Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) and Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation have each initiated projects to capitalize on existing momentum around this issue. Coming out of the pandemic and its devastating effects on educational outcomes, GCO sees the expansion of educational choice as more important and more achievable than ever before. With that perspective in mind, their campaign will push for the implementation of a sweeping educational savings account program in Georgia. These programs are an effective way of providing parents the financial means to choose the best educational option for their children, restoring hope, dignity, and prosperity.
Coming off a successful campaign to limit the emergency powers of the Pennsylvania governor’s office, Commonwealth Foundation is launching a new effort to ensure that educational opportunities are not dictated by a child’s ZIP code. Building on sentiments many parents already possess, the organization will implement a campaign of education and advocacy to inform parents and community groups on how educational choice can be expanded in Pennsylvania. The ultimate goal of this project is to make educational choice expansion a key election issue and ensure that legislation on this issue is passed and signed by 2023.
Property rights in Africa
Property rights are an essential foundation in the effort to help people escape poverty. Unfortunately, many individuals, especially women, are not afforded these rights. Two Atlas Network partners in Africa, IMANI Centre for Policy and Education (Ghana) and Students’ Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (South Sudan), have begun campaigns to change that. IMANI’s project seeks to expand women’s access to land rights in Ghana. In a country where farming is the primary occupation, particularly in those regions most plagued by poverty, cultural systems keep many women from owning and using land. To give these women the tools they need to escape poverty and unjust social practices, IMANI will use public and targeted engagement to build grassroot and legislative support for ensuring women can obtain land deeds and titles for the plots that already belong to them.
In South Sudan, Students’ Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (SOLE) plans to conduct a similar initiative. Based on their previous land-rights campaigns, the organization has realized that effecting long-term change will require educating and training those individuals who hold positions of authority within key institutions. SOLE will conduct several trainings for country-level officials on women’s legal land rights and how stakeholders can utilize their positions to ensure those rights are recognized and protected.
Competition and energy costs in Central America
Overbearing bureaucracy and a lack of competition plague electricity sectors around the world, and Central America is no exception. Atlas Network partners Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO) (Mexico) and IDEAS Labs (Costa Rica) are working to reintroduce healthy competition to the energy market to help lower costs and improve reliability. IMCO will accomplish this by producing data and policy papers in support of competitive energy markets in Mexico.
Further south, IDEAS Labs seeks to eliminate regulatory obstacles that drive up energy prices for Costa Ricans. Their marketing campaign will leverage a variety of mediums to convey both hard data in support of and the human need for reform. Through regular publications, articles, and photo and video content, the organization will help both the public and lawmakers gain a greater appreciation for the need for regulatory reform.
Regulatory reform and housing in Ibero-America
Affordable housing is a key part of combating poverty, but overregulation and “affordable housing” policy often actually decreases access to that critical resource. Foro Regulación Inteligente (Spain) and Fundación P!ensa (Chile), two Atlas Network partners in Ibero-America, are working to change harmful policies in their respective countries and lower housing costs. Foro Regulación Inteligente is focused on the city of Malaga, where new building permits are often delayed 12–16 months—an unacceptable wait time in a city where housing costs have risen by 40% in the last five years due to a swiftly rising population. The organization has found that the local government is open to many free-market policies, but minds need to be changed on the issue of housing policy. To do that, Foro Regulación Inteligente will use publicity of the issue, whitepapers, and a policy paper to advance the issue throughout 2022, hopefully encouraging reform that slashes the wait time for building permits.
In Chile, Fundación P!ensa is working to improve the situation in the city of Valparaiso, which contains a significant proportion of the country’s poorest districts. Previous government attempts to provide better housing for the city’s poor have fallen short, so now Fundación P!ensa is promoting a more market-based approach by reforming policy to adjust opportunity costs and encourage the construction of affordable housing in poor areas. Relying on the market, rather than commanding it, will produce better, more effective outcomes for Chile’s poor.
Start-up Think Tanks in Europe
Atlas Network’s community of partners is growing! Two organizations in Eastern Europe are especially exciting. Liberal Alternative Institute (North Macedonia) and Free Russia Institute (Lithuania) are both promising groups dedicated to human freedom and flourishing. Liberal Alternative Institute’s team is especially focused on expanding their research and policy capacity, as they plan to publish a quarterly policy report on individual freedom and economic self-determination in North Macedonia. This growth in institutional capacity will also enable them to undertake additional initiatives in the coming year.
A project of Free Russia Forum, Free Russia Institute will serve as a gathering place for exiled Russians who wish to see a rebirth of human freedom in their home country. By enabling conversation between Western policy experts and native Russians who understand the reality on the ground, the organization hopes to speed the transformation of Russia into a free, democratic state.