Roxana Nicula, president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty (Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad) in Madrid, speaks during an Atlas Leadership Academy session about her organization’s strategies to build a social movement of grassroots libertarians in Spain.
Spain has long had excellent think tanks that specialize in the economic aspects of freedom, and carry out the crucial work of producing high-level academic, theoretical papers. In 2015, though, a group of Spanish libertarians were concerned about the need to develop a more engaging approach toward civil society — a task that we believe is now more fundamental than ever. That year, we created the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty (Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad) in Madrid, harnessing the skills of people who had spent many years promoting the values of a free society through politics, think tanks, academia, and other fields.
Although the basic ideas that brought us to launch our foundation were developed within the unique policy environment and economic context of Spain, we believe that our conclusions apply to most other countries as well.
Our aim is to complement standard think tank output in two major ways. First, although we do engage in intellectual production, we don’t focus our efforts on publishing highly technical or theoretical research. Instead, we focus on translating such publications into layman's terms, to facilitate mass distribution and consumption. We have also reached an agreement to create a weekly broadcast on national radio, which started airing last month. It tackles important issues from a libertarian perspective, but in a basic language.
We are also keen to advance the non-economic aspects of freedom. To this end, the foundation has started its own book collection under a prestigious publishing seal (Unión Editorial), releasing materials about liberty that are easy-to-read. The foundation’s output includes explanations of world indices, moral and electoral freedom, bitcoin, juridical freedom, constitutional issues, and more.
Second, we also operate as an incubator of grassroots organizations. This line of action accounts for at least two thirds of the foundation’s activity. Spain’s NGO community is colonized primarily by left-wing collectivists — and, to a slightly lesser extent, by right wing collectivists. Few grassroots organizations further liberty-related causes. This has devastating effects on the dissemination of our ideas, and our response must be more than academic.
Technical papers need to be translated into adequate rhetorical ammunition that can subsequently be used in the daily battle of ideas — not by experts, but by thousands of pro-liberty activists. We do believe in the importance of changing things from above by lobbying for policy reform, but we sense a lack of action to complement this high-level action with the induction of change from below through activism for policy reform.
The Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty has already launched three fully functional grassroots associations: the Taxpayers’ Union, the Pension Reform Association, and the Platform for Educational Freedom. Several more are in pre-launch phases. The “Liberty Hub Spain,” our future business center for free-market and pro-liberty entities, is still a long-term ambition, but we are already able to offer legal and tax domicile to our incubated associations, as well as meeting and archive space, limited funding and juridical advice, brand and graphic design, cloud space, and limited technical startup assistance for their websites, customer relationship management, and marketing.
It is a Herculean task to compete with the myriad left-wing grassroots organizations that are active in civil society, but we are determined to push for our ideas to serve as the spine of a growing array of specialized organizations that are gathering members all around the country. Together, these entities are meant to produce a social substrate that channels our ideas. Their combined membership is also a precious database of potential allies that can be enlisted for other liberty-related causes.
We are determined to further develop our incubator of grassroots activism entities. As we do so, we will keep other Atlas Network partners posted, because we believe Spain may serve as a laboratory for this concept and that the results of this experiment will be of interest to classical liberal and libertarian institutions throughout the world.