About Our Audience
AIER’s Bastiat Society is geared for the business community—a highly leveraged, influential, and engaged audience. Apart from being active in the Society, our members and attendees are also involved in various local issues, civic groups, trade associations, and fraternal organizations. Some are major philanthropists.
The problem is—of all potential audiences for academic ideas—the business community is among the hardest to reach. They have companies to run, employees to take care of, and families who deserve their attention. The typical business person has limited spare time and is reluctant to take on additional commitments. Yet these people also have the most to lose if capitalism is undermined and economic freedom is replaced by central planning and more government intervention. But how can research institutes, foundations, and think-tanks get business people involved in a meaningful way—besides simply asking them for donations? This has been a problem facing the liberty-minded organizations for nearly 60 years.
A Different Kind of Program
It is extremely difficult to engage the business community using the traditional think-tank/program model. The business community is dispersed, while most think-tanks are located in Washington, D.C., London, or some other capital city. The average business person is simply not going to travel thousands of miles to attend a conference, book release, or public lecture. On the other hand, it is costly for institutions to take their events “on the road.” The Bastiat Society takes a different approach. We examined at how other successful business groups like the: Rotary Club, Stone Masons, Chamber of Commerce, and Exchange Club. These organizations flourish because they are bottom-up and rely on local stakeholders to execute their mission. We developed a similar, dispersed operating structure with this in mind. Our network of chapters allows academics, authors, and researchers to engage the business community without needing to plan remote meetings, find a local audience, or promote events in distant cities. Our chapters and their volunteers do that for them. All the speaker has to do is show up and present their ideas.
How AIER Helps Our Chapters
In some ways, the Bastiat Society program at AIER operates like a franchise. Our chapter directors run their chapters independently, designing their own programs, and raise most of their own funds. However, they benefit from the AIER’s Bastiat Society program branding, marketing efforts, media exposure, and research. They also have access to staff and a support system aimed at helping them start, operate, and grow their local chapters. Taking advantage of our website, research, a growing list of strategic partnerships, program grants, and our pre-designed AIER Speaker Series, new chapters are immediately plugged into an existing (and expansive) free market community. Chapter directors can quickly begin booking speakers, planning meetings, and attracting an audience. While our chapters concentrate on their local effort, AIER is constantly promoting the Bastiat Society program by representing the network at conferences and events around the world. Our staff finds for new speakers, makes new connections, and negotiates new opportunities for the entire network of chapters.
Will You Take the Lead?
The one thing we have learned from our steady growth—our concept works. Others said the business community was an impossible audience to organize and would never be interested in discussing academic ideas—but we continue to prove them wrong. In fact, because of the Bastiat Society program, more business people are gathering to discuss capitalism and classical liberal ideas than ever before. We enable thousands of business people to gather at over 130 gatherings each year. And we continue to grow! Our hope is that in the near future there will be a Bastiat Society Chapter in every city the world—expanding AIER mission, classical liberal values, and the morality of capitalism in a grassroots manner. We continue to make the ideas of liberty, free markets, and free people available to the everyday business person. If your city does not already have a Bastiat Society chapter, there is certainly a business community ready and waiting for someone to take the lead. Will you be the person to start a chapter and help your local business community connect with the ideas of liberty?