What the (Georgist) World Needs Now

by Alanna Hartzok

Thirty-four years ago I walked through the doorway of the Henry George School of Northern California and was greeted by its then executive director, Wendell Fitzgerald. I soon caught the Georgist bug, and I have had it ever since. It is said that when you come across a worthy cause when you are young you think you will sprint to accomplish its goals. At middle age it seems more like an endurance race. Upon reaching the elder years one realizes that the cause is a relay race. Deeply rooted socio-economic change moves ever so slowly. I do confess however to retaining some of that eternally-springing youthful hope that the quantum leap will happen in my lifetime.

Could the multiple breakdowns and challenges society now faces be the evolutionary drivers that will launch the Georgist paradigm to the front and center of the zeitgeist? That would make our job easy! In the meantime, though, it seems to be time for some of us elders to begin mentoring, encouraging, and empowering a younger generation of Georgist educators and activists.

Lo and behold, there now exists, spanning several continents, a cadre of inspired, bright and talented twenty-somethings, many of whom would love to make a career in the Georgist movement. Therein lies our dilemma and our challenge. The times are crying out for our practical wisdom.

Sadly, the Georgist movement and the various organizations and institutions that comprise it fall short of what is required to enable us to strongly move forward.

I want to share with you what I have learned from observing the work of two effective economic justice organizations.

From 2003 to 2008, along with Dr. Polly Cleveland, I served on the board of United for a Fair Economy. Based in Boston and founded by Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel in 1995, UFE describes itself as “raising awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupts democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart… supporting and helping build for greater equality.” UFE has thirteen full-time staff members. It offers internships in eight categories. The staff and interns work in teams in these areas: workshop educators and trainers, tax justice, research, publishing, media and publicity, and membership cultivation and activation.

The UFE’s full-time Development Director plays a vital role — as is true for most non-profit organizations that make an impact on the world. A nonprofit’s Development Director develops potential funding sources, by taking responsibility for the grant-writing process, developing relationships with donors and pursuing other possibilities for obtaining steady funding.

In London recently, David Triggs and I met with Stewart Wallace, the Executive Director of the New Economics Foundation, and Aniol Esteban, head of their Environmental Economics division. NEF was formed in 1986 by James Robertson, Alison Pritchard, and other leaders of The Other Economic Summit (TOES). Many of the NEF staff of fifty-six people work out of beehive-busy offices located near the British Parliament. They are working for a “new model of wealth creation, based on equality, diversity and economic stability.”

NEF’s 2010-11 annual operating budget, the most recent one posted on their website, was £2,505,069, or nearly four million dollars. Could they have achieved this level of prominence and impact without a Development Director?

Compared to our endowed Georgist organizations, UFE and NEF are both youngsters. Their goals for a fair society are similar in several ways to those of our Georgist movement. Both are greatly concerned about the wealth divide and focus on ways to build an economic system that works for everyone. But there are some serious differences. They both have a significant number of paid staff positions, and substantial annual operating budgets. Most important, they both have Development Directors and Publicists.

How have UFE and NEF managed to raise sufficient funds to hire a substantial number of full-time paid staff? They made fundraising a priority by employing Development Directors, who concentrate on grant-writing and other fundraising opportunities. The Executive Director works closely with the Development Director to guide her/his efforts in researching potential funding opportunities for specific projects.

To my knowledge no Georgist organization has ever had a full-time Development Director. They have instead relied on volunteer labor and on the income from their original endowments.

The Georgist movement also needs at least one (and preferably many) fulltime Publicists. Our constantly-churning information age requires strategic critical thinking for effective public relations. A Publicist’s role is to create a solid publicity program via news releases, social media, advocacy campaigns, well-designed material for e-newsletters, announcements and viral messaging.

While there are a number of Georgists who engage in such activities, there is no one doing this job as their main work for the Georgist movement. Our Publicist would also research potential venues, and promote Georgist speakers to a wide range of business, civic, government and academic institutions. There are many excellent, underutilized Georgist speakers. I often think of them (us) as highly trained racehorses that rarely get let out of our stalls (computer screens). Few of us relish promoting ourselves — and it takes time and effort to research and follow-up on leads. We need to hire professionals for this job — and if those professionals are young Georgists, so much the better!

It is my strong opinion and recommendation, based on more than thirty years engaged in the Georgist movement, that there is no better or more urgent requirement for our future and our success than to hire competent Development Directors and Publicists. One of each to start with would be nice. Both positions would likely begin to pay for themselves within a few years. Successful non-profits do this. Why not Georgist ones?

When I recently asked Wendell Fitzgerald what the Georgist movement needs most he said simply: “more girls.” Let’s keep that concern in mind. Meanwhile I am sure that somewhere in this big wide world there are some terrific people who could do a great job as Development Directors and Publicists for the organizations comprising the Georgist movement.

Author’s note: The International Union for Land Value Taxation has recently employed “twenty-something” Jacob Shwartz-Lucas to work one day a week in a Development Director role along with me in my capacity as the IU’s part-time General Secretary. Baby steps — but this is how the proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins.

 

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