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The Case for Decentralized Optimism

Thursday December 2020


Brian Hooks Co-author, Believe in People: Bottom Up Solutions for a Top Down World
Reihan Salam President @reihan

It has been a trying year. Americans are weathering a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a social recession, while political divisions have hurt our sense of common purpose. All the while, schools, offices, parks, restaurants, and other gathering places—shuttered for months—are in varying stages of limited operation, making it harder to take comfort in the familiar rhythms of our daily lives. The events of 2020 have led many to believe that our problems may be intractable.

But author and nonprofit veteran Brian Hooks makes a compelling case against this despair, in a new book with philanthropist Charles Koch: Believe in People: Bottom Up Solutions for a Top Down World. Hooks argues that while solutions imposed from above cannot fix our biggest problems, citizens empowered to draw on their wellspring of skills, experiences, and insights can solve them. Relying on his experience in the philanthropic world, Hooks rejects the fashionable pessimism of the moment and argues that the way forward will be led by communities, civil society, and—most importantly—ordinary people.

Brian Hooks is president of the Charles Koch Foundation and chairman and CEO of Stand Together, a philanthropic community that works with more than 700 business leaders and philanthropists on poverty and public policy issues. Previously, Brian served as executive director and COO of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he led strategy and operations. Brian is a graduate of the University of Michigan and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife and daughter.