BISR 2020 Year in Review and Year-End Appeal

Dear Friends of the Brooklyn Institute,

2020 has been a year of hardship. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the ongoing epidemic of police violence, economic turmoil, and political instability, this year has brought the structural inequalities of the world into sharp relief. But each of these interlinking crises has also generated a response that underscores the power of everyday people to mobilize on behalf of a better world. We have been heartened to see so many individuals turning to BISR courses, whether to stave off a sense of isolation, return to an old intellectual interest, or help navigate the present political moment.

Without the support that so many of you graciously extended at the beginning of the pandemic, it is far from certain we would be writing to you now. We cannot thank you enough for this. As we look back on 2020 and forward to a new set of challenges and opportunities, we ask you to consider supporting BISR again or anew by making an end-of-the-year contribution or by becoming a BISR member. Tuition fees only cover about 70% of our annual operating budget, with the remainder coming from our community of supporters. Your gift or membership enables us to, in no particular order: pay our programming and administrative staff a living wage; provide scholarships to over 10% of our students; subsidize course fees for K-12 teachers through our Educator Access program; produce the Podcast for Social Research and organize dozens of free public events each year; and support the scholarly work of our growing faculty amidst a time of crisis and contraction within the traditional world of higher education.

Even with the hurdles presented by the sudden shift to online learning, BISR was able to offer more programs in 2020 than ever—thanks to the generous support of our community. Highlights include:

  • 130 courses, many of them new, serving approximately 2700 students from all walks of life and corners of the globe;
  • New BISR branches based in Europe and the West Coast, now offering multiple courses, each tailored to their respective time zones. 
  • 3 publics teach-ins on topics of critical contemporary importance: Capital, Finance, and the Climate Crisis; From Racial Capitalism to Prison Abolitionism, and Empire in Crisis. Featuring readings and discussions led by our faculty, these programs drew thousands of participants and created a valuable collection of resources for those interested in pursuing meaningful change around issues of climate, abolition, and imperialism;
  • Over a dozen public events, including several faculty conversations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, film screenings and live concerts as part of our Occasional Evenings program, and the newly-launched BISR Docent;
  • A number of tailored workshops and materials for activists and organizers working on issues related to climate change, income inequality, and U.S. foreign policy, among others;
  • Faculty writing in publications both big and small—from n+1 and The Baffler to Mother Jones and The New Republic—furthering our core commitment that critical, scholarly work belongs and begins principally in the public sphere

Looking ahead to 2021, we are excited to announce a number of new programs and initiatives, including BISR’s first foray into institutional publishing, the further expansion of our course offerings in the West Coast, Europe, and beyond, new additions to our faculty and curriculum, and 14 forthcoming books by our faculty, on topics ranging from decolonization to Islamic economics, American gun culture, and the history of pornography. And even as we very much look forward to a time when it is once again safe to convene courses in-person, BISR is committed to making online learning a permanent part of its programming going forward in order to better accommodate our increasingly global community. BISR has spent the last decade building a new home for critical education and research, as open and engaging as possible, as broadly as possible. Despite the tremendous hardships of 2020, we are further along in this project than ever before.

Your support helped sustain BISR through 2020, and we ask that you help bring us into 2021. There are many ways to support our work: Become a member, make a one-time donation, take a course, attend one of our public programs, become a Patreon subscriber to the Podcast for Social Research, tell your friends and colleagues about the Institute’s programs; reach out with your ideas to help make BISR even better. It is you—as students, readers, listeners, and friends—who make this work possible, and we are so grateful for your support.

All the best,


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