John Paul Rosenberg
September 5, 1935
|Patricia Fry, 1953-1960 (divorced)|
Ellen Erhard (June Bryde), 1960-1983 (divorced)
Werner Hans Erhard (born John Paul Rosenberg; September 5, 1935:7) is an American author and lecturer known for founding "est", which operated from 1971 to 1984.[a] He has written and lectured widely on critical thinking, transformational models and applications, integrity, performance, leadership and individual and organizational transformation.[b][c]
In 1977 Erhard, with the support of John Denver, Robert W. Fuller and others, founded The Hunger Project  (an NGO accredited by the United Nations) in which more than 4 million people have participated in establishing the end of hunger as "an idea whose time has come".
In 1991, Erhard retired from business and sold his then-existing intellectual property to a group of former employees who formed Landmark Education, renamed in 2013 "Landmark Worldwide", with which he consults occasionally. Erhard continues to lecture and present.[d]
John Paul Rosenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 5, 1935.:6 His father was a small-restaurant owner who left Judaism for a Baptist mission before joining his wife in the Episcopal Church:6 where she taught Sunday School.:6 They agreed that their son should choose his religion for himself when he was old enough.:6 He chose to be baptized in the Episcopal Church, served there for eight years as an acolyte:6 and has been an Episcopalian ever since.
Rosenberg attended Norristown High School, Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the English award in his senior year.:25,29 He graduated in June 1953, along with his future wife Patricia Fry.:30 From the early mid-1950s until sometime in 1960, Rosenberg worked in various automobile dealerships (starting with a Ford dealership where he was trained by Lee Iacocca, and then Lincoln Mercury, and finally Chevrolet), with a stint out when he was given the opportunity to manage a nearly defunct medium-duty industrial equipment firm which became successful under his management.:42 Rosenberg married Patricia Fry on September 26, 1953,:40 and they had four children.[page needed] In 1960, he abandoned Patricia and their children in Philadelphia, traveled to Indianapolis with June Bryde,:57 and changed his name to "Werner Hans Erhard". He chose his new name from Esquire magazine articles he read about then West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard and the physicist Werner Heisenberg.:57-58 June Bryde changed her name to Ellen Virginia Erhard.:53
The renamed Erhards moved to St. Louis, where Erhard took a job as a car salesman.:54,55 His wife Patricia Rosenberg and their four children initially relied on welfare and help from family and friends. After five years without contact, Patricia Rosenberg divorced Erhard for desertion and remarried.:226 In October 1972, a year after creating the est training, Erhard contacted his first wife and family. He arranged to provide support and college educations for the children, as well as repaying Pat's parents for their financial support:335 Between 1973 and 1975, virtually every member of his extended family took the est training, and both his ex-wife Pat and his own younger siblings subsequently took jobs in the est organization:242,243
In 1961, Erhard began selling correspondence courses in the Midwest. He then moved to Spokane, Washington,:85 where he worked at Encyclopædia Britannica's "Great Books" program as an area training manager. In January 1962, Erhard began working at Parents Magazine Cultural Institute, a division of W.R. Grace & Co.:112 In the summer of 1962, he became territorial manager for California, Nevada, and Arizona, and moved to San Francisco; and in the spring of 1963 to Los Angeles.:82-106 In January 1964, Parents transferred him to Arlington, Virginia as the southeast division manager, but after a dispute with the company president he returned to his previous position as west coast division manager for Parents in San Francisco.:53:117-138 During the next few years, Erhard brought on as staff at Parents many people who would later become important in est, including Elaine Cronin, Gonneke Spits, and Laurel Scheaf.
During his time in St. Louis, Erhard read two books which were to have a marked effect on him: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937) and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960).:122 When a member of his staff at Parents Magazine introduced him to the ideas of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, both key figures in the human potential movement, his interests became more focused on personal fulfillment rather than sales success. After his move to Sausalito, he attended seminars by Alan Watts, a Western interpreter of Zen Buddhism, who introduced him to the distinction between mind and self; Erhard subsequently became close friends with Watts.:117-138 Erhard also studied in Japan with Zen r?shi Yamada Mumon. In Bartley's biography, Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, the Founding of est (1978), Bartley quotes Erhard as acknowledging Zen as an essential contribution that "created the space for" est.:146,147 Bartley details Erhard's connections with Zen beginning with his extensive studies with Alan Watts in the mid 1960s:118 and quotes Erhard as acknowledging:
Of all the disciplines that I studied, practiced, learned, Zen was the essential one. It was not so much an influence on me, rather it created space. It allowed those things that were there to be there. It gave some form to my experience. And it built up in me the critical mass from which was kindled the experience that produced est.:118
Erhard attended the Dale Carnegie public speaking course in 1967. He was sufficiently impressed with it to make his staff attend the course as well, and began to think about developing a course of his own. Over the following years, Erhard continued to investigate a wide range of movements, including Encounter, Transactional Analysis, Enlightenment Intensive, Subud and Scientology.
In 1970, Erhard became involved in Mind Dynamics:158 and began teaching his own version of Mind Dynamics classes in San Francisco and soon also Los Angeles.:136-137 The directors of Mind Dynamics eventually invited him into their partnership, but Erhard rejected the offer, saying he would rather develop his own seminar program - "est", the first program of which he conducted in October 1971.:178
Starting in 1971, Erhard's organization, "est", short for Erhard Seminars Training and also Latin for "it is," offered in-depth personal and professional development workshops, the initial program of which was called "The est Training." The purpose of the est Training was to transform the way one sees and makes sense of life so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up in the process of living itself. The point of the est training was to leave participants free to be, while increasing their level of effectiveness and the quality of their lives. The est Training was experiential and subjective in nature.
The workshops were offered until 1984, when the est training was replaced by the Forum. Through 1984 700,000 people completed the est Training. Professor Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D., American ethicist, philosopher, and historian, describes the est training as "the most important cultural event after the human potential movement itself seemed exhausted" and a form of "Socratic interrogation." Erhard challenged participants to be themselves and live in the present instead of playing a role that had been imposed on them by their past and aimed to press people beyond their own current points of view, into a perspective from which they could observe their own positionality. As the author Robert Hargrove said, "you're going to notice that things do begin to clear up, just in the process of life itself."
The first est course was held in San Francisco, California, in October 1971. While Erhard led all the early est courses himself, by the mid-1970s there were ten trainers trained by him (doctors, attorneys, and successful businessmen and -women).:384 Further est centers opened in Los Angeles, Aspen, Honolulu and New York, and many other cities, and est was enthusiastically endorsed by celebrities and people of influence such as leadership and business academic Warren Bennis, philosopher Walter Kaufmann, social activist Jerry Rubin, business magnate David Geffen, author and businesswoman Arianna Huffington, artist and peace activist Yoko Ono, singer-songwriter John Denver and actress Valerie Harper.:384
In the early 1970s, the est Foundation became the Werner Erhard Foundation with the aim of "providing financial and organizational support to individuals and groups engaged in charitable and educational pursuits - research, communication, education, and scholarly endeavors in the fields of individual and social transformation and human well-being." The foundation supported many projects that were launched by individuals expressing their commitment to altering what is possible for humanity, such as The Hunger Project, The Mastery Foundation, The Holiday Project, and the Youth at Risk Program, programs which continue to be vital and active today. The foundation also organized presentations by scholars and humanitarians such as the Dalai Lama and Buckminster Fuller and hosted an annual conference in theoretical physics, a science in which Erhard was especially interested. The annual conference was designed to give physicists working on the leading edge an opportunity to work with their colleagues on what they were developing before they actually published, and was attended by such physicists as Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Susskind. Physicist Leonard Susskind, who attended some of these conferences writes, "I met Hawking and Gerard 't Hooft in the attic of Werner Erhard's house in San Francisco. Erhard was a fan of Sidney Coleman. Dick Feynman, myself, and David Finkelstein were his gurus. He was very, very smart."
In the 1980s, Erhard created a new program called "the Forum," which began in January 1985. Also during that period Erhard developed and presented a series of seminars, broadcast via satellite, that included interviews with contemporary thinkers in science, economics, sports, and the arts on topics such as creativity, performance, and money. The interviews were designed not to present particular views, but to inquire into the commitments, visions and influences at the source of their work. People interviewed in this diverse series included Mike Wallace, Milton Friedman, Alice Cahana, Robert Reich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Senator Daniel Inouye.
In October 1987, Erhard hosted a televised broadcast with sports coaches John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Tim Gallwey and George Allen to discuss principles of coaching across all disciplines. They sought to identify distinctions found in coaching, regardless of the subject being coached. Jim Selman moderated the discussion and in 1989 he documented the outcome in an article called "Coaching and the Art of Management."
On February 1, 1991, some of the employees of Werner Erhard and Associates purchased its assets, licensed the right to use its intellectual property and assumed some of its liabilities, paying $3 million and committing to remitting up to $15 million over the following 18 years in licensing fees. Shortly afterwards, the new owners established Landmark Education.
Presentations that evolved from the "Forum" continue to take place todayLandmark Worldwide.in major cities in the US and worldwide as the "Landmark Forum" under the auspices of
Throughout his career, Erhard has lectured at universities and organizations around the world. The Harvard Business Review On Change states, "We are indebted to numerous philosophers, scholars, and thinkers who have inquired into the nature of being, especially Werner Erhard." In their publication the Harvard Review cited, "Transformation and Its Implications for Systems-Oriented Research," lecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Massachusetts, April 1977 and "The Nature of Transformation," Oxford University Union Society, Oxford, England, September 1981" and stated "Numerous writers have grappled with the relationship of past, present and future in the workplace, especially Werner Erhard," citing "Organizational Vision and Vitality: Forward from the Future," Academy of Management, San Francisco, California, August 1990. While Erhard did not attend university, he "breached the 'split' in American intellectual life between the ideology of the university and the ideology of the American marketplace."[page needed] "Erhard organized and led Harvard seminars and training sessions with Michael C. Jensen professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School who co-founded the Journal of Financial Economics and was the recipient of the 2009 Morgan Stanley-American Finance Association Award for Excellence in Financial Economics."
After retiring from Werner Erhard & Associates, Erhard continued to make public appearances. One of these was on CNN's Larry King Live in an episode titled, "Whatever Happened to Werner Erhard?" via satellite from Moscow, Russia on December 8, 1993 where Erhard was working with the All Union Knowledge Society, and some members of the newly formed Russian parliament. As of 2001 Erhard maintained a residence with Gonneke Spits in George Town, Cayman Islands. During this time he worked in the area of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and on some occasions with author Peter Block.
Currently Erhard devotes his time to scholarly research and writing and presentations of his ideas. He participated in an event on May 11, 2004 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University entitled "From Thought to Action: Growing Leaders in a Changing World." The event was in honor of a friend, Warren Bennis, who had taken the est Training and for some time consulted with Werner Erhard and Associates. In 2007, he presented a talk exploring the link between integrity, leadership, and increased performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Public Leadership, led a course on integrity at the 2007 MIT Sloan School of Management's SIP (Sloan Innovation Period), and spoke at the Harvard Law School program on Corporate Governance. In 2008, he took part in a presentation on integrity at DePaul University and co-led a course on leadership at the Simon School of Business. In 2009 he presented Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological Model at the Gruter Institute Squaw Valley Conference: Law, Behavior & the Brain.
Erhard, along with colleagues Michael C. Jensen and Steve Zaffron, authored the paper, "Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality." Quoting from The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Well-Being, "Erhard, Jensen, and Zaffron (2007) aimed to present a positive model of integrity that provides powerful access to increased performance for individuals, groups, and organizations." (Positive as used here is as it is used in the sciences - it does not mean integrity as something good or desirable, it means integrity as the way integrity actually works in the world.)
He presented his work on "Why We Do What We Do: A New Model Providing Actionable Access to the Source of Performance" at the Kennedy Center For Public Leadership at Harvard University in December 2009. Author Bartley J. Madden wrote about Werner Erhard, professor Michael C. Jensen, and colleagues' development of a new paradigm of individual, group, and organizational performance. He writes that their paradigm "emphasizes how one's worldview shapes and constrains each individual's perceptions. The paradigm takes one to the source of performance, which is not available by merely explaining performance through linear cause and effect analysis." He goes on to say that their work reveals that "the source of performance resides in how actions correlate naturally with the way circumstances occur" and that "language (including what is said and unsaid in conversations) plays a dominant role in how situations occur and so is instrumental in improving performance."
Madden points out that a cornerstone of their new paradigm of performance is its emphasis on integrity (keeping or when not keeping, then honoring [as they define honoring] one's word). Erhard, Jensen, et al. write, "Integrity is important to individuals, groups, organizations and society because it creates workability. Without integrity, the workability of any object, system, person, group or organization declines; and as workability declines, the opportunity for performance declines. Therefore integrity is a necessary condition for maximum performance. As an added benefit, honoring one's word is also an actionable pathway to being trusted by others."
A major part of Werner Erhard's current work is devoted to the creation and development of the course "Being A Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model" which he and his colleagues have led at numerous universities and is being taught by 34 professors in their own schools. The Financial Times management editor Andrew Hill writes that this leadership course contributes to the field of business education and furthers academic research. This course supports the participants in discovering the constraints on being and acting as a leader imposed by their worldview. These constraints impede their cognitive abilities that could otherwise be brought to bear on the circumstances calling for leadership with which they are confronted. Rather than simply learning about leadership, the course promises to leave participants being leaders and exercising leadership as their natural self-expression.
Erhard and his colleagues, Professor Michael C. Jensen and United States Air Force Academy fellow, Kari Granger, were asked to contribute to the 2012 Harvard University publication, The Handbook for Teaching Leadership: Knowing, Doing and Being, edited by the Dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria,HBS Senior Lecturer of Business Administration Scott Snook, and Dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana. In their introduction the editors write, "Erhard, Jensen and Granger anchor this collection by taking dead aim at the BE component. In a highly provocative chapter titled 'Creating Leaders', this eclectic group of scholars argues for adopting a decidedly ontological approach to leadership education...For these authors, integrity, authenticity, and being committed to something bigger than oneself form the base of 'the context for leadership', a context that once mastered, leaves one actually being a leader. It is not enough to know about or simply understand these foundational factors, but rather by following a rigorous, phenomenologically based methodology, students have the opportunity to create for themselves a context that leaves them actually being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression."
Erhard's ontological work has been a topic for discussion by academics. At the 2013 Philosophy of Communication Division National Communication Association Conference in Washington, D.C., two professors, Bruce Hyde and Drew Kopp, presented their paper "Connecting Philosophy and Communication; A Heideggerian Analysis of the Ontological Rhetoric of Werner Erhard", in which they state "We are not suggesting here that Heidegger's philosophical writings were the source of Erhard's ideas. We see both men as being at work in the same field, sharing a view toward language and its relationship to Being."
Erhard is the author of the final chapter in the book about Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek, Hayek: A Collaborative Biography, edited by Robert Leeson, Visiting Professor of Economics at Stanford University.
In 2014 the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) issued Erhard's and Michael C. Jensen's paper "Putting Integrity Into Finance: A Purely Positive Approach" in which they summarize their theory of integrity as a purely positive phenomenon (i.e. that integrity does not mean integrity as something good or desirable, rather it means integrity as the way integrity actually works in the world) and that "adding integrity as a positive phenomenon to the paradigm of financial economics provides actionable access (rather than mere explanation with no access) to the source of the behavior that has resulted in damaging effects on value and human welfare, thereby significantly reducing that behavior."
Erhard became the object of both popular fascination and criticism, with the media tending to vilify him over the span of several decades. Professor of Ethics Jonathan D. Moreno writes, "Allegations of all sorts of personal and financial wrongdoing were hurled at him, none of which were borne out and some of which were even publicly retracted by major media organizations." Various skeptics have questioned or criticized the validity of Erhard's work and his motivations. Psychiatrist Marc Galanter described Erhard as "a man with no formal experience in mental health, self help, or religious revivalism, but a background in retail sales."Michael E. Zimmerman, chair of the philosophy department at Tulane University, who wrote "A Philosophical Assessment of the est Training" described Erhard as "a kind of artist, a thinker, an inventor, who has big debts to others, borrowed from others, but then put the whole thing together in a way that no one else had ever done." Philosophy professor at Sacramento City College, Robert Todd Carroll referred to est as a "hodge-podge of philosophical bits and pieces culled from the carcasses of existential philosophy, motivational psychology." Social critic John Bassett MacCleary called Erhard "a former used-car salesman" and est "just another moneymaking scam." NYU psychology professor Paul Vitz noted that est "was primarily a business" and that its "style of operation has been labeled as fascist."
In 1991, Erhard "vanished amid reports of tax fraud (which proved false and won him $200,000 from the IRS) and allegations of incest (which were later recanted)." The March 3, 1991 60 Minutes broadcast of these allegations was later removed by CBS due to factual inaccuracies. On March 3, 1992, Erhard sued CBS, San Jose Mercury News reporter John Hubner and approximately twenty other defendants for libel, defamation, slander, and invasion of privacy, as well as conspiracy. On May 20, 1992, Erhard filed for dismissal of his own case and sent checks for $100 to each of the defendants, covering their filing fees in the case. Erhard told Larry King in an interview that he dropped the suit after receiving legal advice telling him that in order to win it, it would not be sufficient to prove that CBS knew the allegations were false, but that he would also need to prove that CBS acted with malice. Erhard stated to King that his family members (as reported in Time magazine) had since retracted their allegations, which according to Erhard had been made under pressure from the 60 Minutes producer.
Erhard's daughters retracted the allegations of sexual abuse they had made against their father. Celeste Erhard, one of the daughters featured in the CBS program, subsequently sued journalist John Hubner and the San Jose Mercury News seeking US$2 million. Celeste Erhard accused the newspaper of having "defrauded her and invaded her privacy". She asserted that she had exaggerated information, had been promised a book deal to be co-authored with Hubner for revenue of $2 million, and stated on the record that the articles and her appearance on CBS television's 60 Minutes were to get publicity for the book. Celeste claimed that the quotes in the article were obtained by deceitful measures. The case was dismissed in August 1993, the judge ruling that the statute of limitation had expired and that Celeste Erhard "had suffered no monetary damages or physical harm and that she failed to present legal evidence that Hubner had deliberately misled her," which is legally required for damages.
The video of the CBS 60 Minutes program was subsequently withdrawn from the market by CBS. A disclaimer said that "this segment has been deleted at the request of CBS News for legal or copyright reasons".
In 1992 a court entered a default judgment of $380,000 against Werner Erhard in absentia in a case alleging negligent injury.:262 The appellate court stated that Erhard had not been personally served and was not present at the trial.
In 1993, Erhard filed a wrongful disclosure lawsuit against the IRS, asserting that IRS agents had incorrectly and illegally revealed to the media details of information from his tax returns. In the first half of April 1991, IRS spokesmen were widely quoted, alleging that "Erhard owed millions of dollars in back taxes, that he was transferring assets out of the country, and that the agency was suing Erhard", branding Erhard a "tax cheat". On April 15, the IRS was reported to have placed a lien of $6.7 million on personal property belonging to Erhard. In his wrongful disclosure lawsuit against the IRS Erhard stated that he had never refused to pay taxes that were lawfully due, and in September 1996 he won the suit. The IRS settled the lawsuit with Erhard, paying him $200,000 in damages. While admitting that the media reports quoting the IRS on Erhard's tax liabilities had been false, the IRS took no action to have the media correct those statements.
A private investigator quoted in the Los Angeles Times stated that by October 1989, Scientology had collected five filing cabinets worth of materials about Erhard, many from ex-members of est who had joined Scientology, and that Scientology was clearly in the process of organizing a "media blitz" aimed at discrediting Erhard. According to Harry Rosenberg, Erhard's brother, "Werner made some very, very powerful enemies. They really got him."
In their 1992 book Perspectives on the New Age James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton noted that est used "authoritarian trainers who enforce numerous rules," require applause after participants "share" in front of the group, and de-emphasize reason in favor of "feeling and action." The authors also pointed out that graduates of est were "fiercely loyal," and recruited heavily, reducing marketing expenses to virtually zero.
A 2012 Financial Times article stated that Erhard's influence "extends far beyond the couple of million people who have done his courses; there is hardly a self-help book or a management training programme that does not borrow some of his principles." Fortune magazine's 40th Anniversary issue (5/15/95), in examining the major contributions to management thinking over the last two decades along with Peter Drucker's The Practice of Management and Michael Hammer and James Champy's Reengineering The Corporation, recognized Erhard's ideas about methods for empowering people as one of the major innovations in management thinking of the last two decades. Erhard and his programs have been cited as having a significant cultural impact on America in the 1970s. Erhard's teachings have influenced the field of professional coaching. The late Thomas Leonard, who founded or helped found Coach U, the International Coach Federation, Coachville, the International Association of Coaches and the Coaches Training Institute, was an employee of est. Sociologist and Professor Earl Babbie acknowledged the value that he got out of his work with Werner Erhard. As Babbie says "I want to thank Werner Erhard for all the value I've gotten from my association with him, especially as it was reflected in the writing of this book" (Society By Agreement, which at the time was a widely used introductory sociology textbook in the United States).
Paul Fireman (former CEO of Reebok),Peter Block, leadership expert Warren Bennis, and economist Michael C. Jensen, spoke positively of Erhard's impact on their own performance. David Logan, an associate professor of business at the University of Southern California said, "Werner's thinking - I don't know any nice way of saying it - is just out there in the world. You can't do a Master's Degree in organizational development or human resources without picking up some of it. And it's usually not credited back to him. His stuff is just out there." Over the years, Werner Erhard's philosophy has been cited in helping to promote a multibillion-dollar personal growth industry based on Erhard's original concepts. Social scientist Daniel Yankelovich said of the large scale study he conducted of participants of The Forum (a program that Erhard created): "Several of the study's findings surprised me quite a bit, especially the large number of participants for whom The Forum proved to be 'one of the most valued experiences of my life'. This is not a sentiment that people, especially successful, well-educated people, express lightly."
Many scholars have been influenced by Werner Erhard, such as the founder of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and former president of the Association of Cognitive Behavior Therapies Steven C. Hayes, researcher and author Bartley J. Madden, whose current focus is on market-based solutions to public policy, Jay Greenberg, Professor of Mathematics and author of Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometries, and Bernard Roth, Rodney H. Adams Professor in the School of Engineering and Academic Director and co-founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school) at Stanford University.
Professor Roth says about Erhard's influence on his work: "I learned a lot from Werner and his work. For me it put an intellectual framework around all the fragments ... I also benefited from coleading several workshops with Werner and his associates. Three years ago I participated in a leadership workshop colead by Werner, Michael C. Jensen, and Kari Granger. It had been twenty-two years since I last worked with Werner. This experience brought a renewed realization as to how deeply his style and content have influenced my teaching."
In 1977, Erhard along with the support of John Denver, Robert W. Fuller (former Oberlin College president), and others, founded The Hunger Project, a non-profit, NGO accredited to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in which more than 4 million people have participated. Erhard authored the Hunger Project Source Document, subtitled, "The End of Starvation: Creating an Idea Whose Time Has Come." The document called for people to examine and transcend their own unconscious beliefs about the problem of persistent hunger and take personal responsibility for the context in which hunger seemed inevitable. Erhard wrote, "What we're attempting to do is to get at the truth about hunger and starvation on our planet. And when you get to the truth of it, when you work your way to the source of it, you see that hunger and starvation on this planet are a function of the forces in which we live on this planet. Victor Hugo said, essentially, that all the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come. If, in fact, the time were to come for the end of hunger and starvation on this planet, hunger and starvation on this planet would end. When the time for things comes, they happen by whatever means are available." The foundational purpose of the Hunger Project was for people to create the context that the time for ending hunger on the planet had come. It called for individuals to "take a stand for the end of hunger and begin to integrate the end of hunger into the very fabric of daily life actions that would help transform hunger and end it."
Catherine Parrish, former CEO of the Hunger Project US, writes, "as a project, as an organization, the Hunger Project never intended to take all the actions that would be necessary to end the persistence of hunger. What the Hunger Project intended to do was to catalyze the global grass-roots committed movement and action that would put all of that in place. You see, it's a project of great faith in human beings. Great faith that if hundreds and thousands and millions of individuals took a stand for the end of the persistence of hunger as an idea whose time has come, that they would then find an action that was appropriate to them...The Hunger Project enrolled over four million individuals who signed a paper saying 'I have taken a stand. I will make the end of hunger an idea whose time has come as my personal responsibility.' So millions took it and went with it, and there were many many skeptics, and understandably so. People had been working on this problem from a context of "It can't be done" for centuries and doing really good work and really well-educated work. So I think it sounded brass and naïve, whereas it was actually deeply, deeply thoughtful and faithful."
Father Basil Pennington said "Erhard's program, The Hunger Project, was the first major project I encountered that worked not just to satisfy the immediate needs of the hungry but to raise consciousness to produce the political will for long-range permanent solutions." Lynne Twist writes, "The Hunger Project, by systematically challenging false assumptions about chronic hunger and food aid, exposed the myth of scarcity and opened new avenues of inquiry and possibility, eventually succeeding in making a significant contribution to the eradication of hunger by empowering people to author their own recovery. In every situation, from individuals to large populations of people, uncovering the lie and the myths of scarcity has been the first and most powerful step in the transformation from helplessness and resignation to possibility and self-reliance."
The Hunger Project's unconventional approach to solving the problem of hunger through changing the social conversation about the root causes of hunger led to skepticism and critical reactions. A six-month investigation by the Center For Investigative Reporting of Oakland, California and Mother Jones Magazine found that very little of the money collected for The Hunger Project was used for the purchase and distribution of food and alleged in a report on the investigation published in the magazine in December 1978 that Erhard was "using the Hunger Project not only for self-aggrandizement but for promoting the for-profit corporation he founded, as well." A follow-up article in Mother Jones in 2009 by Suzanne Gordon (author of the 1978 piece) reasserted the criticism that The Hunger Project had failed to do anything significant to alleviate world hunger while at the same time providing the disclaimer that "Twelve years after it was supposed to become obsolete, the Hunger Project now has only one former Erhard associate on its board and notes it has 'no ties to Mr. Erhard or his interests.' "
However, despite the criticisms, the Hunger Project has achieved results in alleviating starvation throughout the world. In 2010, James E. Parco of the U.S. Armed Forces in his book Attitudes Aren't Free writes, "On a very large scale, the Hunger Project has seen remarkably positive results with a long period of success in Africa, South Asia and Latin America according to a model which can be duplicated in nation building and peace-keeping environments. The Hunger Project uses proven strategies to bring villages out of poverty and hunger and make them self-sufficient - typically within five years. Core to the Hunger Project's philosophy is empowerment of women and girls in order to achieve lasting change." 
In 1991 the group that later formed Landmark Education purchased the intellectual property of Werner Erhard. In 1998, Time magazine published an article about Landmark Education and its historical connection to Werner Erhard. The article stated that: "In 1991, before he left the U.S., Erhard sold the 'technology' behind his seminars to his employees, who formed a new company called the Landmark Education Corp., with Erhard's brother Harry Rosenberg at the helm." Landmark Education states that its programs have as their basis ideas originally developed by Erhard, but that Erhard has no financial interest, ownership, or management role in Landmark Education. In Stephanie Ney v. Landmark Education Corporation (1994), the courts determined Landmark Education Corporation did not have successor-liability to Werner Erhard & Associates, the corporation whose assets Landmark Education purchased.
According to Pressman in "Outrageous Betrayal": Landmark Education further agreed to pay Erhard a long-term licensing fee for the material used in the Forum and other courses. Erhard stood to earn up to $15 million over the next 18 years.":253-255 However, Arthur Schreiber's declaration of May 3, 2005 states: "Landmark Education has never paid Erhard under the license agreements (he assigned his rights to others)." 
In 2001, New York Magazine reported that Landmark Education's CEO Harry Rosenberg said that the company had bought outright Erhard's license and his rights to the business in Japan and Mexico. From time to time Erhard consults with Landmark Education.
The Barbados Group represents a "self-selected group of scholars, consultants and practitioners" which aims to build an ontological paradigm of performance in organizations. The group and its main publication-vehicle SSRN both have at their head Michael C. Jensen, Emeritus Professor at the Harvard Business School. Werner Erhard's Barbados Group publications can be found at SSRN. Some members of the Barbados Group are affiliated with Landmark Education.
In 2006 Erhard appeared in the documentary Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard. Robyn Symon and Walter Maksym (who had earlier served as Erhard's attorney in the lawsuit against CBS) co-produced the film.
Werner Erhard featured in the 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the video discusses the est Training in detail, and includes interviews with est graduates John Denver and Jerry Rubin.
These companies were Erhard Seminars Training Inc. (1971-1975); est, an educational corporation (1975-1981), and Werner Erhard and Associates (1981-1991).
The course is co-taught with Alan Scherr, a consultant based in Rhinebeck, N.Y., Steve Zaffron of the Vanto Group and Werner Erhard, the creator of innovative ideas and models of individual, organizational and social transformation and recipient of the 1988 Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award.