In 1971, corporate lawyer and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell wrote a detailed memo that galvanized a small group of conservative philanthropists to create an organizational structure and fifty-year plan to alter the political landscape of the United States. Funded with significant “dark money,” the fruits of their labor are evident today in the current political context and sharp cultural divisions in society. Philanthropy, Hidden Strategy, and Collective Resistance examines the ideologies behind the philanthropic efforts in education from the 1970s until today. Authors examine specific strategies philanthropists have used to impact both educational policy and practice in the U.S. as well as the legal and policy context in which these initiatives have thrived. The book, aimed for a broad audience of educators, provides a depth of knowledge of philanthropic funding as well as specific strategies to incite collective resistance to the current context of hyperaccountability, privatization of schooling at all levels, and attempts to move the U.S. further away from a commitment to the collective good.
While think tanks are a global phenomenon, their role in shaping US policy offers an instructive example of think tank influence on policymaking due to the immensity of resources directed towards those ends, with education policy serving as a prime example. Focusing on a distinct set of ‘‘incentivist’’ education policies, this analysis describes the think tank-philanthropy linkage in US education policymaking. We offer examples of how philanthropists provide financial, empirical and political resources to advance think tanks’ policy ideas through advocacy networks; describe the multiple functions performed through advocacy networks of intermediary organisations, noting the diffusion of form and function around tasks such as knowledge production, political and media support; and we highlight the ways in which US venture philanthropists and think tanks connect around ‘‘idea orchestration’’ in order to advance ideas in policy processes. We suggest that, especially in the realm of incentivist policies, think tanks do not appear to produce or incubate but rather promote ideas, and actually often only a single idea. The concluding discussion considers advantages evident in idea orchestration and the implications of private control of public policymaking.