How Foundations Aim to Inspire New Thinking About Capitalism

Visit Teen Vogue online and you’ll find headlines like “Best Spring Nails for 2022, According to Your Zodiac Sign” and “Kylie Jenner Opens Up About Her Postpartum Struggles.” The magazine covers politics, the environment, and immigration, too, usually with a progressive slant.

So when the Omidyar Network wanted to engage young people in its quest to revamp capitalism, it made a $ 60,000 grant to the Conde Nast publication. Teen Vogue ran a contest, inviting readers to share ideas for a “more inclusive and explicitly anti-racist future.” Three winners were awarded $ 5,000 apiece for developing such projects as Radical in Progress, a one-stop shop for social-justice study guides.

College textbooks, policy journals, documentary films, and podcasts – all are among the tools being deployed by Omidyar, Hewlett, and Ford as they try to persuade Americans to think anew about ways capitalism can become more just.

“How do we bring grassroots and diverse voices into these conversations?” asks Mike Kubzansky, Omidyar’s chief executive. “We think culture and media have a strong role to play.”

Omidyar has underwritten photo essays by the Thomson Reuters Foundation documenting the Covid-19 crisis, articles and podcasts branded as the Great Rebuild in Vox that explored “systemic inequities and endemic weaknesses in the economy,” and System Check, a podcast about repairing American democracy in the Nation magazine.

To change the way college students are taught economics, Ford, Hewlett, and Omidyar provided a total of CORE (Curriculum Open-Access Resources), a global group of researchers that has produced a free, online introductory textbook called the Economy.

The book challenges the assumptions of neoliberalism, which favors free markets, deregulation, and limited government spending.

“A radically transformed economics education can contribute to a more just, sustainable, and democratic world,” CORE says. The organization estimates that more than 125,000 students a year at 335 universities around the world are using its educational materials. Grants to CORE from Ford, Hewlett and Omidyar amount to about $ 700,000.

Hewlett has spread its funding for media across the political spectrum, making grants to publications on the left and right so that its dollars help advance a range of views. It supports the left-leaning American Prospect, where New York Times columnists Michelle Goldberg and Jamelle Bouie once worked as staff writers, and the right-leaning American Conservative, where Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson sits on the advisory board. The Boston Review and American Affairs, which transcend ideological boundaries, are also backed by Hewlett.

Jennifer Harris, who led Hewlett’s Economy and Society work before leaving to join the Biden White House, says: “It’s not our job to come up with the final form of a successor to neoliberalism. It’s our job to seed the debates, ideas, and iterative thinking that can get us there. ”


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