Drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of the field of power, we examine the cross-national translation of organizational models and the strategic processes induced in recipient institutional contexts. By means of an in-depth historical case study, we demonstrate how elite strategists mobilized networks and symbolic capital to disrupt field relations and embed the US community foundation model of philanthropy in North East England. Our findings suggest that instead of simply copying alien field-level practices, strategic actors within the philanthropic field adapted and modified them to deliver fit-for-context change legitimated by support from the regional power elite. Our main contribution is to show how strategic elites drawn from different life-worlds build coalitions within the field of power to modify institutional infrastructures and embed innovative organizational models, simultaneously bolstering their legitimacy and symbolic capital. We hold that the field of power construct offers uniquely valuable insights into how strategic elites accomplish institutional change.
- Bourdieu, elites, field of power, institutional work, non-market strategy, symbolic capital