Saturday, August 03, 2013

Her greatest achievements are yet to come

Elise Boulding was a matriarch of at least three major social and academic movements in the 20th century--women's studies, peace studies, and future studies. Regrettably, she was only nominated (in 1990), but did not receive, a Nobel Peace Prize. That she and Gandhi didn't, but Henry Kissinger and Al Gore and Barack Obama did only denigrates the Nobel. Boulding was an astonishing peace and justice activist, scholar, and taught so many of us to image the world we want in order to make that world possible.

Indeed, as she showed us a great method of inventing the future we desire, I am reminded of the most wonderful eulogy, offered about Gandhi by Philip Noel-Baker immediately after he was assassinated: His greatest achievements are yet to come. So are Elise's, as her methods help us build unforeseen partnerships, bigger and stronger networks and coalitions, and produce strategic action plans based on the logic and imagination of her envisioning process. Ironically, many who engage in variations of Elise's work--even some of her fellow Quaker peace and justice activists--don't mention her and may not even know the foundational work she did.

Elise was first an activist and did not start her scholarly work until she was 50, then producing germinal work in her 21 books and more than 200 other publications--oh, and raised five children whilst also chairing the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, co-founding the International Peace Research Association, and many other activist involvements.

It was in the mid-1950s, raising young children, that Elise met Dutch futurologist Fred Polak and learned Dutch just to translate his book about inventing our future (Morrison, 2006, p. 180). She later named that project as the real start of her own scholarship, though it would be many years before she finished her own Ph.D. Interestingly, researcher and biographer Mary Lee Morrison interviewed Boulding and many others in her effort to fully understand the scope and implications of Boulding's work, and one of her participants said that Elise showed that life can be led in segments, not as a straightline path, and that intermediate goals that didn't necessarily line up with other meta-goals were doable with enough planning and commitment.

Planning and commitment are the two most salient outcomes of Boulding's envisioning process. All our work, as groups and as individuals, benefits from this sort of effort. If we engage in this, we can continue Elise's work; we can in fact help to assure that her greatest achievements are yet to come.

Morrison, M. (2006). The Life and Work of Elise Boulding: Honoring Women as Peacemakers. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work, 21(2), 169-183. doi:10.1177/0886109905285820

No comments: