My research into social change is rooted in the understanding that change is hard because of the effects of interlocking institutions which hold things in place. When the covid-19 pandemic hit the world, rapid change occurred overnight. With travel restrictions, massive shifts to work-from-home and lockdowns, I thought – here is a chance to stop and reset. In line with the old saw (perhaps by Saul Alinksy): Never let a good crisis go to waste.
Maybe we’ll learn we don’t have to travel everywhere. Maybe we’ll learn we don’t need recreational shopping and an endless stream of new clothing when sweatpants and jammies will do. Will we see the positives of slowing down, cooking for ourselves, giving up the relentless fight with traffic? Will we discover that we need less when we do so? Will our isolation drive a new thirst for meaning and relational connection? Can we reimagine our future in more sustainable and fulfilling ways?
I’m an avid sci fi/fantasy fiction reader (ok, listener) because I love to be challenged to think about different ways of living and organizing. There are some wonderful utopian and horrific dystopian ideas explored in fictional environments that serve as sources of hope and warning for us. Can we push the limits of policy decisions in fictional scenario planning? By unfettering our minds through utopian imagining, can we intentionally choose a new path rather than fall back into our old ways? What do I know and what can I do to help us move in that direction? I’m excited about the Utopia Project: Imagining Transformations because it will provide an opportunity for people to reimagine our futures together. And because we academics can influence our students and can influence practice and policy, and because society gives us the time and space to imagine, I have hope that an imaginative community can help to bring about the many distributed transformations that will be needed to enable us to live more sustainable lives.