Global wisdom and the audacity of hope: Designing global networks in a world of complexity


Published: 21Aug2014

Author: Adler, Nancy J. 

Publication: Advances in Global Leadership


The 21st century confronts society with challenges that will determine the future of humanity and the planet. Such challenges defy traditional analysis. Paralyzed by the inadequacy of our standard logic, on which much of traditional scholarship relies, we search for meaningful and effective understandings that can guide us-understandings that seem inherently wise and just, and not simply empirically confirmable. Few of us question the need for wisdom, yet to date, academic scholarship has failed to address the role that it plays, and could play, in supporting international organizational processes capable of addressing the world's most demanding societal challenges.2 This chapter explores the nature of pragmatic wisdom-wisdom that incorporates both profound understanding and action. It uses the founding of an international development initiative, Uniterra, to highlight the need for and influence of wisdom in international organizational processes and outcomes. Uniterra's core structure and central process involve partnering-forming networks of nonhierarchical relationships. The chapter therefore investigates the wisdom needed to create and maintain global partnerships. Given the chapter's focus on pragmatic wisdom, it also explores the concepts of hope and courage, for without hope and courage, wisdom could never move beyond conceptualization to action. The writing style purposely differs from that of most scholarly articles. Beyond presenting a specific case, the writing offers readers the opportunity to experience wisdom via indigenous proverbs from a wide range of the world's more pragmatic wisdom traditions. So as not to interrupt readers' appreciation of the proverbs or reduce their impact or meaning merely to the underlying logical constructs, the chapter uses endnotes rather than more traditional text references.