Duane Elgin

Motivation, Inspiration, Spiritual, Activist


Duane Elgin is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and social visionary who looks beneath the surface turbulence of our times to explore the deeper trends that are transforming our world. In 2006, Duane received the International Goi Peace Award in Japan in recognition of his contribution to a global “vision, consciousness, and lifestyle” that fosters a “more sustainable and spiritual culture.”

His books include: The Living Universe: Where Are We?  Who Are We? Where Are We Going? (2009); Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity’s Future (2000), Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (2010, 1993 and 1981), and Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness (1993). With Joseph Campbell and other scholars he co-authored the book Changing Images of Man (1982). In addition, Duane has contributed chapters to twenty-two books, and has published more than a hundred major articles and blog posts.

In the early 1970s, worked as a senior staff member of a joint Presidential-Congressional Commission on the American Future looking ahead from 1970 to 2000. He then worked as a senior social scientist with the think-tank SRI International where he coauthored numerous studies of the long-range future; for example, Anticipating Future National and Global Problems (for the President’s Science Advisor), Alternative Futures for Environmental Policy (for the Environmental Protection Agency), The Future of the Automobile (for the Ford Motor Co.), and Limits to the Management of Large, Complex Systems (for the President’s Science Advisor).

As a speaker, Duane has given more than 300 keynotes and workshops with audiences ranging from business executives and civic groups to churches and college students.

For the past three years, he has been the executive director of a project that has brought together more than a dozen “Great Transition Stories” that offer new cultural narratives for our collective imagination and that can serve help guide us toward a sustainable and meaningful future. He is now developing a growing number of collaborations with organizations in business, film and media, colleges and universities, and more.

He has an MBA from the Wharton Business School, an MA in economic history from the University of Pennsylvania, and an honorary Doctor of Philosophy for work in “ecological and spiritual transformation” from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA.

Over the past thirty years, Duane has co-founded three non-profit organizations working for media accountability, citizen empowerment, and a trans-partisan ‘community voice’ movement using the television airwaves legally owned by the public.

Duane is married to Coleen LeDrew Elgin, and he is also a father and grandfather.  Duane and Coleen have collaborated on various projects such as the video overview of Duane’s book, The Living Universe and a book they co-authored, Living Legacies.


Spiritual: Great Transition Stories

How can we describe this time of planetary transition in ways that are universally understood? There may be no greater challenge in building a promising future than discovering compelling stories that draw us together in co-creating that future. Instead of a time of despair, this can be a time of conscious transition; and there are deep narratives that can serve as beacons of hope and guide us toward a more promising future. This draws from my book Awakening Earth as well as Changing Images of Man, a book I co-authored with Joseph Campbell and others. It also builds on my work as the director of the Great Transition Stories website and project.

Spiritual: Sustainable and Thriving Life-Ways for the Future

How can we live with greater material balance? What do life-ways of sustainable prosperity look like? What new skills will be needed for building this new future and what old skills will have to be remembered? What is the role of community in building this new foundation for the future? These themes are found in my books Voluntary Simplicity and Promise Ahead.

SpiritualLiving in a Living Universe

Plato said, “The universe is a single living creature that encompasses all living creatures within it.” What is the scientific evidence for regarding the universe as somehow alive? In which direction does it point? And how do the world’s diverse wisdom traditions regard the possibility of a living universe? What does this mean about the nature of who we are and where we are going? These questions are explored, for example, in my books The Living Universe and Awakening Earth.


Online Presentations, Seminars, and Courses

These can range from a single session to a multi-week course (with online forums, videos, articles, etc.), or an entire semester. Because online communication and learning is affordable, flexible, and easy, I can stream live into your classroom, boardroom, or meeting room for an interactive presentation and conversation.


Responding to Our Great Transition

I work with business leaders, educators, civic leaders, screenwriters and others to find helpful ways of understanding our time of great transition and to take creative actions. For example, if a community or a company has a sense of identity, history, and purpose, it has a built-in source of resilience that will help it bounce back from traumatic shocks, be they ecological, economic, climate-related, or otherwise.


“Duane Elgin totally engaged more than 2,000 green building professionals in a spirited dialog about the future, and in the process began conversations between individuals that spilled over into the conference halls. Duane’s strength is ‘speaking with,’ instead of ‘talking to.’ Participants were empowered to be part of an ongoing dialog about our mutual future. As chair of the world’s largest green building conference, I can say that Duane’s impact was immediate, profound and likely to be lasting on our industry.” –Jerry Yudelson, MBA, Chair, 2005 US Greenbuild Conference

“Duane gave an absolutely captivating presentation to a very bright and savvy group of business leaders in our Executives Leading Sustainable Change program. He provoked our deepest thinking and inspired urgent action! Hiring Duane is one of the best investments we have ever made!” – Rayona Sharpnack, President of the Institute for Women Leadership, Redwood City, California

“Duane’s presentation was enlivening and generative. He helped us to examine our work in light of the world that is becoming, engaged us in a dialogue that challenged the way we see higher education, and led us to find innovative and liberating possibilities. Duane also inspired us as a model of values-based, life-long learning.” – Dean Elias, Dean of the School of Education, Saint Mary’s College of California

“Among the nationally distinguished presenters in our Technology and Society Series at Santa Clara University, Duane Elgin was one of the finest. His talk and ensuing discussion on alternative futures and ecological lifestyles was rated by students and community participants as one of the most engaging and entertaining presentations of the series. I give Duane Elgin my highest recommendation.” – Mitch Saunders, Director of Programs, California Leadership

“Your presentation [to our annual gathering of international executives] was coherent and provocative, in the best sense of the word. You were thoughtful, constructively challenging, and very human in your responses. You have a strong yet gentle style that I find very compelling.” – Robert Johansen, President, Institute for the Future, Menlo Park, California

“I have heard Duane Elgin speak at a number of conferences over the past decade. He is an exceptionally thoughtful, well-informed speaker, on the cutting edge of social issues and ideas. He speaks with clarity, elegance and passion on the major issues of our time.” – Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., professor, and author of Staying Alive: The Psychology of Human Survival, and other books

“Duane Elgin does his homework and has a feeling for who he is speaking to. Response from listeners on Man to Man were immediate and extremely positive. Duane is welcome as a return guest anytime.” – Jerry Johnson, host/creator, “Man to Man,” KCBS radio, San Francisco

“We emerged from the workshop with better understandings of our individual and collective places in the world, clearer visions of purpose, renewed commitments, and restored hope…This powerful experience changed lives.” –Carol Goland, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, Denison University, Ohio