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History of the Stanley Foundation

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60 Years Promoting a Secure Peace With Freedom and Justice

On December 12, 1956, the Stanley Foundation was officially certified as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Iowa, bringing to life an organization dedicated to creating a world in which there is a secure peace with freedom and justice. C. Maxwell “Max” Stanley, his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children, David, Richard, and Jane, were enthusiastic founding board members, looking to better the world through the work of the foundation.

Sixty years later, the organization continues to pursue and advance that vision as a thriving nonpartisan operating foundation located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Muscatine, Iowa. Moreover, it remains an organization with the involvement of family members who have an ongoing role in shaping the strategy and core values of the foundation in meaningful and proactive ways. Those family members and other participants in our governance structure have a passion for our mission as well as a commitment to effectiveness and efficiency in our operations.

One of the founding board members, Dick Stanley, served as foundation president from the time of his father’s death in 1984 until 2007. He has also been our board chair since 1984. Regarding the foundation’s early work, Dick wrote, “Programming began modestly. Policy work started in 1960 with the Strategy for Peace Conference. The first Conference on the United Nations of the Next Decade was held in 1965, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The first paid staff member was hired in 1967. Project Enrichment, the initial community-education program, began in local Muscatine, Iowa, schools in 1971.”

Over the years, programming has grown and changed. When I started here in 1988, I was part of a small team producing the Stanley Foundation’s weekly radio program on world affairs titled Common Ground, which aired on hundreds of stations across the United States. The foundation was also then producing the monthly magazine World Press Review. While those and other efforts ended, the foundation has strengthened its focus on promoting multilateral action to create fair, just, and lasting solutions to critical issues of peace and security.

Our annual Strategy for Peace Conference, mentioned above, is now in its 57th year. Our annual UN Issues Conference has been held for 47 consecutive years. Our work promoting global education in and around our hometown has been under way for more than 45 years.

Even with our local work, people frequently comment that the foundation is better known in New York and Washington, DC, than it is in Iowa. Thousands of experts and policymakers from the United Nations, the US and other governments, international institutions, think tanks, academia, and civil society around the world have participated in foundation events over the years. The foundation has built a stellar reputation for hosting and convening meaningful dialogues, producing analysis, and promoting action on a variety of policy topics. Over the years, the work has focused on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, reform of the United Nations, US-Soviet relations, the development and application of international law, the changing global order, the rise of ad hoc multilateral forums, and much more.

Max Stanley wrote in his 1979 book Managing Global Problems:

“All who seek to improve relations and understandings among peoples and nations should be urged on. Those who work to enlarge concern for other human beings through the advocacy and practice of religious principles deserve encouragement. Those who challenge the necessity, the morality, and the credibility of war as a viable means of resolving international disputes should be applauded. All such efforts help to mold world opinion toward a more just and humane approach to global problem-solving. Likewise, efforts to build community should be encouraged and aided. Progress toward greater understanding, better communications, and common objectives would undoubtedly improve the political climate and stimulate international cooperation. But these processes are exceedingly slow due to great diversity of national interests, religions, and cultures. Unfortunately, the pressing critical world issues will not wait. They must be managed now.”

Today, the foundation promotes international cooperation and action in three specific issue areas. We advocate for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, avoiding the use of nuclear weapons in an era of rapid technological development, and efforts to keep global temperature increases to just 1.5˚ C above preindustrial levels.

As an operating foundation, we design and implement our own programming, either by ourselves or in collaboration with other organizations, which allows us to leverage our resources and increase our impact. In our office, we have a fantastic staff of more than 20 dedicated professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our programming, operations, and communications.

Over the last six decades, world affairs have become increasingly complicated, and the tools we use to track those events have improved dramatically. In 1956, there were 4,118 nuclear warheads in the world. By the time I came to Iowa in 1988, that number had risen to nearly 60,000, and the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sat at six minutes to midnight. Today, the number of nuclear warheads has fallen to 15,000, but with global instability, terrorism, and climate change, no one feels significantly safer, a sense reflected in a Doomsday Clock now sitting at three minutes to midnight.

When I first came to Muscatine, we had the New York Times delivered by mail, always a few days delayed. Now I can access nearly any news outlet in the world before I get out of bed. Invitations to and outputs from Stanley Foundation events were printed and sent out via postal mail for decades. While the pace of our operations is much faster now, I am in easy contact with foundation staff running programming all over the world, including events on four continents in just the last two months. 

As the Stanley Foundation marks its 60th anniversary, uncertainty about the future of international cooperation and the stability of the post-World War II order is on the rise. Nativism, populism, and authoritarianism are back in headlines and academic discourse, while globalism and multiculturalism feel threatened. In recent discussions with our staff and governance members, I’ve witnessed a sense of concern followed immediately by acknowledgment that the work of the Stanley Foundation is more necessary today than ever.

Our founding directors saw, and see, themselves as world citizens. I am proud to be a part of the ongoing effort they began to bring security, freedom, justice, and peace to all people.

Keith Porter
President and CEO
The Stanley Foundation
December, 2016

HIGHLIGHTS
A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia
The Ground Truth Project, New America, and the Stanley Foundation are hosting a Screening of “A Climate for Conflict” and discussion with the creators followed by a panel discussion on Climate Security and Societal Resilience on May 30, 2017.

Somalia today is at a crossroads between a deepening crisis and a path to stability. Photographer and filmmaker Nichole Sobecki and writer Laura Heaton spent 18 months documenting personal stories of Somalia, creating a film, photography, and reporting that vividly illustrate the human consequences and security risks of a changing climate. Read more.

Follow the conversation online with #AClimateforConflict.


Courier Courier
The Spring 2017 issue of Courier provides insight and perspective on different global policy areas, including mass atrocity prevention in the Gambia and climate change agricultural innovation in Morocco. This issue also features a special look at the global order by Stanley Foundation president, Keith Porter; a feature on the struggle of a Somalian refugee hoping to resettle in the US; and a Q&A from our latest explorer award winner. The full Spring 2017 issue. PDF (1,151K) Subscribe for FREE.

Stanley Foundation at 60
On December 12, 1956, the Stanley Foundation was certified as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Iowa, bringing to life an organization dedicated to creating a world in which there is a secure peace with freedom and justice. Sixty years later, the organization continues to pursue and advance that vision as a thriving nonpartisan operating foundation. Moreover, it remains an organization with a professional staff and the involvement of family members who have an ongoing role in shaping its strategy and core values. More.

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Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences
The Stanley Foundation holds two annual conferences, UN Issues and the Strategy for Peace Conference. These bring together experts from the public and private sectors to meet in a distraction-free setting and candidly exchange ideas on pressing foreign policy challenges.

Divided into roundtable talks, the cutting-edge discussions are intended to inspire group consensus and shared recommendations to push forward the debate on the foundation’s key policy areas.


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