Exploring the human factor in global change, and prospects for partnership, at Caux

This post was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, September 2015 issue.


Caux PalaceThe week before last I was in Switzerland to support the design and facilitation of Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business, a conference of Initiatives of Change (IofC) at Caux Palace – a fairy-tale castle of an international conference centre, high above Montreux and enjoying stupendous views down along Lake Geneva.  As luck would have it, Jonathan Dudding of ICA:UK was there the same week supporting the parallel International Peacebuilders Forum conference, and world leaders of IofC International were beginning to gather for their IofC Global Assembly the following week. As a result, Jonathan and I were able to meet together with leaders of IofC Caux and IofC International to discuss prospects for a global partnership conference of ICA and IofC at Caux next year.

I came away (‘down from the mountain’, as they say with good reason at Caux) encouraged and enthused for the prospects of such a partnership – by my experience of the conference and the conference centre, and by what I learned of IofC and the commonalities and potential for synergies between it and ICA.  I am excited therefore that, since then, ICA International has decided in its online General Assembly in the last week to seek to develop such a partnership with IofC. So, how did such a proposal come about, and what can I say from my own experience at Caux about how I see the prospects for such a partnership?

ICA:UK and ICA Spain have partnered with IofC Caux over several years now to support the design and facilitation of their annual summer season of international conferences, and in providing ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) facilitation training for IofC members and others – next scheduled for 25-26 November in Geneva. Other connections and collaborations between individual members of ICA and IofC around the world date back over 30 years in some cases, in countries including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and Ukraine. Ideas for building on these foundations to explore the potential for broader collaboration have been brewing for a year or two among those involved on both sides.

A partnership approach to a global conference in Caux in 2016 was proposed to ICAI last December by ICA:UK, with the support of ICA Spain and other European ICAs, to follow ICAI’s 8th quadrennial Global Conference on Human Development in Kathmandu in 2012.  This proposal was recommended to the ICAI General Assembly by its Global Conference working group, and approved in principle this last week. Parallel conversations have been underway within IofC, including at its recent Global Assembly in Caux, and we hope to be able establish a joint committee in the autumn to develop a partnership and our approach to the conference together.

I have found numerous encouraging parallels in our respective histories and approaches. Initiatives of Change describes itself as ‘a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own’. It was founded in the late 1930s as the Moral Rearmament Movement by Frank Buchman, a charismatic American minister whose ideas and practices had been developed largely working with students in what had been known as the Oxford Group. The once-grand but then derelict Caux Palace Hotel was purchased and refurbished by Swiss supporters, in time to open in 1946 as an international conference centre where those who had suffered in the war could come together and build new relationships. Further centres were established in the USA and around the world, supporting reconciliation and peace-building through dialogue and, particularly at the Westminster Theatre in London, also through drama.  Today IofC international comprises member organisations in around 40 countries worldwide. IofC Caux hosts a series of international conferences over three months every summer, under the banner “Exploring the human factor in global change” and with the aim “to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves”.

ICA (the Institute of Cultural Affairs) was founded somewhat later, but also from a faith-based movement, as the secular successor organisation to the earlier Ecumenical Institute and University-based Faith and Life Community founded by the American former Methodist minister Joseph Wesley Mathews in the 1950s & 60s. ICA describes itself as a global community of non-profit organisations ‘advancing human development worldwide’ – sharing a ‘concern with the human factor in world development’ and seeking to mobilise and support individuals to transform themselves in order to transform their communities, organisations and societies (‘Changing Lives, Changing Societies‘). ICA pioneered its approach, including ‘imaginal education’ and what became known as the ‘Technology of Participation’ facilitation methods, in the west side of Chicago in the 1960s. ICA USA’s GreenRise building in Chicago was rescued from dereliction by volunteer labour and in-kind contributions in the early 1970s, to serve for many years as ICAs global headquarters and venue for its annual summer Global Research Assemblies, forerunners to the quadrennial ICA Global Conference on Human Development since 1984.  The ‘Band of 24’ pilot Human Development Projects in each of the 24 time zones worldwide, launched in 1976 (40 years ago next year), became the basis of today’s network of member organisations and groups in around 40 countries – about half of them countries in common with IofC.

My experience of the AEUB conference at Caux suggests that we have more in common than aspects of our histories, the language we use to describe our approaches, and our shared vision of a just and sustainable world for all.  Participants familiar with ICA’s centres in Chicago, Brussels and elsewhere, and with our tradition of living and working together in community, will welcome the expectation at Caux that everyone contributes to the care of the community and broadens and deepens their relationships by taking part in kitchen duties together. They will also welcome the time for collective reflection and for other spirit practice that is scheduled daily at Caux, as a reflection of ICA’s tradition and practice as well. They may be pleased to find that most bedrooms in the former Caux Palace Hotel have their own bathrooms (unlike many ICA facilities of the same era), and they will likely find the simple and even antique furnishings and fixtures as charming as I did. Certainly few visitors will fail to be impressed by the views from their windows and balconies, and from the garden and terrace below – the mountain location, accessed by funicular from the lakeside, was well chosen indeed for a retreat centre.

I hope that we may find plenty to learn from our differences, as well as our similarities. Whereas ICA’s focus is primarily on community and more recently organisational development, and through demonstration projects engaging the disempowered, I understand that IofC’s focus is primarily on reconciliation and peace-building, and through dialogue engaging citizens with those in power. I expect that IofC’s activities and emphases have diversified over time and geography as ICA’s have, however, and that our own people and our partners worldwide would find much to share with and learn from each other on their diverse experiences of leadership and change in their own contexts.

AEUB opening plenaryFrom a practical point of view, I think ICA could benefit greatly from Caux’s well established year-round capacity to manage the logistics of conference organisation, from handling international registrations and finances to mobilising and managing teams of summer interns and volunteer interpreters. I expect IofC could also benefit more from ICA’s participatory process design and facilitation expertise, as it has begun to do in recent years for its own conferences. The venue itself I found to be well equipped with a wide variety of spaces and facilities, from small break-out rooms and gallery spaces, terraces and gardens, to a tiered auditorium, a large and fully-equipped theatre and of course the Grand Hall. I understand that the capacity of around 400 in total allows comfortably for around 270 conference delegates at a time, in addition to the many resident volunteers, staff and other visitors.

This year’s AEUB conference seemed to me to be very well received by its impressively international, multi-lingual and multi-generational participants.  I look forward to being able to share in making the ‘magic of Caux’ again in future conferences – starting, I hope, with a 2016 partnership conference ‘exploring the human factor’ in global change and development.

For more on Initiatives of Change at Caux, find them on twitter, flickr and youtube.

ToP facilitation and Lessons from the Village

This article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2015 issue.

Welcome to this new issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, entitled ‘Lessons from the Village’.

ICA is perhaps most widely known today for its group facilitation methodology the Technology of Participation (ToP). This proven approach is applied by many hundreds if not thousands of professional facilitators around the world, to help groups to connect, learn and collaborate together in a wide variety of contexts. The International Association of Facilitators was founded in 1994 by some seventy such ToP facilitators, and many ICAs around the world today provide professional facilitation, training and consulting services to clients on a social enterprise basis, specialising in the ToP approach.  ICAI members ICA USA and ICA Associates and the ToP Network are proud to sponsor this year’s upcoming IAF North America conference in Banff, Canada, from May 14-16.  But what has all this got to do with Lessons from the Village?

Jawale village viewThe methods and tools of the Technology of Participation have been developed and refined by ICA in over 50 years of experience working in grassroots rural community development, in villages around the world. Most if not all ICAs continue to apply this approach to empower poor and marginalised people to participate meaningfully in bringing about positive change for themselves, for their communities and for the world, even as these ICAs work with other approaches and in other contexts as well.  There is more to the Technology of Participation than the methods and tools, and there is more to ICA than ToP, but it might be fair to say that ToP is among the most enduring of the Lessons from the Village that ICA has learned in its first half century.

Jawale ICA centreThis issue begins with a series of stories (pages 4, 8 & 10) of ICA colleagues revisiting today the Indian villages in which they were involved in ICA’s pioneering of the ToP approach in the rural Human Development Projects of the 1970s and 1980s. I began my own journey with ICA (and as a facilitator) as a fresh-faced international volunteer in one of these very villages in 1986, so I share a few of my own archive photos of Jawale here as well. Emerging lessons from these stories include the impact of urbanisation, the importance of connecting communities with local authorities, and the importance of values and methods to inspire, mobilise and empower volunteers.

Jawale ICA staff teamAlso in this issue you will find stories of peer-to-peer collaboration between ICAs today, including a youth media project involving students in Nepal and the USA (page 16); an online event on cross-border peace-building of ICA Ukraine with ICA Taiwan (page 23); and lessons learned by Global Facilitators Serving Communities on the role that ToP facilitation can play in supporting the recovery process and resilience of communities affected by disaster (page 20).

Jawale 9 programmes chartAs our colleagues of ICA Nepal now respond to the impact of April’s devastating earthquake, in Kathmandu and in rural areas, we encouarge you to show your support by responding to the appeal that they have launched – for details see page 28 and ICA Nepal on Facebook, and donate online now.  Many more of ICA’s Lessons from the Village can be found in the 2012 book of ICA Nepal ‘Changing Lives Changing Societies‘, published in conjunction with the 8th ICA Global Conference on Human Development hosted by ICA Nepal in Kathmandu.

This 11th issue of Winds and Waves is the last to be co-edited and laid out by John Miesen of ICA Australia, after some 30 years involvement in ICA publications in Australia and internationally. On behalf of the Board and ICAI as a whole, I thank John wholeheartedly for his years of service, and in particular for his central role in establishing Winds and Waves as ICAI’s flagship publication and a key tool of our peer-to-peer approach to facilitaing mutual support, learning and collaboration among ICAs.

The ICAI Board will meet face-to-face in Tanzania in May, prior to a regional gathering of East & Southern African ICAs. We plan to meet virtually during that time with the ICAI global communications team, to plan for the continuity and development of this magazine and our communications more generally, in the light of the new ICAI website and blog that is now in development in WordPress.

Please do contribute your own stories of advancing human development around the world to the next issue of Winds and Waves in August.

Please also get in touch if you may be interested in joining the team to support with commissioning, reporting, editing, layout and design, social media, or in any other way.

Enjoy this issue!

Changing Lives Changing Societies

2nd edition now available online worldwide via Amazon!

Martin Gilbraith

Changing Lives Changing SocietiesICA’s experience in Nepal and in the world

ISBN 993725358-1 – Edited by Tatwa P. Timsina and Dasareth Neupane

[June 2013: now available online via Amazon and other retailers]

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) is a global network of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. This new book, published by ICA Nepal, was launched at ICA’s 8th Global Conference on Human Development in Kathmandu in October.  The book and the conference were among a series of initiatives celebrating ICA’s 50th anniversary in 2012. The Table of Contents and Preface may be downloaded here.

Editor Tatwa Timsina is Chair of ICA Nepal and former President of ICA International, and an Associate Professor of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. Tatwa and his co-editor Dasareth Neupane, and the many ICA colleagues from around the world who have contributed as authors, have done a great service to ICA’s global mission with…

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ICA International Board update, June 2013

Global BuzzThis post was first published in ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz.

This past month the ICAI Board has mostly been busy with preparing to launch a major new survey of the ICA global network.  This is intended primarily to help ICAs and ICA people to know each other better, to facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration. It also includes questions to indicate how ICAs meet the ICAI membership criteria, to enable the ICAI Board and GA to monitor that and take membership decisions, and questions on UN activity to enable ICAI to report on that to maintain our UN status.  Thank you to the many people from around the world who provided rich feedback on the draft survey, we were delighted that we heard from so many of you.  We are now finalising and translating the revisions to the survey, in order to circulate the survey very soon to around 40 locations, in English, French and Spanish.

We have begun some initial conversations with ICAI’s volunteer communications team in order to look at developing and streamlining our website, publications and  communications more broadly.  We are now scheduling a larger online meeting to take this forward, so please get in touch if you have expertise in this area and might be willing to get involved.

We have approved a proof of the second edition of Changing Lives Changing Societies: ICA’s Experience in Nepal and the World, and we are expecting it to be available soon worldwide on a print-on-demand basis from Amazon and other retailers.

The ICAI 2012 audit report has been drafted and will be ready to circulate shortly – we are grateful to Bill Staples and ICA Canada for their support with this.

We are now scheduling the next online regional gatherings in late August.  These are an opportunity for all involved or interested in ICA globally to connect with each other and with ICAI, to facilitate peer-to-peer support and collaboration in our shared mission of advancing human development worldwide.  Please join us if you can! There will be three gatherings at different times of day to suit the three regions – the earlier time for Asia, the middle time for Europe/MENA/Africa and the later time for the Americas.  However you are welcome to attend whichever suits you best (or more than one), and the exact times can also be adjusted if needed. Please follow the link below to indicate which dates and times would suit you best, wherever you are – please respond to the poll by Monday 17 June at http://www.doodle.com/n9e96ncscy5v5854

The aims & agenda of the gatherings will be broadly as in March:

Meeting Aims
1.    to connect ICAs and ICA colleagues with each other, and help to build & strengthen relationships between them
2.    to share information and facilitate peer-to-peer support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues
3.    to hold ICAI accountable to its members, and seek input & support to strengthen our global network and advance our global mission

Meeting agenda
1.    opening, welcome & introductions
2.    review & agree agenda
3.    ICA reports – highlights, questions & reflection
4.    ICAI report – membership, activity & finance; questions, feedback & reflection
5.    Items particular to each meeting:
a.    Global network survey findings
b.    Global communications
6.    Reflection & close

We look forward to hearing from you!

ICAI Winds and Waves – facilitating new directions

This article was first published in ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2013.

Winds and Waves April 2013Welcome to this new issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme of change and new directions.

Inside you will find stories of some of the change that ICAs around the world are enabling in the communities and organisations that they work with, including in the USA, Spain, Ukraine, India, Guatemala and Chile.  Also you will find stories of some of the change that ICAs themselves are undertaking within their own organisations, including in Togo, the UK and Peru.  You will also find news, reviews and feature articles, including from the new book of long-time ICA colleague Jean Houston. I hope you will find plenty to interest you, and to spark ideas for your own work and change in your own locations and in collaboration with others elsewhere.  I am grateful to the virtual global editorial team, and to all of our contributors, for so generously sharing their time, expertise, experience and ideas with us all.

ICA International is itself entering a period of significant change and development, with a new global Board in place since January and a new business plan for the new year.   I am grateful also to my predecessor as President Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan, and to other ICAI Board members past and present, for volunteering their time and leadership to help to shape and guide the development of our global network.  As a result of their sound management and leadership over the past years, the ICAI Board has been able to engage with members and colleagues over recent months to develop ambitious plans for strengthening and growing the ICA worldwide network this year.  You will find news of these developments also inside, and the Board would welcome your questions and feedback, and most of all your involvement.

Since my own ICA work has been mostly focused on the UK context in recent years, it has been exciting and energising for me to reconnect and re-engage internationally with ICA colleagues more in this new role, especially when I have had the opportunity to do so face to face – at the ICA global conference in Kathmandu last October, and at the ICA European Interchange in Paris in March.  Our virtual connections are also growing ever stronger. Our first online regional gatherings of the global network this year, in March, were also a real highlight for me.  Do please join us for the next regional gatherings in July.

The role of ICAI in the ICA global network is to facilitate and communicate ‘peer to peer’ support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues – in pursuit of our shared mission “to empower, through methods and values, an authentic and sustainable transformation of individuals, communities and organizations.”  I hope that this magazine may do something to help strengthen your international connections and collaborations.  Please do let us know how it does, and how it might better do so.

ICA International Board update, March 2013

ICAI Global BuzzThis post was first published in ICAI’s monthly bulletin, the Global Buzz.

The ICAI Board has met three times in January & February. Much of our time has been spent developing our new 2013-14 business plan, in consultation with numerous members and volunteers.  This is now about to be circulated in English, French & Spanish – please ask if you would like a copy, and please let us know if you have any questions or feedback.  In the process of these meetings we we have been establishing our meeting practices, including use of technology and formats of agendas, reports and minutes.

We have been able to use the @ica-international.org domain to establish new ICAI email addresses for all Board members and an email list for the Board.  We have now also established an ICAI email list for the global network of ICAs, with over 100 ICA represenatives in over 40 countries, to facilitate dialogue among and between ICAs.  Having overcome some technical hurdles, we are now in a position to establish lists also for the conference teams wishing to continue their dialogue by email after the Nepal conference.

We have submitted overdue reports in order to maintain and update ICAI’s UN consultative status with ECOSOC, and we have confirmed that ICAI’s consultative status remains valid with FAO and UNESCO as well.

We have agreed with ICA Nepal to make it’s new book Changing Lives Changing Societes available globally on a print-on-demand basis via Amazon and other channels, and will be arranging that soon.  In the meantime copies are available from the USA via Ebay.

We are now making preparations to survey the network over the coming months in order to update basic data on the current status and activities of ICAs worldwide, as a baseline for further supporting peer-to-peer activities within the network.  As we do that we will also be inviting ICAs to pay annual dues for 2013 to renew their membership with ICAI, and to participate in the first online regional gatherings of the year, on March 25-26.

Martin will be attending the ICA European Interchange in Paris, March 15-17, and hosting online sessions for those who would like to connect virtually – if you are interested to do that please contact Martin.

We are also beginning to work with ICA Canada to prepare the annual audit report for 2012.

Transformational Strategy: Facilitation of ToP Participatory Planning

Transformational Strategy - coverNow available worldwide from Amazon, as well as directly from ICA Associates in Canada.

Author Bill Staples gave us a sneak preview of this new book from ICA Associates at the ICAI Global Conference on Human Development in Kathmandu last October.

The Art of Focused Conversation and the Workshop Book, authored by Brian Stanfield of ICA Associates, covered the two foundational methods of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation methodology.  This new book covers the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning method in similar depth – from the history and development of the method through to the theory and practice, including numerous case studies.

Much anticipated by ToP facilitators everywhere, this book will be of immense value to all those who are looking for ways to mobilise the transformational power of shared commitment to create their desired future.

And if reading the book is not enough for you, it is not (quite!) too late to register for the ICA:UK Participatory Strategic Planning course that I shall be leading myself next week in London.  See you there!