In this Exchange  
  1. Update: ICA Chile and the Earthquake Recovery Effort
  2. The Long Road to Recovery in Haiti
  3. ICA International’s Tour to Transform Lives
  4. Working Gifts at Work
  5. A Commitment to Excellence: The importance of professionalism in development
  6. Innovations in Facilitator Training: ToP Advanced Facilitation Courses
  7. The MDGs at Ten: five years to go
  8. The Critical Decade: A call to reflection and action
  9. Nepal prepares to welcome the world in 2012


Editors note:

Much has happened around the world and within the network since we brought you the last issue of Network Exchange. Perhaps most significant was the extraordinary series of earthquakes in Haiti that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people - killing as much as 3% of the population - and furthered devastated that beleaguered nation. 

That Haiti was struck by earthquakes was no surprise – it is one of the most seismically active regions of the world – but what the events of January clearly demonstrate are issues of great importance for those working in development: first, the devastation reminds us that ‘natural disasters’ are usually heavily human-influenced (witness the need for better construction materials, techniques and standards), and emphasizes the failure of hitherto development efforts to prepare for such events; and, second, it demonstrates that events such as this, as devastating as they are, can provide tremendous opportunities. It is here, in helping communities to identify and take advantage of possibility within upheaval, that ICA and ICA methods offer such a powerful contribution.

While the global community was still coming to terms with the Haitian tragedy, Chile was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. While much less devastating in terms of lives lost and physical damage, the earthquake shook an otherwise stable and developing nation, and reminded us all of the fragility of gains made. National ICAs have responded to both of these tragedies, and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.

Other events, both large and small, have marked the past few months. The Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs) – that set of laudable objectives that the international community committed to achieve by the year 2015 - have received considerable attention this year.  2010 marks the 10th anniversary since the adoption of the goals, and reminds us that only 5 years remain for us to meet these commitments to the world’s poorest and most marginalized.  

Against the backdrop of these, and other dramatic events, national ICAs continue to work tirelessly in communities around the world to transform lives through participatory human development. We are excited to provide a snapshot of some of the programs, events, and activities taking place in various parts of the network, as well as to provide a number of articles for critical reflection.

If you have comments on any of these articles, or suggestions for future articles, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at

Michael Watson, ICA International
with special thanks to Nick Bond of Nota Bene Strategies


Update: ICA Chile and the Earthquake Recovery Effort

Occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile is one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in human development, economic competitiveness, quality of life, political stability, trade, economic freedom, low rates of corruption, and comparatively low poverty rates.

Unfortunately, progress in the country suffered a serious setback when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake - one of the largest ever recorded - struck the country on February 27, 2010.  More than 500 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands of buildings were damaged. 1 Initial damage estimates were in the range of USD 15-30 billion, representing between 10-15% of Chile’s real gross domestic product.2 Making matters worse, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck just two weeks later, on March 11, causing additional damage and fear.

The main earthquake’s epicenter was in Copquecura, a town near the city of Talca.  Damages were also reported in Concepción, Constitución, Santiago, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar and other cities throughout the country.  With their immense personal and household losses, as well as instability in basic services such as natural gas, electricity and water, the population was deeply affected by the events.

Over the years, ICA Chile has worked in various regions of the country, including areas that were seriously affected by the earthquakes. While thankfully no ICA Chile staff were harmed, those affected include participants of the Participative Leaders Training Program, which ICA Chile has been running since 2001.  ICA Chile was motivated to generate equality in the opportunities available to the physically disabled, and works to make them feel pride and ownership in their work and life experiences.  The program utilizes ICA methods to help educate disabled youth on the importance of teamwork in creating and implementing successful projects, and provides opportunities to develop practical skills. The program also helps demonstrate how participants can enhance their creativity and capacity to innovate.  The youth that were trained improved their capacity to think strategically and gained a more positive vision of their future. Over time, it has become clear that these leadership skills helped immensely in giving them the opportunity to design and implement their own personal and professional projects.

In response to the recent earthquake, ICA Chile, alongside colleagues from ICA Japan – who raised support within Japan and flew to Chile to provide relief to the victims– has been providing aid to inhabitants of Thumbes, a small fishing village near Talcahuano, and Concepción.  They have also been working with inhabitants of Talca and a community called Peralillo, located 65 kilometers south of Santiago.  To date, most of the people in Talca and Concepción that ICA Chile has worked with over the last year have been located and provided with emergency aid. Importantly, the training these people received through their involvement in ICA projects will prove useful as their personal and community rebuilding process continues in the months and years ahead. In the medium to long-term, ICA Chile is committed to finding ways to further support those who have been affected, and working with partners within and outside the ICA network to do as much as they can to help in the rebuilding of the country. 

Renée Hébert, ICA International,
with contributions from Isabel de la Maza, ICA Chile


The Long Road to Recovery in Haiti

In the hours and days following a natural disaster, immediate relief, including food, water, shelter and emergency medical attention, is essential to keep people alive. However, this relief aid, which usually takes the form of ‘hand-outs’ can sometimes be at odds with, and complicate, the broader, and longer term objectives of local empowerment and sustainable development. This issue of development-versus-relief aid has long been debated among organizations that deal directly with humanitarian emergencies.  The question of which, if either, is more important, which blend of the two is optimal, and how the transition from relief to development should occur is always a top-of-mind discussion for those working in the field.

Since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12th of this year, however, the discussion has entered the mainstream media, attracting commentary and analysis by specialists and lay people alike.  In the days following the event it was widely recognized that simply providing relief, and rebuilding Haiti to its state prior to the earthquake would be insufficient (and indeed would represent a tremendous missed opportunity).  Unlike other countries prone to earthquakes, such as Japan, Italy, or the USA, Haiti was suffering tremendously even before the disaster. The country had severely inadequate infrastructure, a weak economy with few quality jobs, extremely poor healthcare, and high levels of violence and insecurity.  A return to normalcy, in terms of what many people in Haiti have become accustomed to, would equate to failure.  There is thus broad agreement that what is needed, in addition to immediate relief, is a strategy for long-term development, designed and implemented by Haitians with the help of the international community, that ensures the country emerges stronger and more prosperous.  

The funding challenge

One of the first challenges to overcome in bridging relief and development activities is that of donor fatigue. Large-scale disasters, such as that witnessed in Haiti, often attract swift and generous response from governments and citizens alike; sympathies are expressed, funds are raised, and pledges are made. Powerful images and constant coverage often bring large sums of money, fast. However, in such situations attention can very quickly shift, and momentum for long-term change can be lost. The fear among many Haitians and development organizations is that after the media wave subsides and other stories claim the front page, the focus on the needs of the country over the long term will disappear.  A recent donors’ conference in New York City in March, Towards a New Future in Haiti, aimed to reduce the potential of just that, and the international community responded amazingly well.

The United Nations member states along with other international partners have pledged to donate $5.3 billion to the development of Haiti over the next 18 months, and a total of $9.9 billion over 3 years.1 Further, there seems to exist a meaningful recognition of what is needed in the country in terms of long-term requirements. In an admission of the failings of previous relief efforts that saw foreign aid sweep in, ignore local needs, leave immediate aid supplies, and fly home, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated during the conference ...we in the global community must do things differently. It will be tempting to fall back on old habits – to work around the (Haitian) government rather than to work with them as partners, or to fund a scattered array of well-meaning projects rather than making the deeper, long-term investments that Haiti needs now.”

Government matters, but a strategy focused only on government will fail

Hilary Clinton made an important point about ensuring that aid efforts are coordinated and work in collaboration with existing government structures. Certainly, in terms of large scale infrastructure redevelopment projects and public works (building roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, etc.), there is no useful alternative but to work directly with government. Such an approach will increase efficiencies and can help support improved, more effective government. However, the US Secretary of State’s comments ignore the reality that most long-term improvements will come through the efforts of individuals and communities, and the changes they work to achieve in their own lives.

Speaking in Montreal in April, the Mayor of Port au Prince stressed the need to ‘democratize democracy’ in Haiti.2 His comments highlighted a surprisingly candid distrust of the ability of the central government to respond effectively to the challenges faced by Haitians, and point to a need for decentralization of power and decision-making. His comments also highlight the relevance and importance of organizations, like ICA, that can effectively mobilize community participation and action.

Avoiding dependency and putting people first

The issue of long-term development and the importance of listening closely to, and understanding the needs of local people, highlights the criticality of the work of the Institute of Cultural Affairs.  As an organization that has always been dedicated to treating the causes (the ‘underlying contradictions’), rather than just the symptoms, of socio-economic upheaval, the ICA has much to offer in terms of understanding how to engage people fully and meaningfully in local development.  It is particularly important to avoid creating relationships of dependency, and to help people understand that the changes are theirs to make, and that the proper role of the aid community is to help catalyze and support locally-driven change.

ICA has growing experience in guiding post-disaster development and ICAs have used the approach of rapid participatory assessments, community mobilization, and local leadership training with great success.  Of particular note is ICA Peru’s response to the devastating earthquake in August 2007 that occurred near the city of Chincha.  The earthquake destroyed over 75% of the houses in the area leaving tens of thousands homeless.  With a goal of long-term development in mind, ICA Peru initially trained a total of 120 community members in leadership, community mobilization and basic construction skills.  This training helped catalyze community participation in the rebuilding effort, leading to the construction of close to 3,500 temporary homes that provided shelter and security for 18,000 people that would have otherwise been without. That effort was key in re-vitalizing communities and helping mobilize people for longer-term development. Focusing on using local resources and facilitating change rather than delivering services has helped empower citizens to work toward lasting solutions and longer-term development in the region.  

Although there is currently no national ICA in Haiti, ICA Japan, which has projects within the broader region, responded quickly to the crisis, mobilizing some personnel and resources to assist with immediate relief.  Working with the Japan Platform team (a coalition of Japanese government agencies, companies and NGOs committed to development) ICA Japan helped deliver relief supplies and mobilize communities. ICA Japan staff have made several trips to Haiti, and are exploring ways to support communities in the medium to long-term.  

With ICA Japan’s involvement in Haiti and Chile, and ICA Chile beginning work on a strategy to support re-building efforts following its February earthquake, the work of ICA in disaster recovery is becoming increasingly critical. With its focus on communities, and its effective methods for community engagement, ICA is able to play a key role.  Despite the immediacy and panic that usually follows large-scale disaster, relief operations are most successful where they work closely with local people, and respect local cultural norms and values. Where this occurs, the transition to longer term development is smoother and the results more durable. ICA has much to offer in providing solutions to link immediate relief with longer-term development.  

The tragedy in Haiti has presented clear opportunities for that beautiful but beleaguered nation to emerge stronger, healthier, and more confident.  What is required is sustained commitment from the international community along with approaches that recognize individuals’ wisdom and knowledge and that work to harness the power of individuals and communities to change. Haiti needs long-term investments, but those investments must above all be in the people of Haiti, and they must respond to the needs, hopes and dreams of those people, if they are to be successful in the long-term. The ICA, along with other organizations that recognize this crucial fact, is well positioned to assist Haiti in this important effort.

Michael Watson, ICA International
and Nick Bond, with contributions from Naomi Sato, ICA Japan

1  27 April, 2010
2  Talk delivered at the Sommet du Millenaire, April 22, 2010, Montreal, Canada.


ICA International’s Tour to Transform Lives

Connecting communities around the world

On Sunday June 6th, ICA International will join the annual Tour de l'Île de Montréal and take to the streets for a 50km bike ride around the Island of Montreal. The Tour de l'Île is a unique experience, bringing together more than 30 000 cyclists from Montreal and around the world to celebrate cycling and community. Participants in the Tour de l’Île enjoy a scenic tour through Montreal's diverse neighborhoods using an energy efficient and non-polluting form of transport.

ICA International is proud to take part in the Tour de l’Île and excited to offer participants a new way to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable living: by dedicating their ride to ICAs’ sustainable development initiatives around the world. Joining ICA International’s team—the Tour to Transform Lives—allows cyclists to express their commitment to sustainable community development in a global context.

ICA International is committed to sustainability—solutions, structures, and resources that will last over time. Increasing cycling and reducing automobile traffic helps to make communities more livable. Cycling promotes an environment that is pleasant and safe, with less noise and pollution. It’s an enjoyable, convenient and affordable means of exercise that is connected to an active and healthy lifestyle. In communities around the world, bicycles transform lives – whether it is by allowing a school child to cover a large distance to attend school, ensuring that a health practitioner can visit multiple communities  to provide services each day,  or through innumerable other benefits,  bicycles are both a symbol and a practical tool for sustainable development.

The Tour to Transform Lives website provides a forum for participants to learn about ICA International and our initiatives. Some of those who have joined our team are novice cyclists, for whom the challenge of a 50 kilometer bike ride is immense, but who are driven by the value of ICAs’ crucial initiatives. Others have been cyclists and Tour participants for years, but have joined the Tour to Transform Lives to add a sense of purpose to their ride.

On race day there’s no doubt the ICA team will stand out: we’ll all be wearing bright Tour to Transform Lives t-shirts! The event will bring attention to ICA International as a leader in community development and enable us to engage with a new audience of supporters. The Tour will raise awareness among Tour de L’Île participants as well as with the general public watching the event.

ICA staff and supporters are excited to demonstrate our commitment to community and sustainable living. To make a contribution to ICA International’s Tour to Transform Lives, visit the event’s website at or visit the event giving page at Canada Helps.
We hope that the Tour will become an annual event for ICA International, one through which we continue to enhance our involvement in the Montreal community while at the same time promoting the work of member organizations and raising funds for participatory projects.

Chelsea Matheson, ICA International


Working Gifts at Work

In communities around the world, ICA projects are making a difference in the lives of people in need. The Working Gifts program was created in order to allow individuals to provide specific, targeted support to grassroots projects run by ICA national member organizations. Working Gifts are simple, concrete goods and services that directly support the initiatives of local people who have demonstrated the courage, creativity, and commitment to overcome the challenges they face. Gifts are given in the name of a friend, family member or other loved one, and the recipient receives a card explaining their gift and how it is helping to transform lives.
We are excited to share a few examples of Working Gifts at Work:

ICA South Africa:

Nutritious food provided to orphans and vulnerable children help them remain focused on education and maintain health and avoid disease.

With support from the Working Gifts programs, the South African children is this photo are eating a healthful mid-day meal, prepared by community volunteers as part of ICA South Africa's orphan and vulnerable children outreach, education and support program .

ICA Peru:

In Peru, facilitation and planning workshops help community members share ideas and insights and plan practical actions to change their lives for the better. 

Here, Peruvian women and men are benefiting from a community facilitation course at ICA Peru. The blue Sticky Wall seen in the background is a powerful tool for community facilitators, and can be given as a Working Gift.

ICA Bangladesh:

In Bangladesh, rickshaws are a common, ecologically sustainable mode of transport that provide livelihoods for thousands of people. Many drivers, however, cannot afford their own rickshaw, and thus must settle for meager earnings while owners profit.

Thanks to the Working Gift program, this man from the Chandpur District now owns his own rickshaw, which allows him to work and earn regular daily income. He now has greater autonomy and is able to better ensure the health and welfare of his family.

The program needs your support.  To purchase a gift today, visit Tell family and friends about the program, and add the Working Gifts logo and link to your email signature and website. Every bit helps, as small gifts really can make a big impact.

Renée Hébert, ICA International


A Commitment to Excellence:

The importance of professionalism in development

The Latin root of ‘professional’ is profiteri, which means roughly ‘to announce a belief’.  It has religious roots and was originally used by someone to commit publicly to a vocation or higher purpose.  As the word evolved it became applied to occupations, particularly those that were based on service, selflessness, and higher purpose. Originally, only three occupations qualified as professions: ministry, medicine, and law. Over time, professionalism has broadened, and the concept has been applied to diverse occupations.

In recent years, as the number of people who earn their livelihood working within the field of human development has increased, there has been an increasing need to understand and extend the values of professionalism.  Professionalism is, as the roots of the word imply, about a selfless commitment to a higher purpose, and about maintaining high standards in the work that we do. Professionalism is critical, and those of us who are fortunate enough to be working in development must aspire to professionalism in all that we do.

In development we often use public funds (either directly through grants, or indirectly, through tax incentives for donors), and have a responsibility to ensure that projects run effectively, and that the interests of the beneficiaries remain central.  Our purpose lies in service, and in the improvement of the lives of others. This requires an understanding that we must put our personal interests secondary to the interests of those we serve.

Professionalism starts with a commitment to serve others. But while commitment is critical, on it’s own it is not sufficient. Good will is a key starting point, but throughout many years of ‘development’ good will alone has arguably caused much harm. Good people with commitment does not guarantee good results.

There is thus a critical need for respecting core values and maintaining high standards in the way we approach our work: 

  • It is about valuing knowledge, and seeking to build our knowledge base with rigor and intellectual honesty. At the same time it is about humility, and recognizing the limits of our knowledge. 
  • It is about aspiring to communicate clearly and honestly, and recognizing that not everyone speaks the same languages that we do.
  • It is about being thoughtful in our deliberations and using the best available evidence to make decisions.
  • It is about listening closely to people, valuing their wisdom, and seeking to understand their needs and concerns.
  • It is about being aware of, recognizing, and dealing appropriately with conflicts of interest.
  • It is about understanding and appreciating the need for roles and responsibilities and taking these roles and responsibilities seriously.
  • It is about caring deeply and investing heavily in the quality and outcomes of our work, but not letting that care become too personal, so that it clouds our judgment and biases our views.
  • It is about being patient and persistent, and seeking solutions to underlying problems. 
  • It is about putting aside personal biases and individual interests, in order to promote the broader goals of an organization.
  • It is about fairness and consistency in our dealings with others.
  • It is about seeking to build trust and mutual respect based on principles of honesty, transparency, and accountability.

Some readers might point out that these values and principles are self-evident. That may be so, but even self-evident principles often bear repeating, if only to remind ourselves that despite our best intentions, these principles are often difficult to put into practice, especially given the multitude of uncertainties and the challenges of limited time, resources, and knowledge that confront us on a daily basis. It is in this regard that we must constantly and actively strive for professionalism in our work.   

It is worth noting that, on occasion, professionalism (or ‘professionalisation’) is denigrated.  For some, ‘professionalisation’ evokes images of highly paid and indifferent Western bureaucrats and consultants who practice a ‘we know best’ style of development.  It is no secret that this paternalistic and technocratic model of development doesn’t work, and we are right to criticize it. But professionalism is not about bureaucrats or consultants, nor a top-down approach to development.  Professionalism, as noted above, is about noble aims, and high standards in pursuing those aims. It is about recognizing responsibilities and duties and taking those responsibilities seriously.  It is about fairness and honesty.

Professionalism, properly understood, brings essential clarity, transparency, and integrity to an often cloudy and muddled set of endeavors.  Perhaps most importantly, it helps keeps the focus where it should be - on the interests of those we serve.

Michael Watson, ICA International


Innovations in Facilitator Training: ToP Advanced Facilitation Courses

ToP Facilitation Training, offered through ICA Associates in Canada, is designed for people who want to significantly increase their ability to work with groups of any size in any company, community or government setting.  At ICA Associates, we have found that people who participate in the Group Facilitation Methods (GFM) course immediately find it extremely valuable.  Participants come for two days and leave with tools they can use to facilitate any group on any topic and be successful.  Most of those who take the course and find they leave with skills that last a lifetime.

Over the years, numerous requests have been received from people who want to integrate ToP methodology into their facilitation practice or their professional work with diverse organizations.  People want more depth, and flexible ways of applying ICA methods in their own situations.

In addition to GFM, ICA Associates has a great deal more to offer.  As part of a process of continuous innovation, in the past year we have developed three new advanced facilitation courses that can be taken on their own, or as parts of a larger program, such as the two-year Advanced Facilitator Training Program, that provides preparation for ToP Facilitator Certification. Each of these new courses is taught over three days:

  1. Advanced Facilitation Tools

  2. Organizational Transformation

  3. Human Development

Advanced Facilitation Tools

This course is exactly what its title indicates. It is focused on using ToP facilitation tools to enable healthy, productive, collaborative teamwork, all the way through a project cycle.  The course is designed to leave participants with a useful set of immediately applicable facilitation tools. 

Launching an Initiative begins with clarifying the purpose of the initiative and building team consensus.  Forming the Team focuses on setting a context for the team's work together and forming relationships to make the initiative successful. Effective Collaboration tools will help the team work more effectively together. Model Building is "creating structural solutions" and can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from problem solving all the way to creating new products or services. Project Work Plans provides several approaches to work planning and establishing action timelines. Tracking Action is focused on tools for task tracking and accountability, solving implementation problems, ensuring that the desired impact is being made and reinforcing positive change.

Organizational Transformation

This program is focused on facilitating change and development in organizations. It provides participants with tools for whole systems change.

The Social Processes module helps participants understand the processes active in society and understand their dynamic interaction. The Organizational Dynamics Screen allows people to penetrate more deeply into the complex working of an organization and give it the shape. The Organizational Journey Map enables people to analyze the current situation and determine where they want the organization to be in the future. Contradictional Thinking enables people to ask the question, "What is preventing us from becoming what we want and intend to become?" Organizational Culture Change includes guidelines for making adjustments in the images, values and styles that drive and support any serious organizational change.

Human Development

The Human Development program focuses on getting to the heart of ToP Facilitation, ICA’s approach to group facilitation.  The program reaches beyond enabling a group to produce a product and deals with the whole person and the whole group.

The course explores the foundational assumptions about what it means to be human. It includes the study of four chapters from “The Courage to Lead” that explore these foundations. The Power of Image explores the way our self-image forms and how we can change in positive ways that lead to helpful group collaboration. Facilitation that Makes a Difference helps weave the foundations of ToP methodology and the insights of image change into practical ways to deepen your facilitation practice and make it more effective. Transformational Environment addresses the ways a facilitator can design facilitated events and make changes in the environment that lead to individual and group transformation.

ICA Associates is excited to continue to innovate within its programs, and is delighted to see great interest in these courses. Each course is described in more detail at and readers are encouraged to contact us for more information. 

Wayne Nelson,  ICA Associates


The MDGs at Ten: five years to go

Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the
main challenges of our time

- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

It has been ten years since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. Developed in 2000, during the 55th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, these goals represent an incredible commitment toward human development. Bringing together leaders from across the globe, these eight ambitious but achievable goals were established to promote global development by 2015.  Ten years after their adoption, the MDGs continue to represent a unique opportunity to focus efforts on eradicating poverty by using specific, achievable objectives.

There are eight, interrelated goals:

1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2: Achieve universal primary education
3: Promote gender equality and empower women
4: Reduce child mortality
5: Improve maternal health
6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7: Ensure environmental sustainability
8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Since long before the MDGs were officially articulated by the global community, ICA International and national ICAs have been actively working to achieve many of these same, critical objectives. ICA International supports the MDGs, and we continue to press governments to honour their commitments and to prioritize the achievement of these goals through innovative programs, and support to local initiatives. Many years have passed, and although some progress has been made, there is little time left and still a long road ahead.

In solidarity with others who are committed to the MDGs, staff at ICA International participated in the recent Millennium Summit in Montreal, in April 2010. The event brought together organizations and individuals from around the world that all have a common commitment to helping combat global poverty and achieving the MDGs.  We met with many local and international development actors, and continued to build a circle of compassion and commitment. This event allowed us to learn about new and exciting international initiatives, as well as to identify opportunities for collaboration. There is a long way to go, but we are confident that with continued energy and commitment, we will play a role in making history. More information about the MDGs, as well as progress towards achieving them, can be found online:


The Critical Decade: A call to reflection and action

On March 26-28th, ICA USA hosted a Think Tank on International Initiatives in Chicago.  Robertson Work, a long time ICA staff member, former head of decentralized governance for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and current university lecturer and consultant to the UN and other international organizations, was invited to speak to participants. This article is an abridged version of his presentation. For more information on the outcomes of the meeting in Chicago, readers are invited to visit ICA USA’s website at:

We have just entered the most critical decade in human history - the time to do or die.  We are in the midst of a whole system transformation - a time of chaos, crisis and possibility. We are facing multiple, interlocking crises including HIV/AIDS, gender inequality, increasing poverty, failed governance, unsustainable energy, and climate chaos.

We as a society have the tools and technology needed but still lack the collective will to action. We must, at the same time, transform individual consciousness and behavior and collective culture and systems. This crisis is an opportunity to reinvent human society from the bottom up and the top down based on principles of justice, equity, sustainability and participation. 

There are a number of interlocking crises which represent great opportunities:

Environmental - If we are to survive, the environmental challenges we face will require the reinventing of a new civilization based on principles of sustainability, justice, equity and participation.  Global warming is real and so are its dire consequences.  With the potential for massive social, political and economic chaos, it will easily be the biggest crisis ever faced by our species.  The next ten years will tell the story of our future – misery or happiness.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to rethink the importance and implementation of sustainable development on this planet.

Economic - The recent economic crisis was a crisis borne of a financial system divorced from nature and social justice.  The opportunity here is of reinventing a new financial order, to reinvent money, and reinvest value in nature and people.  We ultimately need to end the madness of the consumption-production cycle.

Political - We are witnessing a governance collapse.  It’s a crisis of democracy controlled by corporations.  The opportunity lies in reinventing governance that is participatory, just, and in line with sustainable development goals.

Social - The major crises are in healthcare and education.  We have an opportunity to catalyze a new common sense of universal rights of education and healthcare.

Cultural - Among all of the other issues, we face a real crisis of a sunset effect of fear-based fundamentalisms. Yet through this, an opportunity exists in a shift to a global, empathic consciousness and the rise of the cultural creatives.

There is a pathway forward.  We need to put an end to our purely production-consumption society, end the unrealistic concept of unlimited growth and drive towards a sustainable, equitable, participatory, just society.  We need renewable energy, a just financial system, participatory governance, and environmental protection.  We need new thinking, new assumptions, new myths, policies, and collective action.  Awakenment is primary to engagement.  We need to understand how to stay awake, and how to act mindfully.

There are specific things that we are challenged to do:

We need to think big, be bold, work at various levels, and advocate for policy change. We must be catalytic, form strong partnerships with others, let go of the need for individual credit and recognition, and seek to leverage change in creative ways.
We must work to strengthen ICAI, be strategic in our priorities, continue to develop and use new methods, and measure impacts. Importantly we must also work on problems within the USA, and not just abroad, if we are serious about unlocking contradictions.

These indeed are times of crisis.  Are we in the ICA among the people to heed the call?  I certainly think we are.  The need is dramatically apparent. The resources are present.  There are trillions of dollars sloshing around the globe looking for good ideas and projects. We must think big, not just tinker. What is the grand strategy?  Who are our allies?  How will we access the necessary resources?  Ultimately, we need to decide how we will leave a legacy that moves us all forward for the next 100 years and beyond. 

Robertson Work


Nepal prepares to welcome the world in 2012

In 2008, the General Assembly of ICA International unanimously endorsed ICA Nepal’s bid to host the 8th Global Conference on Human Development in 2012. Recent discussions and agreements between the boards of ICA Nepal and ICA International have formalized the process and paved the way for ICA Nepal to intensify preparations for the event. 

Nepal offers a stunning location for what will undoubtedly be a once in a lifetime event. The 2012 conference is tentatively scheduled for the month of October, a month of generally excellent weather that is perfect for pre or post conference activities. ICA Nepal’s strong team of professionals is taking charge of organizing the event, and is excited to welcome the world to Nepal.

We look forward to sharing more details about the conference as planning progresses in the coming months.

Michael Watson, ICA International, and Tatwa Timsina, ICA Nepal


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