ICA USA celebrates 40th anniversary of Human Development Projects

ICA’s 50 year history is well documented- but in the process of becoming well organized and digitized. Colleagues from around the U.S. volunteer countless hours from remote location to this archiving project– and twice a year they meet face in Chicago to keep momentum and push forward specific projects.

This ICA USA Fall Sojourn, October 9-13, brought together 54 colleagues, more than any prior Sojourn. In addition to regular sojourn activities, those gathered celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the International Human Development Projects (HDPs). ICA’s HDP’s were ‘concerned with the human factor in world development’ and aimed to build the capacity of communities around the world – so that local communities could create and implement their own plans for change.

Colleagues split into five working groups: 1) Global Archives Website Team, 2) Keyword Tagging Team, 3) HDP Research and Reporting Team, 4) Basement Archive Team, and 5) Gordon Harper Team.

Highlights include:

  • 1 Wall of Wonder spanning the past 40 years of HDP and more
  • 372 hours of volunteer work done for the Archives
  • 200GB of video recorded
  • 500 photos taken

Global Archives Website

To represent a living archive, the website will be a living document, “adaptive to the use of it” in the sense that it invites and changes with collaborative use. In order to “harvest work done in the past”(view framework), the Website Team is working to digitize archive materials by first scanning them into PDF (portable document format) and then applying OCR (optical character recognition) software that allows computers to read the scanned text.

Tasked with answering the question of “who would want to use our wisdom?”, the Tagging Team mapped current data categorized as: organizational development, education, spirit life, symbols, movements, and volunteer simplicity. From there, the team created user profiles of people most likely to seek out and benefit from ICA’s body of work. Tags articulate what these users would search for without using institutional language, therein making the archive accessible to the wider community.

Beyond simply revealing the depths of the existing archive is the impulse to tell its foundational stories anew. To this end the Band of 24 Team drafted a unifying template for reports on the Human Development Projects intended to populate the new website. Through five sections of less than 500 words each, the template guides authors to reflect upon the whole story and identify overarching themes that not only strengthen the narrative of the project, but connect it to “insights, implications, questions, etc., that have been revealed about community development during the past 40 years” (view template). In this way, reports on the projects build on the work of the Website Team by linking to supplemental content from the archives and beyond into the wider world.

Gordon Harper Files

Another working group sorted through the files of longtime colleague and Archives contributor, Gordon Harper. In the midst of memories of Gordon’s idiosyncratic wit and meticulous notation, these highlights were uncovered:

  • A complete bound description of all the courses of University 13, developed in 1982 but never implemented.
  • Six ring-bound notebooks of Gordon’s record of his time in Chicago, full of well-written, legible notes of colleagues’ talks, including J.W. Mathews.
  • About 100 cassette tapes grouped into 6 categories: RS-I pedagogy, NRM, JWM, colleagues, Taiwan, and others. Notable was a radio broadcast with the translating author reporting on Kazantzakis, author of Saviors of God, which colleagues studied in 1968.
  • Complete set of HDTS (Human Development Training School) files from Maliwada, India.
  • Photos and slides from the HDP in Taiwan, which have been given to Frank Knutson to process.

Basement Archives

Perhaps the bravest of the working groups was led by Ruth Gilbert and Nancy Trask, who approached the monumental work of organizing the basement archives at the ICA GreenRise. Like solving a sliding tile puzzle, the Basement Team alternated between sorting through objects and clearing spaces in which to house those objects once sorted. They asked tough questions, such as: “keep or toss?”, “is the owner alive or dead?”, “is this object’s value institutional or personal?”, “would we send this, and is it worth it?”, “what does this mean to someone?”, and “could anyone else use it?”. Though the work was emotionally and physically exhausting, the team was “fed by touching the lives of colleagues” through the things they left behind in the course of the HDPs.

Read the Full Sojourn Report.

This post was written for ICA USA news.