ICA Handbook


An Introduction to the Organizational Wisdom of ICA

Principles, Values, and Perspectives – by Terry Bergdall

ICA HandbookMy entire vocational life has been informed by the transformative work of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). For twenty years, 1969-1989, I served as an ICA program officer in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Japan, Chicago, and Kenya. In Nairobi, I initiated and led a restructuring process with ICA-Kenya in order for it to become an African governed and managed organization and thereby worked myself out of a job. For the next twenty years, 1989-2009, I worked as a consultant with international development agencies. I understood those two decades to be a valuable time for applying, adapting, and integrating “ICA-inspired” principles and practices into different working environments. Most recently, I completed six years, 2009-2015, as CEO of ICA-USA.

The purpose of this handbook, gleaned from 46 years of personal experience, is to serve as a reference for those who seek to know more about ICA, its special character, and practical ways that it might continue as a leading organization in fostering social change around the world. The 4×4 chart on the following page serves as the handbook’s outline and represents my attempt to answer three questions: What is ICA’s “uniqueness?” What are the essential qualities that account for ICA being ICA rather than the “institute of something else?” How might the characteristics that distinguish ICA from other nonprofit organizations be most easily conveyed to new staff members, volunteers, potential board members, and other interested parties?

The handbook is organized in four broad categories. The first highlights “what ICA is.” It focuses on ICA’s purpose and aims. The second is “what ICA thinks.” It describes core intellectual insights and convictions that have driven the organization since its inception. The third discusses “what ICA does.” It shares basic principles that guide the strategic intention and creation of ICA programs. The fourth looks at “how ICA works” and describes important dimensions of ICA’s organizational culture. The 4×4 consists of 16 major points. While much could be written about each one, the handbook adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Descriptions for each of the 16 points have been limited to a 1-page, 500-word summary.
  • My intention has been to write these without jargon. When words are used in an unfamiliar manner, they are defined, e.g., a “contradiction” refers to social dysfunctions that causes unjust harm among innocent people — which, in a particular instance, can be illustrated in public policies that allow easy access to guns used in repeated instances of mass murder.
  • In support of each of the 16 points, a list of selected references is offered so that interested readers, if they are so inclined, may pursue deeper investigation of the theme. The items listed include articles, speeches, books, and videos. Many are found in a companion annex.
  • The basic “handbook” consists of these 16 summary pages.

This project began as a part of ICA’s 50th Anniversary in 2012. It has now been completed during the early part of a sabbatical year following my departure as CEO at ICA-USA in April 2015. Within that time span, I have shared drafts with many ICA “veteran” colleagues. While I am grateful for their feedback, have adapted much of it, and truly believe this reflects collective wisdom, I am ultimately responsible for the views expressed. Similarly, this document does not formally represent, unless otherwise approved, any Statutory Member of ICA-International. All members of the ICA community, however, are cordially invited to use it as they see fit as long as attribution is given to the original work and any subsequent changes are shared.

ICA Handbook (CC BY-SA 4.0)

bergdall@gmail.com – July 2015

Terry Bergdall’s ICA Handbook was first published by ICA USA in its ICA East Africa Conference Report.


2 thoughts on “ICA Handbook

  1. dbgeezer says:

    The new site looks great. Thanks for all the hard work that went into it. I want to let you know about one minor issue. I am on a macbook pro with display set to default, and your site is slightly wider than my display, perhaps only 8% wider.

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