A Chronological History of the EI & ICA

A Chronological History of the Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs 1952–1988


OE ICA Chronologic HistoryThe Chronological History 1952–1988 traces the development of The Ecumenical Institute (EI) and the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), organizations dedicated to sharing methods and models, which have brought depth consciousness and practical tools for responsible participation to organizations and communities. Both organizations, EI and ICA, contributed to the evolution of movements for citizen participation, community development, and organization transformation, in many nations over the past 63 years.

The chronology documents the creation, use, and evolution of the intellectual, social, and spirit methods and models that are the foundations of the work of EI, ICA, and the Technology of Participation™ (ToP™) group facilitation methods training. Many thousands of people contributed to this effort. In a multitude of ways, they all shared a concern that people in communities and organizations learn and work together in a spirit-filled climate of possibility. This Chronological History is an acknowledgement of their contributions to the intellectual breadth, spiritual depth, and underlying social consciousness of care and compassion for people and our planet at the heart of these creative tools that are now used around the world.

These resources are for people who care about effective organizations and inclusive communities. What follows will be of immediate relevance to people interested in the ICA: course participants, people who have attended ICArelated events, or anyone who has come into contact with people who use and continue to refine ICA methods. It will also be of interest to practitioners who wish to trace one well-documented creative thread among the many that contributed to the shaping of the new world we inhabit today.

The idea for this chronological history grew out of conversations during working sessions at the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Phoenix, Arizona in September 1991. Twenty-one ICA facilitators had gathered to consider What’s Next? for their own professional development and for training new ICA facilitators. The participants were a mixture of experienced facilitators and people just beginning their facilitator journey. We all sensed that what we were working on would empower us.

One of our sessions explored the history and development of ICA methods from the perspective of the people in the room. This produced great interest, excitement, and gratitude among the participants. There was a sense that it would be important to continue working on the history. On the spot, I decided that I would incorporate this continued work into my MA project/thesis in Organization Development and Transformation from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

When the data generated at that September 1991 session in Phoenix became available, I used it as the starting point for my chronological history. I looked through my files to gather more historical information for additions to the chronology. I also requested input from colleagues around the world. As I gathered additional data, I decided to expand the chronology to include personal recollections. I brainstormed a list of people who would know when and how methods originated and created a rough draft of the chronology so they could offer additions and corrections.

This process of gathering information from additional people relied on ECONET, an early electronic mail system; connections at meetings; and postal mail. In January 1992, I sent an early draft to 41 ICA contacts with email addresses. I gave the draft to 75 people who attended an ICA West members meeting at the end of January. In early February 1992, I mailed drafts to 24 people from the original brainstorm list. In mid-February, I mailed drafts to an additional seven people at the Wilder Forest ICA Network Association meeting who had not yet been involved. In April 1992, I sent the draft to all of the ICA colleagues in the Western United States.

It was a wonderful adventure and great encouragement to receive input to the emerging chronology. A comment from Lyn Mathews Edwards, one of the members of the original Ecumenical Institute staff, was a particular delight. Lyn said, “The Chronological History is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Another longtime colleague, Jim Troxel, wrote, “A great gift. I will review and send to you any additions, etc.” A third colleague, George West, who had been involved in the process from early on, wrote an encouraging note from Lima, Peru: “This is a great project you have going. It’s a good spirit exercise to reflect on these things, and fun. I am sending you what I have and will look for more time to work on it next week.”

A second draft of the Chronology, with all of these inputs, was completed in August 1992. Jean Watts took copies with her to the ICA International conference in Prague. Following the conference, I began receiving additional corrections and information for the Chronology. Since work for my MA was completed, I had to decide whether I would continue this work. My answer was obviously Yes! In the months that followed, Brian Stanfield and Lyn Edwards particularly provided continued input and support. In October 1992, along with extensive feedback for the second draft, Brian wrote, “Greetings! This is a real gem you are working on, and so important that it be captured before memories grow dim.” Finally, in April 1993, a third draft was complete.

During 1992 and early 1994, as my research was expanding and the final version of the Chronology was nearing completion, I was hopeful that it would become part of more extensive documentation of the work of the ICA. I thought to myself, “Time will tell.” Time did tell, and a Global Archives Project was started in February 1993, with Lyn Mathews Edwards as the Project Director.

This Chronological History and the Global Archives Project both focused primarily on the first forty years of the work of the Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs. Preserving, organizing, cataloguing, and presenting this huge body of knowledge has been a work in progress involving dozens of volunteers and thousands of hours.

But during the 20-plus years since the third draft of the Chronology and the inauguration of a formal archive project, colleagues all over the world have continued to develop new programs that respond to their local needs. Their efforts continue to extend the reach and impact of ICA programs and related activities. Important professional networks have also emerged. The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) grew out of the ICA Network Association. The ToP™ Trainers Network (TTN) was created to support ICA group facilitation training and the growing number of ToP™ trainers marketing ToP™ courses and developing new ToP™ methods.

In 2013, as a part of my work on the Global Archives Project team, I decided to do a major revision of the document. In the fall of 2014, David Dunn, Mirror Communication, was hired to create the layout, work with me on continuing to edit, and prepare the document for e-publication. Paul Noah continues to research and supply graphics. There will always be additions and corrections.

Beret E. Griffith, September 2015

2 thoughts on “A Chronological History of the EI & ICA

  1. kenfisher1942@gmail.com says:

    Beret & Colleagues, I am deeply indebted to you and your team in bringing this into hardcopy production. Your 24-year project will forever a means of telling our story, and re-membering our vocation. Gratefully, Ken Fisher

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