Membership Status: National Member

About Us

Social justice has been a constant in the Institute of Cultural Affair’s mission and has always told its story within the context of the “moral issue of our times.” Today global climate change confronts sensitive and responsible people everywhere with a huge moral dilemma. Therefore the ICA is focused on engaging communities, organizations and individuals in programs of sustainability.

Our Mission

ICA promotes a just and equitable society 
by catalyzing sustainable communities
and ​demonstrating sustainable practices
to reverse the negative human impact on the planet.

Our Programs

ICA GreenRise Learning Lab

In the US, a strength and key asset of the ICA’s sustainability work is the ICA GreenRise Learning Lab, an eight-story building located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. The building was donated to the ICA in 1972 in recognition of the initial Fifth City community development work. ICA GreenRise is a ‘learning laboratory’ for people to dialogue about sustainability and what is possible to do within a mixed-use building. With a number of sustainable retrofits, including a 485 solar panel array, the building is a place to meet, collaborate, share resources, and learn sustainable practices. In 2021 the GreenRise launched the “Carbon Free Building Demonstrations” program, an Uptown collaborative of six buildings with the goal of becoming carbon free by 2030.

Technology of Participation

ICA’s Technology of Participation facilitation methodology harnesses the energy and wisdom of a group to build consensus and create and implement strategic plans. Currently, the ToP Network consists of over 130 licensed trainers and certified facilitators who deliver facilitation services and training across the nation.

ICA Social Research Center

The ICA houses the Global Archives, hosts the Global Schedule of Events and collaborates with the ICAI. ICA staff and volunteers have organized the sixty year history of the EI/ICA into nine collections of historical documentation (e.g.community projects in all 24 global time zones, Town Meetings, inner life exercises, transformative courses, and publications of books and periodicals). This information is available on the website – icaglobalarchives.org – for the purpose of sharing wisdom and tools with people concerned about social and environmental justice. The Global Schedule of Events on this website connects people around the world with these resources and enables dialogue with today’s creative responses to challenges.

Our Values


​ICA uses an asset-based approach to community development that depends on facilitating people and communities to come together to achieve positive change using their own knowledge, skills and lived experience of the issues they encounter in their own lives.

An approach that is bottom-up, inclusive, and comprehensive builds upon the existing social capital within a community and relies on participatory engagement.

ICA methods are used to build consensus and depend upon:

  • Inclusive Participation
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Individual and Group Creativity
  • Action and Ownership
  • Reflection and Learning


​In an ideal world the cultural, economic, and political systems are all equally valued and working within the understanding that the earth is a finite resource. In reality, societal behavior and decisions are primarily made with the economic perspective being overvalued at the detriment of cultural and political systems. Our current society is also treating the earth as an infinite resource, overtasking our environment in an unsustainable way.

ICA is intentionally named the Institute of Cultural Affairs because of the organization’s rooted belief that real change must originate from the cultural dimension in order to put the systems into balance.


At their foundation, ICA programs attempt to create a shift in people’s mindsets, values, and behaviors.

The four main value shifts ICA seeks to create in the individuals, organizations, and communities are illustrated below.



ICA believes systemic change is not possible if organizations and individuals are not able to work together collaboratively. ICA believes that our current social construct breeds competition through deeply scripted scarcity mentality.

​ICA programs aim to break down this mentality in order to move from a competitive system towards a system of collaboration.


ICA has historically focused on the prevailing social issue of the time. ICA’s sustainability mission uses the holistic definition that includes economic, environmental, and social systems. When these systems are in balanced true sustainability is achieved. In order to maximize impact and longevity, ICA programs focus on the issues at the intersection of these systems.

A sustainable community is inclusive and just with civically engaged residents working together to address social disparities and promote environmental health, human well-being, and community vitality for present and future generations.

Our People

Lesley Showers
Executive Director

Click here to view our whole team.

Location & Contact

4750 North Sheridan Road
City: Chicago
Zip Code / Post Code: 60640
Country: USA

Phone Number: 0017737696363
Email Address: ksnyder@ica-usa.org