Who we are

People very often have many questions about the ICA and our work.

ICA Belgium

We thought that we would take some of the more frequently asked ones and use them as a guide to share something of who we are and what we do.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of business is the ICA?

The Institute is not a business or a corporation. The ICA office in Belgium was registered with the Belgian Federal Government in 1977 as a private, not-for-profit organisation. It has a Board of Directors, which meets yearly to review its programme work and the finances of the Institute. It files tax returns with the Belgian Government and meets the other legal requirements to maintain its registration.

Where did the ICA come from?

The Institute grew out of the programme work of a not-for-profit organisation in Chicago, Ill. called The Ecumenical Institute.

The Ecumenical Institute is an autonomous division of The Church Federation of Greater Chicago. It was established by the Church Federation because of a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches when it met in Evanston, Ill. in 1956.

This resolution called for the establishment of an ecumenical centre in North America like the centres that were established in Europe following the end of World War II.

In the mid-1960s the Ecumenical Institute moved from its location in Evanston near the campus of Northwestern University to the inner city on the west side of Chicago. There it began to work in the local community to develop methods and programmes to help the community help itself.

In addition, it developed a national and international training programme. As this work developed the Ecumenical Institute began to receive requests to open offices across North America and then in the late 1960s in other parts of the world. In addition, it became clear that in terms of furthering the Ecumenical Institute’s work of encouraging social responsibility and grassroots participation in development a totally secular organisation would remove some of the barriers it was encountering.

Thus, the ICA was started as a programme division and in 1973 it was incorporated as a separate not-for-profit organisation. At that time, the two organisations had the same staff around the world but completely different programmes.

Today the ICA exists as a global organisation and the Ecumenical Institute is a local organisation in Chicago.

Do you have offices in other countries?

Yes. There are some 35 countries where offices currently exist. In addition, there are a number of countries, where groups are in the process of starting an ICA office.

Each ICA office is completely autonomous and self-regulating. They must be locally registered and are responsible for their programme and financial development and security.

Who supports your work?

The ICA office in Belgium is an entirely self-supporting organisation. It receives no major contributions but rather supports itself with programme fees and income from its training centre.

The ICA offices in the developing world are often the recipients of programme grants and contributions from multilateral and bilateral donors, church funding organisations and other foundations and funding sources.

What are you hoping to accomplish?

Two phrases have been important to the ICA over its history. The first of those is the phrase that we first used when the ICA was born in 1973.

It was, « Concerned for the Human Factor in Global Development. » At that time and for all these years this has meant simply that, we were committed to focusing on human beings as the key element in creating a more human future for all of us. We felt that if you want to bring about change that is really going to make a difference and that is really going to last then you have to take the people with you and you have to enable them to participate in the process.

The second phrase is one that we have begun to use in the last ten years or so. It is, « Facilitating a Culture of Participation. » We believe that the key to enabling a more human future is the participation of people in the decisions that are shaping their future.

Whether this is in the work place or in the community all of us should have the possibility of helping to shape our one future. This will require a new culture, a culture where every person’s voice is heard. This is a Culture of Participation.

A Culture of Participation is fundamental to commitment, to motivation, to ownership and finally to a community where people care and are cared for.

Whom do you work with?

While the Institute is independent, we do cooperate with like-minded organisations when the opportunity presents itself. Through our international association we are members of Civicus, which is a global association promoting the growth and development of Civil Society.

In additional our international association has consultative status with the United Nations and various forms of recognition from many of the UN agencies.

What do you mean by "culture" in your name?

Obviously, we do not mean Culture in the sense of « fine art » but more in the sense of culture in the total fabric of the social life of a community.

Every community has its economic, political and cultural dimensions. The cultural dimension has more to do with the meaning or significance giving aspects of a society.

It is the more civilizing dimension, having to do with education, morals, values, etc. In our concern for « The Human Dimension of Global Development », we necessarily focused on the cultural dimension of society.

What is the meaning of your symbol?

We refer to our symbol as a wedge blade and the original inspiration for it comes from a 20th century poem by D. H. Lawrence. In the poem, Song of a Man Who Has Come Through, he writes:

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only, I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows, The rock will split,
we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.

Thus, the circle is representing the world and the wedge blade symbolizes the decision of people to take responsibility for the future of their community, work place, etc.

For us the symbol reminds us that we are about the task of building a more human world by enabling the participation of people in the creative process of deciding the future direction of our planet.