These developments were well in line with a major shift in emphasis for the ICA, the Ecumenical Institute, and the Order: Ecumenical. It was decided at this time that the entire globe was to be the missional context of the organizations. The ICA in Uptown, Chicago were to serve as the “global symbolic centrum” by which other centrums across North and Latin America, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and other continental regions would be modeled. “Chicago is and will be THE symbol,” as reverend Joseph Wesley Mathews put it. A total of five global centrums were established in different locations around the world, each intended to be a service center that aided and expanded upon the existing network of Religious Houses. By establishing these centers, the ICA and the EI pursued a five-fold strategy:
What exactly did this look like in practice? For one, it enabled the ICA to interact with and be more sensitive towards cultures in the regions they served. In part, this took the form of trips throughout the world, from Chicago to Australia to Europe and everywhere in between. Indeed, some staff credited these trips with curing them of “Ugly Americanism” by helping to broaden their global awareness. Along this vein, Human Development Projects located in every time zone globally allowed traveling members of the Institute to share methods with indigenous communities and centrums they encountered. These projects, also called the “Band of 24 Human Development Projects”, harnessed the “human element” to demonstrate what a new “social vehicle” for the world would look like if it better engaged community leadership skills, creativity, and motivation. Further information on these projects can be found in the Human Development collection.
Forum-style meetings and programming retained an essential role in community development at a national scale at this time. The Global Women’s Forum was offered in many of the Band of 24 Projects, while Community Youth Forums and Leadership Effectiveness and New Strategies (LENS) courses continued to reach target demographics in communities and the private sector. The most evocative example of forum-style programming came in 1976, when the ICA held 5,000 town meetings (at least one in every county across the United States) in order to mark the country’s Bicentennial, each of which helped to mark issues and strategies unique to each locale. Further information on this campaign can be found in the Awakenment Forums collection.