Navigation Menu

What ICA Does: 3b

ICA Focus

ICA focuses on local responsibility and action within a global perspective


Community development, where local responsibility is undertaken and driven by those who live, work, and are otherwise engaged in communities, has been a central feature of ICA programs since the beginning. Other particular programs — like the Technology of Participation (ToP) ® — are direct descendants of this work.


ICA’s focus on community development has been complemented by strategies to connect local action with the broader world. While a global story is important — everyone knows the phrase “think globally, act locally” — ICA has worked hard to make it a reality. Its history shows this. From its origins in Fifth City, ICA expanded its community work internationally by initiating 24 projects, one in every time zone around the world. ICA also developed a program of community forums, one-day events where residents of communities discussed their challenges and created plans of actions to resolve them. Known as “Town Meeting ’76,” ICA conducted one in every county of the U.S., 5,000 in total. National ICA offices carried out similar programs in other countries. The point is that ICA’s attention on local action has always been undertaken within a global context. This perspective is best seen today in the peer-to-peer relationships of ICA-International (ICAI) and efforts of 39 national ICAs working across their respective geography.


The “global grid” is a symbol of this commitment and appears on the cover page of this document. While it is a stylized depiction of the world, it also represents an analysis of global relationships. There was a time when the “global grid” appeared in every ICA office around the world as a visual reminder of local responsibility within an international context. Today, global relationships may be symbolized differently, but the insight remains the same.

The foundation for this global perspective is creative local action. It is in towns, villages, and neighborhoods that opportunities abound for the building of healthy sustainable communities. This perspective undergirds ICA-USA’s current work with Accelerate 77 as well as community-based programs of other ICAI members. It also drives efforts elsewhere by other global organizations. “Transition Towns” promotes permaculture principles within local communities around the world. Margaret Wheatley, who has written extensively about the major challenges confronting the world, refers to today’s systemic resistance to change as a vast tyrannical “Sea of Insanity.” While it is easy to fall into despair about this, she points out that awakened people are rising up in “Islands of Sanity” as they join together to create signs of hope. Communities are open spaces where change can always occur regardless of constraints that might restrict options elsewhere.


If dire predictions come true, and systemic resistance to change will dissipate only when the global crisis becomes so extreme that current systems collapse, then the necessity to build self-reliant communities will eventually become unavoidable. This underscores the importance for sensitive and responsive people to invest themselves now in the creation of “Islands of Sanity.” From its earliest days, ICA has been about resurgence in local communities. To echo the words of Thomas Berry, there could not be a more urgent moment for ICA to continue its “Great Work.”



These are the times. We are the people.


Resources for continuing the conversation:

  • George Randall West, Creating Community: Finding Meaning in the Place We Live (2012).
  • Rob Hopkins and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont (2012).
  • Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco (2011).
  • Fred Lanphear, Songaia, an Unfolding Dream, Songaia Press, Bothall, WA (2014).