About the OICD

General information and the OICD story

What is the OICD’s Mission?

The OICD aims to promote and protect open and inclusive notions of cultural belonging, operating under the belief that human identities are fundamental to the ability to enforce a range of universal human rights, attain human development goals, and prevent and respond to a range of human crises involving violent conflict, discrimination, terrorism, sectarianism, marginalization and persecution. Specifically, the OICD operates to ensure that:

  • Every community, whether regional or national in scope, works to provide all its members with open access to a diverse array of cultural concepts, values and accurate historical and contemporary narratives that enshrine and celebrate those members’ sense of equal place in, and contribution to, their society.
  • No community has the power to distort, diminish or attempt to remove cultural concepts, images or factual narratives that provide individuals with the means to imagine themselves as legitimate members of a diverse community.

 

How the OICD Works

  • The OICD conducts specialist research to understand the distribution and quality of cultural information available within communities around the world and how this information is being used to forge identities that promote division and/or unity.
  • The OICD forms strategies based on its research that set out to reverse manipulations that restrict or distort cultural information, and increase the quality and choice of cultural material from which identities are made.
  • The OICD builds and operates real-world programs and interventions based on its strategies that attempt to add value and cultural choice to everyday identity-making.
  • The OICD conducts a range of educational activities, ranging from publishing educational materials for the general public to training practitioners in the civil society, governance and higher education sectors.
  • The OICD advances the academic knowledge necessary to understand the processes of identity making and how to effectively engage and positively affect the range and quality of cultural material from which identities are made.
  • The OICD develops tools and methodologies for engaging identities in order to help achieve its mission.
  • The OICD works to constantly expand its network of experts, members and partners in order to help achieve its mission.

 

Who the OICD Benefits

Helping people to feel a sense of belonging to a community that presents a rich and inclusive set of cultural values, practices and senses of cultural heritage encourages the emergence of open, inclusive and unifying identities. The more widespread these broad identities are, the less likely communities of all kinds are to experience the kind of divisions that lead to discrimination, violent conflict, and marginalization, and the more likely societies are to engage in positive, participatory and growth-led social, political and economic activities. As well as serving to help protect those vulnerable to discrimination and violence, this positive cycle benefits virtually all members of a given community through an increased creation and distribution of social, political and economic capital.

In addition to the benefits gained from encouraging the positive identity and culture cycle, there is significant benefit in actively countering negative manipulations that narrow the range, quality or access to cultural concepts, and/or set out to offer exclusive access to them based on factors like ethnicity, religion or gender. Negative manipulations result in identities that are prone to human rights abuses such as discrimination, violence, suppression and marginalization. The more widespread these narrow identities are, the less likely societies are to engage in growth-led social, political and economic activities, and the more likely they are to suffer from internal fracturing, stagnation and decline across all dimensions of human development. Specific beneficiaries of work that counters the negative cycle are individuals who suffer, or are at risk of suffering, from abuses to the following human rights: the Rights to Equality, Freedom from Discrimination, Life, Liberty & Personal Security, Nationality, Freedom of Belief and Religion, the Right to Opinion and Information and the Right to Participate in the Cultural Life of Community. As with the positive cycle, virtually all members of a community benefit from actively countering the negative cycle as doing so effectively can prevent, or even reverse, decline in the shared social, political and economic capital of the community.

General Information

The Organization for Identity and Cultural Development is an organization dedicated to combining academic research and practitioner expertise into methodology that can help to improve the effectiveness of conflict transformation and social cohesion programs in all regions of the world.

The OICD was officially formed in 2006 in Kyoto, Japan. It currently operates through its regional and partner offices in Japan, Malta, Australia, the UK, Canada, Senegal and the US. The network consists of approximately two hundred members, while the organization is managed and contributed to by around thirty of these (see people page).

The OICD conducts training, organizes workshops and conferences, and publishes and otherwise promotes its approach to engaging identities as a means to positively transform societies. It offers consultancy services to governments and NGOs and operates independent programs based on its EMIC methodology with partners from civil society.

The OICD Story

The core approach of the OICD was conceived in 1998 by its founder and current executive director, Bruce White.  In 1998 Bruce was conducting research for a doctoral thesis in anthropology. He was living in rural Kyushu, Japan.

Bruce observed how even within small rural Japanese communities, people would constantly try and distinguish themselves from one another–representing themselves to each other as having more or less status, or suggesting that they were more or less “Japanese” than the other. Bruce saw this activity as so common that it seemed that ideas about anything–foreigners, the environment, how to behave correctly–were not really genuine opinions, but rather ways in which people could express how they were different, or special, or unique, or the same as those around them. Bruce saw these common practices of comparing and distinguishing within the in-group as a window into how identity functioned.

While this in itself was not an entirely new anthropological insight, Bruce saw that it could have significant potential if applied to the world of conflict transformation. If, for example, people’s attitudes to “outsiders” (foreigners, minorities, enemies etc.) did not really represent what they actually thought about these outsiders, but were rather representations of how these people wanted to be perceived by those close to them, what was the point of trying to change the perceptions that particular people had of outside others? Surely attitudes and definitions of culture and identity were happening “from within”, and therefore conflict resolution had to start by analysing what was going on inside particular groups that shared cultural information if it was going to solve problems between groups?

These and other insights and bodies of evidence from other disciplines (psychology, political science, neuroscience), convinced Bruce of the need to build a platform to bridge academic findings on identity and apply them to a new approach to transforming conflict and building social cohesion. Bruce saw this as a new field of human development, where, with the right combination of theory and practice, identities could be analyzed and engaged, to help produce solutions to real world problems. Bruce called the approach Intra-Cultural Development and launched the Organization for Intra-Cultural Development in 2000 as a platform that could begin to bring people together to share thoughts and ideas and start the building and testing of applications for the real world.

In one of his first public lectures on the topic in 2004 to an audience of academics, practitioners and intelligence officials in Roehampton, UK, Bruce outlined the approach, presenting on the first simulated pilot study of how the approach could increase effectiveness of cohesion programs in Iraq.

OICD members ratify the first OICD constitution in Kyoto in 2006

By 2006 the OICD had grown into a network of around forty academics from a range of different disciplines. Two dozen of these members arrived in Kyoto in the summer of that year for a workshop on Intra-Cultural Development, and together ratified the first OICD constitution, officially giving life to the organization.

Over the next decade, the OICD would conceive and host over a dozen workshops all over the world, from the first official post-2006 workshop near Nuremberg, to Switzerland, back many times to Kyoto, to Malta, Belfast and London. All the while the organization was pushing to translate the pertinent and often ground breaking work of its academics into a version of theory and practice that could be applied to solve real human problems in the real world. Simultaneously, versions of the evolving methodology was being piloted in both real and simulated programs to prove concept in places as diverse as Fiji, Guyana, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Mali.

By 2014 the OICD had a method that it could deploy and had begun to consult with organizations in the international development and conflict transformation sectors to find the best ways to disseminate it. Feedback from these consultations and internal remodeling resulted in some name changes and many more improvements.

In late 2014 the OICD launched the EMIC process, a six stage tool-set for social transformation, the culmination of well over over a decade of academic engineering, a method that could be taught to fieldworkers and practitioners and put at the center of conflict transformation and social cohesion programming.

Wayne Jordash (left), OICD director of applied projects, coordinates a training session in London 2015

Within two years, the OICD had conducted training with people from a range of backgrounds, including ex-terrorists, representatives from international organizations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), several NGOs, many academics, graduate students in international relations and other related disciplines, law enforcement officials and government agency representatives.

In late 2015 the OICD renamed itself the Organization for Identity and Cultural Development, a nod to its increasing ability to speak to people and organizations outside of its academic roots.

Today the organization is ramping up its initiatives, hoping to assist a range of organizations and agencies as well as setting out to establish independent programs in multiple regions. The application of the approach may have expanded since its conception in 1998, but the OICD still works to an original formula for social transformation–engaging the very entities that fuel the social lives of us all–our identities.