by OICD Director, Bruce White


As we reflect on another year at the OICD, we begin with a celebration of some 2023 highlights.


Empowering Change Agents of the Future

While we’ve had an internship program since 2009, we decided to trial a new format for a short term intensive program in 2023. Partnering with Ashinaga International Students Association and Sun Rays Foundation, we conducted a 12-week internship program aimed at equipping young change makers with tools to transform communities affected by identity-based conflict. The diverse group of interns from across Africa and beyond participated in interactive workshops on identity and engaged in hands-on tasks, gaining practical experience and contributing to the OICD’s mission through research, content-writing, and video-editing. One of the highlights of the program was an insightful talk on Identity Fusion Theory by guest speaker Steve Mederos from the Boston-based William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences. Read the full article on the internship program.

Training Artist-Researchers and Artist-Educators

This is the OICD’s fourth year of involvement in the Netherlands-based Artez Masters program. As in previous years, I travelled to Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Arnhem (Netherlands) in 2023 to work with the advanced artist research students to incorporate identity-based frameworks and methods into their social change work. Specifically, the OICD-Master Artist Program partnership focuses on providing artist-educators with foundational research and strategy-building tools they need to maximize their transformative impact. The OICD is excited to continue its partnership with the Program’s new UNESCO project in 2024. We congratulate program director John Johnston for his work in securing the UNESCO project and also for his wonderful contributions to our own UNESCO collaborative project (detailed below).

Where Digital Identity and Human Identity Meet

Spurred into action by OICD Senior Officer, Chikara Shimasaki, the OICD has begun to collaborate with organizations working within the digital identity space. Amongst a range of activities during the year, we were asked to give a presentation to the Trust Over IP Human Identity Working Group on how our EMIC method researches and processes identity information at scale. The design of future infrastructure for managing digital identity – including how social media services can better meet rather than exploit identity needs – should be built around how identity works in everyday human contexts. We look forward to continuing discussions with a range of collaborators including Nicky Hickman (co-author of an important report on overcoming harms in digital ecosystems) to further these and other goals to reduce harm and release human potential.

Turning the Tide Training with Afrinov

In March 2023, we were able to deepen our partnership with AfriNov by travelling to Nairobi to participate in Turning the Tide training program. The transformative program allowed participants to reflect on power relationships and dynamics, providing insights into the potential integration of the theme of power with the OICD’s EMIC training on identity. This collaboration between OICD and AfriNov holds great promise for advancing peace-building initiatives and fostering positive social change. Read more about the visit and collaboration. We look forward to continued development and collaboration in 2024!

Arts and Identity for Social Change – Partnership with Culturans

We were thrilled to connect and collaborate extensively with Culturans in 2023. Culturans is an international NGO with a mission to create community-based, sustainable urban futures by weaving together creative industries, urban planning and community engagement. Together, we have built a program framework called IMPACT, or Identity Method for Practical Arts & Culture Transformation. IMPACT addresses challenges of identity-based conflict, democracy, civil peace and cultural heritage through arts-driven and human science solutions. It combines identity-based research, analysis and strategy, with Culturans’ work to deliver solutions that respond to the urgent needs of local communities and citizens through creating cooperative networks of cities. We were also very grateful to Culturans for their fantastic contribution to an UNESCO-OICD workshop held in October 2023 (more below). We look forward to continuing to collaborate in 2024, and bringing IMPACT into action in one or more global cities.

OICD Presents at UNESCO HQ, Paris

In May of 2023 former OICD intern and UNESCO Associate Project Officer for Culture, Cristina Cusenza, invited me to present a talk at UNESCO Paris Headquarters at a Multistakeholder Dialogue on Culture and Arts Education. In the talk, titled “Identity & Arts Education for Social Transformation”, I was able to emphasize arts educations’ transformative power in challenging norms, fostering social cohesion, and healing divisions. Using case studies from OICD work and that of our many partner organisations, I was able to illustrate the integration of identity-based research into arts education, portraying its potential to shape positive expressions and break down prejudices.

I also introduced the OICD’s identity methodology, EMIC, to the audience, illustrating how it can be combined with arts education to address conflict-causing identities and promote social cohesion. The talk underscored the OICD’s commitment to responsible, ethical good practices, and announced future initiatives, including collaborations with UNESCO such as those detailed below. Many thanks go to Cristina for linking the OICD to this UNESCO initiative.

A Workshop, Toolkit and Network – UNESCO and OICD Join Forces to Leverage Identity and Arts for Social Transformation

Further to the talk in May detailed above, the OICD and UNESCO began work to develop a network of practitioners to showcase good practices in applying identity to arts for social transformation. In the first stage, we designed and co-hosted a workshop entitled “Harnessing the Power of Identity & The Arts for Social Transformation” in October 2023. The workshop brought together over 80 participants from academia, civil society organizations, educators, artists, and practitioners to share best practices and discuss common challenges in their respective contexts. The event provided a platform from which to synergize initiatives and good practices for managing diversity and addressing the root causes of conflicts and violence, fostering inclusion, social cohesion, reconciliation, and peacebuilding in Eastern Africa and beyond. This platform was used, in turn, to create and publish a toolkit of best practices – now available for download – for use across education and civil society. The toolkit was then used to train an OICD AI chatbot – likely the first tool of its kind in the sector and freely available here – so that NGOs and others can get bespoke advice on guidance on incorporating the tools into their specific contexts.

We look forward very much to building on this work in 2024 and thank the UNESCO team in Nairobi for such a fruitful and rewarding collaboration thus far.

OICD and University of Coimbra, Portugal, Collaborate for a Workshop and OICD Members Meet

In November 2023, several members of the OICD’s advisory board flew into Coimbra, Portugal, to participate in a workshop hosted by the University of Coimbra Institute for Legal Research (UCILeR). The workshop brought together a broad spectrum of experts to explore the intersection between science and policy making, with a focus on identity and culture. The event not only provided valuable insights into the role of identity factors in impactful policy formation but also brought together many OICD advisory board members for long overdue in-person meetings and social events. We extend our heartfelt thanks to Joana Ricarte for organizing the event and bringing us together.

Staff News and Announcements

The OICD’s work would not be possible if not for its dedicated staff, its volunteers, and interns. Cormac Auty joined the regular OICD internship program in 2023 and continues to contribute greatly in his engagement and participation across a range of activities. Rosanna Zaffuto and Alina Popa joined as volunteers and have contributed greatly to event management and design and illustration work respectively. Anna Urbani, an intern at AfriNov, is undergoing training in EMIC and represents the first intern to work across both AfriNov and OICD contexts. We look forward to developing cross-organizational internships more broadly in 2024.

2023 also saw Chikara Shimasaki take on his new role as Senior Officer for Innovation and Partnerships. Chikara has worked tirelessly in this role to connect and share the work of the organization with a wide variety of stakeholders (with special reference to community commons and development as well as education work) as well as spearhead the OICD’s move into the interface between digital and human identity.

We are also delighted to announce the addition of Robert Cooper to the OICD team as the Senior Officer for Internship Programs. Robert’s expertise and dedication have already made a significant impact on our internship initiatives, and we look forward to the continued growth of our internship program under his coordination.

Additionally, in 2023 we were pleased to welcome Chris Mkado as a Project Development Officer and Liaison for East Africa. Chris’s experience in the civil society sector was of fantastic benefit to our recent UNESCO-OICD network building work and will undoubtedly contribute to the success of our future endeavours in East Africa and beyond.

To Come in 2024

As we gear-up for another year of identity and cultural development work, we look forward to launching a new set of courses and implementation workshops at the OICD Institute in early 2024. These courses and workshops will be designed to help practitioners practically apply identity-based tools across a broad range of sectors, including Conflict Transformation, Education, Social Justice & Advocacy, and Community Development.

Building on our work with UNESCO, we are also excited to extend and expand our applied research projects in 2024, as well as to host additional workshops and to work with the network we have built in identity and arts for social transformation.

Thanks to our Advisory Board members Sandra Obradović and Joana Ricarte, we are also part of several Horizon (EU-funded) bids for the year ahead and we are exploring a variety of new sectors and applications, including stand-alone software applications for identity mapping and strategy building. We hope to make some important announcements on these developments in 2024.

As always, we are excited about the relationships we will build in 2024 with new partners and organizations. If you know of any individual or organization that we should be talking to please do let us know at [email protected]

Wishing all our friends, partners, members and subscribers a heathy, happy and productive 2024!