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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 believed these common practices were ways in which people could express how they were different and understood these common practices 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.
Conflict resolution has to start by analysing what is going on inside particular groups that share cultural information if it is going to solve problems between groups.
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.
In his first public lecture 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 (read the archived lecture transcript).
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.
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.