The way that we define ourselves as socio-cultural beings in relation to others in our societies—Indigenous vs. Immigrant, Subjugated vs. Dominant, Wealthy vs. Poor—has a huge bearing on the social, economic, political and security standards of our nation-states.This is particularly the case when such socio-cultural identities begin to define how we ought to think or behave, or, more crucially, who we able to build relationships with or cut ourselves off from.
Interdisciplinary research has consistently shown that people whose socio-cultural identities restrict, rather than empower, them from building relationships with others suffer from: emotional and intellectual instability, comparative economic inactivity, and an inability to engage fully in civil community building and social cohesion projects. The entrenchment that results from these effects can drive people further inward, and in extreme cases violence or even full-scale sectarian conflict is the result.
Despite the widely acknowledged fact that sustainable nation-building projects require all citizens to have an equal stake in their national community, a focus on the availability, quality, and effective management of socio-cultural resources is often left out of development and/or leadership strategy. At best, the relationships and perceptions of internal groups are merely acknowledged as factors to consider when making decisions on other matters, rather than a sector to “develop”, engage with, or “manage”.
Indeed, many governments and NGOs assume that socio-cultural identities are simply unchangeable or unmanageable, that people can only be a member of one cultural/ethnic/religious group with one dominant set of cultural symbols which serve to include them in that unit. Many organizations and leaders assume that such identities and symbols are only subject to change over decades, generations, or in the response to some kind of social revolution.
The Organization for Intra-Cultural Development (OICD) tackles this assumption—attempting to demonstrate that all individuals have the capacity to modify and/or move beyond any cultural representation of themselves if they are given more attractive, historically and scientifically accurate, and opportunity-rich, cultural symbolism with which to engage.
The OICD seeks to improve the conditions of social, political and economic life through the management of these critical human resources–providing newly arranged cultural symbolism to people whose current cultural identities are working to restrict sustainable self-images, social relationships and senses of cohesive community, cultural heritage and/or national citizenship/global place.
Using a series of techniques developed through the interdisciplinary study of identity and culture (social anthropological perspectives being the key contributing discipline), this intra-cultural development can be extremely effective in kick-starting dialogue within and between opposed groups, or within and between dominant and minority cultures. Such dialogue can in turn bring previously marginalized groups into the process of building new social networks and senses of shared community/nation.
Intra-cultural development is necessary in all modern and modernizing nation states. Building an intra-cultural development strategy should be of concern to all parties interested in improving the economic, social, political and security standards in their societies. Intra-cultural development is effective because it acts to affect change at the very genesis of socio-cultural identity, affecting how people link themselves to their cultural and national story, and thus how they behave and act towards others in their societies.