This year the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Initiatives of Change had to cancel planned events all over the world. But the shift to digital space opened unexpected opportunities. Virtual conferences enable people in remote regions to participate, online tools improve collaboration efforts in and between teams, and the lack of travel enabled funds to be reallocated for other purposes. The International Council (IC) was thereby able to use the changes which the pandemic forced upon us to further our vision of a global team working together to meet the challenges confronting the world community.
Though outreach visits were planned for 2020, the IC suspended travel after the February trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, and developed online activities. A webinar series, ‘Building trust in times of crisis’, took place over two months in late spring which included a talk by President Suresh Vazirani on ‘leading through example’.
The murder of George Floyd in the USA prompted a webinar on Our Humanity in Crisis, where speakers from the US, South Africa and the UK addressed the ‘virus’ of racism. The IC made a statement, pointing out that ‘It will take a sustained commitment from many to bring the needed change in our community attitudes and institutions. We believe the tools, strategies and programmes which IofC has developed through decades of involvement can make a valuable contribution.’
In July an intense online gathering took place. The IofC Hub featured 121 hours of online discussion, story-telling, workshops and artistry over 12 days. IC member Dr Barry Hart of Eastern Mennonite University led a session on ‘Understanding Trauma’. Speaking with him were Shoshana Faire and Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye from Creators of Peace.
Mounir Beltaifa, Vice-President of IofC International, led a workshop on ‘What Will We Need to Deal with in a Post-COVID World’, while Cecilia Silundika led a forum on ‘Women's Empowerment – Women Entrepreneurs’, providing insights on what it means to run a business and look after a family while balancing charitable work.
Year two of the Trustbuilding Program began in June 2020 with 13 Expressions of Interest (EOI) received from IofC teams around the world. A selection panel narrowed that applicant teams down to seven who were invited to submit a full proposal. The final teams will be selected later this month. The IC continues to monitor and support this core program through the Program Steering Group.
The Global Assembly, IofC International’s annual business meeting, took place online from 1-18 September. This included six online discussions on topics of relevance to IofC across the world, and three decision-making sessions. The Assembly elected Rob Lancaster (Australia) and Marta Dabrowska (Poland) as new members of the IC, and elected Stephen Kimaru (Kenya) for a further two years.
In one Assembly meeting Suresh Vazirani pointed out that IofC and its predecessor organisations are now 100 years old. What changes are needed, he asked, to enable IofC to continue making its contribution to the welfare of humanity for the next 100 years? In response a session was arranged in which eight people in their forties, all of whom are taking responsibility for IofC in their countries, spoke on the future of IofC. The session was a highlight of the Assembly, and Vazirani’s question will be a focus of attention in the coming months.