Thursday, February 11, 2016

Launching the IofC Australia Consultation: ‘Let’s Capture and Create’

Initiatives of Change Australia is launching a national consultation process around Australia, aiming to capture the full range of ongoing work currently associated with IofC – and to take new steps toward creating the future. This ‘Roadmap’ process for change and development within the network is to clarify and evolve the vision, mission and calling for IofC Australia.

As a social movement, IofC has deep roots in Australia. Many Australians offered themselves as volunteers in the post-World War II peace-building mission, working out of centres in Europe and Asia, or taking musical revues with a message of hope of the road. Australian volunteers affiliated with IofC have been active in various spheres, including industrial relations, foreign affairs and trust building with Asian neighbours. Many continue to be involved ongoing  initiatives for healing and reconciliation, working in partnership with rural and Indigenous Australians in remote communities, suburban folk in cities around Australia, and Pacific Islanders in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

‘We believe that this organization, with its deep and rich legacy, has much to offer Australia,’ said Athalia Zwartz, Executive Officer for IofC Australia, at a meeting to consider the upcoming consultation process. ‘This consultation seeks to capture the breadth of what’s going on now around Australia, and gather input from all those who have a stake in the continuing relevance of IofC.’

On IofC’s ongoing relevance, current supporters point to the ongoing Life Matters personal development courses and the Creators of Peace network that promotes trust building through the spread of women’s ‘peace circles.’ Australian volunteers continue to make their contributions to peace and trust building, for example, recently running Life Matters in the post-conflict zone of Mannar island off Sri Lanka’s Jaffna coast, in the southern Philippines, and training ‘peace mobilisers’ in rural districts of South Sudan.

‘Working in post-conflict situations where the politics seem intractable and violence continues, IofC programs and long-term network building are able to provide a space for people to reflect and dialogue with each other,” said Nigel Heywood, an IofC volunteer who has been closely involved with the peace-building programmes, and who now works for the Australian Red Cross. “Healing among tribal enemies and in families has opened up new possibilities for trust. People-to-people peace building has created bridges and new possibilities where previously there were none. The challenge for IofC is to make this work more accessible and effective for those in deep need.’

‘In a sense, IofC has become a victim of its own success: we’re good at helping small initiatives get off the ground and prompting change in people’s hearts, but not so good at capturing where our network has made a vital contribution to a process or outcome,’ said Mike Brown, a veteran of IofC’s initiatives and currently Deputy Chair of its Council of Management.  ‘Part of this consultation process is to get a real picture of where the network is at around Australia, finding out where IofC is continuing to make a difference, and figuring out how to create the conditions for new initiatives to blossom.’

Launching the process, a small IofC team will visit cities and towns in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia for a series of ‘town hall meetings’ with IofC stakeholders. ‘Besides these somewhat formal meet-ups, we’ll also have a series of one-on-ones with individuals, whether current leaders or people interested in taking certain initiatives forward,’ said Athalia. From these ‘fireside conversations’, she envisages some reconnections within the nation-wide network, involvement of new stakeholders, and ‘a clearer sense of what is inspiring people around the country now, ways to connect that, and ways to grow that.’

Part of the ‘Road Map’ process is generating a series of ‘Next Step Experiments’, small scale initiatives which will test what works for Australia. IofC Australia is making seed funding available under ‘Next Steps,’ to help launch projects promoting positive change in local communities and groups working on trust building initiatives nationally.

The international network of Initiatives of Change focuses on building trust across the world’s divides, sustainable living, and ethical leadership. The movement began over 80 years ago out of the work of Frank Buchman (1878-1961), an American Christian minister who promoted the connection between faith and change in society. ‘The task now is to build a picture of what this looks like in Australia today,’ said Mike Brown.

The Road Map Process and YOU! from Initiatives of Change Australia on Vimeo.

For more information, email athalia.zwartz@au.iofc.org