Annual Global Assembly
Initiatives of Change International is answerable to an annual Global Assembly lasting 2-3 days and made up of up to two representatives from each of the member organizations (though each Member has only one vote). The Assemblies are chaired by the President of Initiatives of Change International or his representative and the agenda is set by the International Council.
The Global Assembly helps bring cohesion to a diverse network and to formulate shared strategic points of focus for Initiatives of Change. One of the main tasks of the Global Assembly is to elect the President and members of the International Council. Other tasks include approving the annual report and accounts and the budget for the next year.
Learning from the past
At IofC's annual Global Assembly in Caux, Switzerland in August 2012, 100 people representing IofC from around the world gathered to explore the past, present and future of the movement. While IofC has always encouraged individuals to reflect honestly on their past as part of the process of change, this has not always happened at the level of the organization and movement. With a nearly 80 year history, participants gave considerable time to the task of 'Learning from the Past' - what can be celebrated as well as the mistakes made. This is a summary of these reflections.
‘In our collective history, there clearly were times of profound community and extraordinary heights of selflessness, as this movement for transformation impacted individuals and nations. There have also been times when we have experienced division, dysfunction and distortion.’
Omnia Marzouk’s acknowledgement, as President of IofC International and on behalf of the International Council, provided the culminating moment of a sweeping and powerful 24-hour walk through the history of the movement known at various times as the Oxford Group, MRA and now Initiatives of Change.
‘I acknowledge that mistakes were made which in some instances had a profound
impact on people’s lives,’ she continued. ‘We do not seek to apportion blame. In the same circumstances we might well have made the same mistakes ourselves. And in different circumstances we have made plenty of our own!’
‘Yet our past must be acknowledged if the lessons are to be learned and if the healing we long for is to be found. By acknowledging and learning from the past, we also embrace the present more fully and can shape our future tasks with renewed confidence, passion and commitment.’
The process of learning from the past started on with an evening session that featured Pierre Spoerri, Digna Hintzen and Philippe Lasserre, three IofC pioneers who shared personal reflections from their life’s work with IofC.
The evening highlighted faith, commitment and sacrifice as the attributes needed to pursue a vision bigger beyond one’s own life. The context was a world emerging from the devastation of World War 2. Pierre Spoerri remembered his connection to this vision in the 1940’s, believing that it required a significant personal action. ‘What (MRA) took on was so big that half-decisions were not adequate anymore.’ Digna Hintzen shared a similar sentiment. ‘I responded to the challenge that God had a plan for the world and everyone in it… it thrilled me that I could be used by God as an instrument to remake the world.’
The following morning, the entire Global Assembly participated in a ‘walk through history’ facilitated by Rob Corcoran, National Director of IofC USA. The group mapped out a historical timeline of major events in IofC history, set against the background of the world events of the time. It then added an extra dimension by examining which events, policies and practices built a culture of trust, honesty, welcome and growth, and which were those that broke trust, created tension and caused wounds. The elicitation of these points brought pride, laughter and tears – shedding light on the immense impact of IofC’s 80-year history.
Following the naming of major events and impacts, those gathered took time to discern lessons learned from this unique and varied, collective experience.
Following this shared walk through history, five people who have been involved with IofC for many decades, shared some of their painful experiences in that journey. They didn’t hold back. Their stories connected deeply. Their honesty and vulnerability moved many.
Closing the session, Omnia Marzouk offered a challenge to move forward, following a provocative, emotional and authentic day of looking back. ‘Our task continues: to bring to the world, in partnership with others, the hope of personal transformation and an inspiration beyond human capacity alone that impacts on social and global issues. Everyone is needed and we urge that any healing or liberation or fresh insights outstanding may be sought and given in the spirit of acceptance and forgiveness for which our hearts most deeply long. Can each one of us discover deep in our spirits compassion, generosity, forgiveness and grace to move forward together to fulfill our shared mission?’
Photographs by Charlotte Sawyer