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The Oxford Group, Moral Re-Armament and now Initiatives of Change
Evolution of the organization
The Oxford Group, Moral Re-Armament and now Initiatives of Change

Evolution of the organization

The organizational structures of Initiatives of Change have evolved gradually over the 70 years since IofC - then known as The Oxford Group and later as Moral Re-Armament (MRA) - first began.

The movement's energy has always derived from the spiritual inspiration and inner transformation which motivate its adherents. IofC is a way of life as well as a membership organization, and formal structures have been kept to the minimum.

In the early days there was little thought or intention of founding an organization. Those who came into contact with the movement's founder Frank Buchman and his colleagues were typically encouraged to form local “teams”. These met regularly to support each other in the new way of life they had embarked on. Often they were assisted by one or more full time workers, who felt a calling to devote themselves voluntarily to this work and who typically were housed and supported financially by members of the local team. This tradition of unsalaried full time workers still continues in many countries.

As World War II loomed, increasing attention was given to strategic activities aimed both at reaching individuals and at affecting the course of events. Through the late 1930s there were mass meetings in Europe and America. During and after the war, travelling groups, often with stage productions, campaigned in many parts of the world. Permanent centres were established for conferences and other purposes.

These developments still relied on voluntary effort in an unstructured network, but also required a level of organization, manning and finance unforeseeable in the early days. Large sums of money were raised, almost entirely by individual donation and often at great sacrifice on the part of the donors.

Formal incorporation

Beginning in 1939, various national groups incorporated MRA formally, usually as an ad hoc response to circumstances - the need for a legal entity which could own property, for example. A series of independent national bodies grew up, conforming to local laws and traditions. They were responsible for the work of MRA in their own country, but had no formal co-ordination or international accountability. These national bodies still bear the ultimate legal and financial responsibility for all that is done in the name of IofC in their countries.

In a world-wide network characterized by commitment to divine will and by strong friendships, this worked well, with a minimum of organizational structure – and the 1940s and 50s saw the great expansion of MRA in many parts of the world. But after the deaths of Frank Buchman and Peter Howard in the ‘60s, the sudden absence of an agreed world leader as a focus for decision-making and direction led to a painful split between several national bodies, some of which put their energies into a US-based youth program, which evolved into Up With People. Following a period of adjustment and re-grouping, IofC leaders from a number of countries began to develop a system of Global Consultations, the first of which took place in 1989.

Global Consultations

These Consultations, lasting for a week, were informally charged with the task of identifying issues of importance to IofC world-wide and recommending courses of action. Typically a Consultation had 30-35 participants proposed by national IofC chapters from around the world, with a final selection made by the Consultation steering committee to ensure a balance of gender, age-range and cultures.

The Consultations helped bring cohesion to a diverse network and to formulate shared strategic points of focus for Initiatives of Change. One of their important responsibilities was to select representatives of the International Council of Initiatives of Change, which was until 2010 outside the framework of IofC International.

Since 2010 the Global Consultations have been replaced by an annual Global Assembly, comprised of members of Initiatives of Change International. This change marks the merging of two separate streams of IofC’s governance.

IofC International

Initiatives of Change International was established in 2002 as a voluntary association of independent national legal bodies of Initiatives of Change, under the Presidency of Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Dr Sommaruga was succeeded as President by Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun and Prof Rajmohan Gandhi. The current President is Dr Omnia Marzouk. Membership is open to all Initiatives of Change national chapters and to individuals or other entities in countries where there is no formal legal body.

Initiatives of Change International represents the universality and multi-faith character of the movement. It serves the broader movement through facilitating collaboration between IofC national bodies as well as managing various transnational programmes, including IofC’s global communications and its training arm. Its Geneva office facilitates relationships with the United Nations and other international organizations. Day-to-day leadership is provided by an Executive Committee which includes the Executive Vice President and some members of the International Council.