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InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

Friends Building Global Community

How We Work Together


A donation to ICO makes an unmatched impact in fighting poverty and promoting education.
We are different from most organizations because 100 cents from every dollar donated goes directly toward the initiatives we support.
We take nothing for our Foundation overhead costs, which we meet through our investment portfolio.
Our ability to channel 100% of every donation directly toward an initiative makes us somewhat unique in the world of non-profits and charitable organizations.

There are 4 main reasons for this efficiency:

  1. Volunteerism:  Our Team Members are volunteers. No Team Member receives any salary or other form of payment for their work with ICO.
  2. Relationships: ICO operates by emphasizing the importance of interpersonal relationships. We start by fostering relationships between people who want to make positive social change. As these relationships develop, people recognize that they have common interests and skills they can each contribute in pursuing these interests. Specific tasks to reach this shared vision emerge naturally from such relationships.
  3. Chaordic Organization: ICO organises itself by ICO Communities and ICO Centres working "chaordically" together to produce Initiatives that reflect the wishes and needs of the local and indigenous peoples.  
  4. Online Office: We do our work over the Internet instead of in a rented physical location; this greatly reduces our operating costs.

This way of operating promotes creativity, innovation and passion in the people involved with us. No one has a set job description or assigned list of duties. Instead, our people inhabit roles that work toward our broader mission and vision.

A Brief Intro to the Chaordic Organization

The concept of chaordic organization is not new. In fact, a simple glance at the natural world around us results in countless examples of ordered chaos. Ecosystems, organisms, evolutionary processes:  biology abounds with instances of chaordic organization. The term chaordic, itself a combination of the very words order and chaos, may be somewhat more recent in its coming-to-be and in its incorporation into the lingo of human societal organizations.

Dee Hock’s book “Birth of the Chaordic Age” is the first in-depth explorations of what it means to be a chaordic organization. The book sheds light on the inherent shortcomings within traditional organizations. “We must seriously question the concepts underlying the current structure of organization and whether they are suitable to the management of accelerating societal and environmental problems - and, even beyond that, we must seriously consider whether they are the primary cause of those problems.” Traditional organization is not only unsuitable in the contemporary, everchanging, shifting and increasingly demanding world, but can also be called forward as a potential driver behind current societal and environmental problems. The book, as our time, speaks to letting go of the mechanistic, stiff structures of the machine age; to learning to organize in tune with the flow of life; to being comfortable with chaos and uncertainty; and to having a few core guiding organizing principles, together with a strong main purpose holding the multi-faceted principles together.

Chaordic is defined as:

the behaviour of any self-governing organism, organization or system which harmoniously blends characteristics of order and chaos patterned in a way dominated by neither chaos or order characteristic of the fundamental organizing principles of evolution and nature. The third part of this definition is what is most important when addressing the sustainability of charodic organizations.

In other words, the ways in which a chaordic organization reflects the workings of the natural world are precisely the ways in which the organization becomes itself more sustainable.

Chaordic organizations are more sustainable by the very fact that they reflect organization in the natural world - be it an ecosystem or biological organism. Chaordic organizations are more holistic, non-linear and adaptive, allowing for the kind of thought and research that is truly innovative. Any working towards sustainability necessitates organization based on the characteristics extant around us. As ecological systems are made up of constituent parts that are awarded faculties of change, diversity and complexity, so should any organization that seeks to exist harmoniously with the world. Evolution is built upon both cooperation and competition, constant change and movement.

So how could a hierarchical, completely structured organization evolve? In more practicable terms, chaordic organizations comprise a series of separate parts that work together as a whole. Rather than strict hierarchy between parts, each part is as important as the other. Just as in a biological organism, each separate part is vital in the overall healthy functioning of the system. Though each separate entity can function on its own (as, for example, a kidney has a specific function within an organism), each entity is also fundamentally dependent on the other entities in the system (a kidney is nothing if not part of an organism). This dependence, however, does not include dominance, power or control. Each entity is on the same plane.

As such, any group of members can construct a new piece of the system, as long as they agree to abide by the same core principles. The system can therefore adapt itself to an infinite number of local circumstances without losing its wholeness, or losing the ability of any member to communicate with any other member. It can grow rapidly, without centralized control, like a biological organism. The organization has common yet diverse goals, and finds strength precisely within this diversity. It is adaptable and movable, able to change within a constantly fluctuating world, and finds strength in the very fact that a continuous and level plane cannot collapse.

A chaordic organization is fundamentally able to evolve in tandem with the world in which it exists. It is precisely this ability, this adaptability, that makes chaordic organization inherently more sustainable. And this sustainability, symbolic of the inherent strength within the chaordic organization, that allows for the kind of innovation that would otherwise be too threatening…the kind of innovation that can bring world-altering positive change.

Prepared by: Johanna Kalkreuth, ICO Centre For Sustainability


Further thinking on Chaordic Organization



Many leading scientists believe that the principal science of the next century will be the study of complex, autocatalytic, self-organizing, non-linear, adaptive systems, usually referred to as "complexity" or "chaos theory." They believe that such systems, perhaps even life itself, arise and thrive on the edge of chaos with just enough order to give them pattern, but not so much to slow their adaptation and learning.

The word chaord was formed by borrowing the first syllable of the two words: cha- from chaos, -ord from order.

1: any autocatalytic, self-regulating, adaptive, nonlinear, complex organism, organization, or system, whether physical, biological or social, the behavior of which harmoniously exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos.

2: an entity whose behavior exhibits patterns and probabilities not governed or explained by the behavior of its parts. 3: the fundamental organizing principle of nature and evolution.

"Chaordic" (kay'ordic)
1: anything simultaneously orderly and chaotic. 2: patterned in a way dominated neither by order nor chaos. 3: existing in the phase between order and chaos.


Characteristics of Chaordic Organizations

  • Are based on clarity of shared purpose and principles.
  • Are self-organizing and self-governing in whole and in part.
  • Are powered from the periphery, unified from the core.
  • Are durable in purpose and principle, malleable in form and function.
  • Equitably distribute power, rights, responsibility and rewards.
  • Harmoniously combine cooperation and competition.
  • Learn, adapt and innovate in ever expanding cycles.
  • Are compatible with the human spirit and the biosphere.
  • Liberate and amplify ingenuity, initiative and judgment.
  • Are compatible with and foster diversity, complexity and change.
  • Constructively utilize and harmonize conflict and paradox.
  • Restrain and appropriately embed command and control methods which exist primarily to enable their constituent parts.


ICO Initiatives

September 17, 2014
ICO’s Instruments4Africa provides opportunities to underprivileged children in Mali, one of Africa's poorest countries, to get an education and reach their potential. Building on Mali’s rich artistic culture, children receive performing arts training, and are part of a performing arts troupe guided by professional dance and music teachers.