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InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

Friends Building Global Community

How We Work Together

ICOs 4 Core Values for Teamwork

  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 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.

Chaordic Organization


"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 shared purpose and principles.
  • Are self-organizing and self-governing in whole and in part.
  • Are powered from the edges, unified from the core.
  • Are durable in purpose and principle, adaptable in form and function.
  • Equitably distribute power, rights, responsibility and rewards.
  • Harmoniously combine cooperation and competition.
  • Learn, adapt and innovate in ever expanding cycles.
  • Open-space for creative professional development.
  • Liberate and amplify ingenuity, initiative and judgment.
  • Are compatible with and foster diversity, complexity and change.
  • Constructively utilize and harmonize conflict and contradiction.
  • Restrain and appropriately embed command and control methods, which exist primarily to enable their constituent parts.

If this description still seems overly vague, jargon-filled or starts your head spinning, don't worry.  Chaordic organization can be impossibly complex in theory, but is actually very simple in practice!

Chaord comes from the words chaos and order; at ICO, our projects and their management will range from loosely organized and spontaneous to detailed and well-planned.  The difference is always the people.  For ICO, chaordic organization allows projects and teams to form and operate in ways that are effective and valuable for the people that make up those teams.  You are the difference!  Chaordic organization allows us to support and develop each volunteers unique skill sets, perspectives and processes. 

Additionally, a chaordic organizational model embraces the inevitability of chaos while working within the order of defined roles.  At ICO, projects have deadlines and desired outcomes, but the ways those outcomes will be produced within the timeline will be established for each person, task and project.  Moreover, while we set goals and work to fulfill them, we accept the chaotic nature of life, innovation, development and, especially, volunteering as a student, professional or job-seeker.  Deliverables and deadlines can be changed with changes in or to the team; result are, therefore, achieved through self-motivation and not the pressure of failure.  Failure is the catalyst of innovation: have you failed today?  If not, why not?  The chaordic model empowers ICO to be collaborative, democratic, dynamic and, above all, to put relationships first!

The chaordic model enables ICO to be flexible, global and democratic.  Time is limited, schedules change and ICO continues to still maintain the relationships that drive our global initiatives and assist ICO communities in reaching their goals.  Primarily, we are friends working together, which means that team members support each other to complete a task--whether that is through collaboration or by picking someone up when they cannot fulfill a commitment.  If the task gets in the way of the relationship, do not do the task.  The connectivity and dynamism of operating primarily online enables ICO to employ this kind of supportive and fluid management model, wherein we are able to facilitate instant interaction across great distances, maintain a low overhead and a 100 cents on the dollar donation model, and promote accessibility for our volunteers to work when and from wherever they can.

In function, our online office makes us more adaptable to change and supports a democratic leadership model that embodies chaordic management by replacing top-down management with collaboration.  At ICO, collaboration means that a volunteer can, in one context, be a project assistant to someone with 30 years of management experience, learning from a mentor in a practical setting, and, in another context, that assistant can be managing a project that requires the Chair of the Foundation to report to them.  For our initiatives, collaboration means that projects will emerge depending on what the community determines is essential for improving their overall wellness and ICO will then act to support the attainment of those goals through the work of passionate volunteers providing financial, operational and administrative services.  As such, an ICO initiative can be any project that promotes education or alleviates poverty, and that project will develop in unexpected and exciting ways--from mechanization and computer education programs in Nepal to a project that began to improve widows homes in Rwanda that has evolved into three warehouses that have produced over 10,000 eco-stoves, as well as programs for washable menstrual pads for young women attending boarding school and eco-toilets with water catchment systems and human waste composting.

In practice, the chaordic model empowers ICO volunteers to form dynamic teams with democratic power structures, which enables volunteers to occupy diverse roles, pursue their interests, build skillsets, assume leadership and collaborate.  These teams are able to evolve to tackle changing and complex problems while adapting to changing schedules and accommodating the busy lives of the professional and academic volunteers that power ICO’s innovative passion.  The chaordic model provides an open space for self-motivated and committed volunteers to create, enact and support the projects and initiatives that underline their values.  We all share a common commitment to empower social change and community development; ICO uses collaboration as the catalyst to explore the infinite possibilities for producing this change.  Chaordic management is the philosophical foundation that informs our work together to build global community.   

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.