THE HISTORY OF INNOVATIVECOMMUNITIES.ORG FOUNDATION (ICO)
Innovativecommunities.org Foundation was founded by John Mitchell and Bill Robson in 2008 – but the organizational concepts began over a decade before that. John Mitchell, a Human Resources and Organizational Design professional developed a conceptual model of an organization focused on developing capacity to bring about social and community change through online and transparent mediums. The first organization was called Human Horizons.
In 2004, John Mitchell accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors of both Community Economic Development Corporation of Victoria (CEDCO) and the Canadian Housing Research Foundation (CHRF). It was at this point that he met fellow board member Bill Robson, a real estate professional from Victoria.
CHRF, which was founded in 1998, owned two buildings in Victoria and had a mandate to advance social housing in Canada. The two buildings, Cedar Grove and Banfield House, could house a total of 46 people. CHRF pre-leased them to the Island Health (IH), who operated programs for those with mental health issues and who were either at risk of homelessness or who were already homeless. In fact, Cedar Grove was probably the first low-barrier “wet house” in BC and one of the first in North America. This designation means people could live there and benefit from support provided without giving up the use of addictive substances.
Unfortunately, CEDCO and CHRF had severe management, organizational and financial problems and it was recommended that the organizations split. John and Bill remained with CHRF and John introduced the organizational principles he had developed earlier with new and open management concepts. Bill focused on property management and development. The new organization was completely staffed by volunteers and a lot of work was undertaken by the team in order for CHRF to climb back to fiscal and operational credibility. CEDCO went out of operation shortly after.
In the summer of 2005, they renamed CHRF the Canadian Community Housing Foundation. A new organization emerged, modeled on the recommendations of John Mitchell’s “Future Organization” report, with the brand and internet domain name of InnovativeCommunities.Org. Overheads were slashed and ICO became an online/virtual organization, staffed and run by volunteers with offices existing only on the Internet.
ICO achieved a positive cash flow within a year and began to actively recruit additional volunteers worldwide. These volunteers brought passion, ideas, creativity, and knowledge. This has resulted in tremendous growth in capability and the number of people around the world whose lives are positively affected. Initiatives focused to the alleviation of poverty and promotion of education were supported first in Guatemala and then around the world.
ICO members unanimously passed a new Constitution in December 2008, and a new name, InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation, a few weeks later.
ICO is built on strong fiscal foundations. With investment endowments from the sale of Cedar Grove and the lease agreement with Island Health for Banfield House, the organization is able to operate with overheads and administration costs covered well into the foreseeable future.