Our history has proven that the methods of partnership, facilitation, and collaboration simply need to be brought forward and modernized. Many of these techniques and approaches have the spirit and ability to be applied to any social issue at any time in history.
Phil Waitzman joined ICA and EI has Interim Executive Director in October, 2020, bringing more than 20 years of experience working with clients both as a strategic executive leader and as a direct practice clinician. He is a Licensed Social Worker who has received an MA in Social Service Administration, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), and a Masters in Public Health (MPH).
What is your role in the organization?
I have the unique pleasure to come into an organization with a 60 year history during a time of transition to work with staff, volunteers, and the Board to give insight and perspective into looking into what that next generation of leadership and growth will look like. The opportunities we have are tremendous related to supporting nonprofits and the community through ICA GreenRise and redeveloping and having a re-emergence of our programming drawn from decades of proven methods and impact in local and global communities. So my role is help us to provide some of that guidance, to make sure that we have a unified vision so that we can look towards where we want to go the next few years and even another 60 years down the road.
How did you come to work at ICA?
Having been a nonprofit leader in Chicago for more than 20 years, I was already familiar with the longevity and impact of ICA and the Ecumenical Institute (EI). One of the aspects of coming on as an Interim Executive Director is being able to look at and learn about new revenue channels. One of the things that we've done in very short order is to pull together an incredible year-end fundraising campaign that we launched in a matter of weeks, which is something that could take a year to do. This campaign will take us in the 2021 and aims to not only support us financially, but also raise awareness around our programs and to foster and develop more partnerships and relationships. We’re really looking to reinvent, re-emerge, and refresh our programming and bring it back to the Uptown area, bring it back to the Chicago community, and bring it back to the national forefront of where we make an impact through our programming and partnerships.
ICA and EI have several overlapping abilities and programs that serve the community, whether through housing or facilitation. Being able to use our facilitation methods through community collaboration and other forms of participation is where we see the opportunity for our programs. It's really trying to understand the need of our communities, locally, nationally, and globally. It's also trying to understand the human assets that we have as part of the organization, whether it's our trainers, facilitators, or community partners who are really at the forefront of trying to facilitate needed conversations in communities.
ICA has a rich history of programming, which has been leadership-focused, community-based, and grassroots. Our history has proven that the methods of partnership, facilitation, and collaboration simply need to be brought forward and modernized. Many of these techniques and approaches have the spirit and ability to be applied to any social issue at any time in history. Society's needs don’t change all that much at their core. We see it now more than ever with not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also the social pandemic, which are not separate and distinct. Our programming needs to listen and respond to what is needed in society, whether that be racial inequity, housing instability, or barriers to accessing healthcare. There are so many things that are challenging us that ICA is positioned to help and lead on.
When have you seen ICA create real change or impact?
One example I've learned is the common thread between many different stories from current board members and others is the Human Development Projects in the 1970s, where ICA staff went and lived all around the world and took the early ICA methods and made a real impact in a way that wasn't pushing an agenda, but simply allowed communities to work better together. Those teachings and the outcomes from those stories have been documented in the Global Archives, and we’re now working to package and offer them as part of our programming in the year ahead. That's what really sticks out to me, this common goal by so many people who are good-hearted at their basic core and want to see real, worldly, positive change. This is a story that's been told to me so many times by so many people.
What makes ICA unique?
ICA is an organization that demonstrates its mission through its actions. Our hundred-year-old building is basically a campus that allows for supporting 20 nonprofits, churches, and healthcare organizations that on the frontlines or serving our community. We are providing a roof over their heads and environment to support them so we can help ensure their long-term sustainability in the neighborhood.
GreenRise also has several floors dedicated to intentional communities that have formed resulting from individuals who have intended to lessen their carbon footprint and who want to live in a way that supports others. They’re asking, “how do we generate and create a unique sense of society?” And these communities have other forms of impact into the social landscape that we haven’t even begun to measure yet. We have people of all different backgrounds that are coming together to not just better their community within the building, but to impact the broader society because of how they're choosing to live.
ICA is the umbrella organization that fosters both these organizations and these residents all under one roof.
Where are ICA methods needed in the world today?
We need to reach out to municipalities and cities and states to understand where there is a thirst for having facilitated discussions relative to the social, economical and humanistic needs in those areas. The Technology of Participation (ToP) rooted in the methods have fantastic leaders who have developed wonderful online courses and can provide that as an avenue. Working with individuals and organizations that are training on the methods is really important. We have countless examples of leaders who have taken the methods and applied them to different approaches and orientations to create impact in communities.
How should people support ICA?
ICA’s goals and intentions are so lofty—our mission and purpose, especially through the methods, really intends to change society. That's no small feat. I think that peoples’ support and involvement goes beyond just financial. I think there's several different ways to become involved with ICA, all of which could be immensely helpful. Providing financial contributions to our year-end campaign go straight towards supporting the infrastructure, operations, and staffing needed to provide services and programming, but frankly we value having people who are willing to come in and roll up their sleeves and be part of committee work, be part of the programming, be part of the solutions that we’re trying to share and lead with local and broader communities.
Tell us about yourself: who are you outside of work?
I think one of the reasons that ICA has been such a wonderful experience for me is because I see a lot of family roots in the organization, that because of the grassroots approach has a warm and inviting feeling to it. That relates to who I am when I’m not at work. My focus is on my family. When we're not focused on work and we're not work focused on the ins-and-outs of busy daily family life, we very much enjoy travel and and meeting people from different places and different societies, trying different foods, and learning about culture. One of the things that my wife and I have prided ourselves as is that our kids’ have been exposed to people, communities and foods of many different ethnicities and cultures. We're really enjoying raising our kids in a way that has them integrate well into a multi-ethnic, beautiful society. As they get older we’ll travel more and we’re really looking forward to that.
I'm also a clinical therapist and I work with individuals and families from a mental health perspective. I really enjoy the direct practice aspect of meeting with people individually and as families and couples to help them, which I think really ties nicely to what ICA is about.