Initiatives of Change owes its origins to an American called Frank Buchman (1878 – 1961). An American Lutheran minister of Swiss descent, Frank reached a crisis point aged just 30 when he resigned his job as the warden of a hostel for homeless boys in Philadelphia. He was bitter towards the trustees who he felt were too stingy with money for food. He took a vacation to Europe but could not shake off his feelings of depression.
Then, in Keswick, in the Lake District area of the UK, he attended a service in a Methodist chapel. As he looked at a statue of the crucified Christ, he had a strong conviction that he was the ‘seventh wrong man’. He wrote to the trustees, apologising for his ill-will. He wanted to share his newfound sense of freedom with others.
Over the following years, he worked mainly with students to develop his ideas. He adopted the practice of taking time every morning in silence to search for any thoughts that God might give him. And he tested his thoughts against absolute standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. Many students’ lives were turned in more positive directions after their encounters with Buchman.
Buchman became convinced that moral compromise limits human potential and harms relationships. His conviction that change in individuals is the only effective way to start ‘remaking the world’ was strengthened and his ideas took root in Oxford and some American universities – this work became known as ‘the Oxford Group’.
Through the 1930s Buchman’s ideas continued to have an impact around the world. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous was established in 1935 as a result of the liberating experiences of some who had come into contact with the Oxford Group.
As European nations re-armed for war, Buchman called for ‘moral and spiritual re-armament’ as the way to build a ‘hate-free, fear-free, greed-free world’. He branded this work as Moral Re-Armament (MRA). The MRA organisation was launched in East Ham Town Hall, London.
After World War II, Buchman launched a programme of moral and spiritual reconstruction. He emphasised the importance of faith, believing that God has a purpose for people’s lives and for mankind as a whole. He encouraged people to seek God’s wisdom in regular times of silence and reflection. Wishing to keep his approach to change open to all, he said: ‘Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucians – all find they can change, where needed and travel along this good road together.’
Through the generosity and hard work of hundreds of Swiss citizens, MRA purchased a run-down hotel in Caux and turned it into an international conference centre where those who had suffered in the war could come together and build new relationships.
Conferences in Caux and at Mackinac Island in the USA affected world events. These included playing a key part in the reconciliation of Japan with her South-East Asian neighbours, and in the achievement of independence without major bloodshed by several African countries.
Almost immediately, when Germany was still deeply resented by many, Buchman and his colleagues invite Germans to Caux. Over the next four years, growing numbers of Germans and French met there, and these encounters played a key part in reconciliation. Buchman was later decorated by both the German and French governments for his contribution to European reconciliation. Centres were later established in Latin America, India, Japan and several countries in Africa.
By the 1950s, casts of plays presenting MRA’s ideas were travelling all over the world, and by the 1970s, MRA owned the Westminster Theatre in London. Many of the plays, by Peter Howard and others, had a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and the importance of faith at both a personal and a national level.
Conferences in Caux and at Mackinac Island in the US, affected world events. These include playing a key part in the reconciliation of Japan with her South-East Asian neighbours, and in the achievement of independence without major bloodshed by several African countries.
When Buchman died in 1961, the former British political journalist Peter Howard assumed the leadership of MRA, but four years later he too died. There followed some difficult years, during the course of which a new international structure gradually emerged.
1968 saw the opening of Asia Plateau – an IofC centre for training of people from industry, education, the armed forces and civil society in Panchgani, India.
With reconciliation so important in many parts of the world, much of MRA’s work concentrated on supporting peace-making initiatives in Africa and Asia. For example, it is credited with playing a key role in the peaceful transition to independence of Zimbabwe.
In Britain during this period, much of the work of IofC was focused on improving human relationships in industry, particularly in some of the big car and steel manufacturing plants. There was also a focus on bridging some of the racial and cultural divides in several cities.
The collapse of Communism triggered new needs and opportunities for building democracy in the post-Soviet world. This became one of our major focal points in the 1990s as we launched the Foundations for Freedom training courses.
Also in the 1990s, Hope in the Cities was created to bridge racial divides in the USA; and Clean Election Campaigns took place in Taiwan, Brazil and Kenya.
In 2001 the name Initiatives of Change (IofC) was adopted – a recognition of the need to rebrand the message for a different era. In 2017, IofC’s global community, guided by the international communications team, looked at how to best take us into the future by refreshing the brand with the help of design agency ACW. The refreshed brand was launched in 2018, during the 50th anniversary celebration of Initiatives of Change’s centre in India: Asia Plateau in Panchgani.
In 2005, Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi visited nine cities in the UK. His powerful message of dialogue and bridge-building across the world’s divides met with a deep and positive response from audiences across Britain.
In 2010, the first School for Changemakers took place on the Liverpool Hope University campus over six days, 18 to 23 June, with some 80 participants from all over Britain.
“Peace Begins At Home” was the challenging theme of a two-day weekend workshop for the Somali community in West London. The workshop was held at the Harlesden Stonebridge Hillside Hub in the London Borough of Brent on 23 and 24 January 2010.
Assaad and Marie Chaftari visited Belfast, Manchester, Oxford and London in September.
The first TIGE Roadshow, (Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy) delivered by our business programmes was held in 2013, in partnership with Tony Bradley, the Director of the Social and Ethical Enterprise Development Centre. The event was held at Liverpool Hope University Business School.
Ginn Fourie and Letlapha Mphelele, protagonists of the film Beyond Forgiving, visited cities around the UK in 2014, sharing their story. In 2015, we launched the first issue of Changemakers magazine. Packed with inspiring and thought-provoking personal stories and powerful accounts of people tackling burning issues, the magazine hopes to inspire, equip and connect people with ideas on how to change their own lives and play their part in building a sustainable and peaceful society.
In July 2015, IofC launched the issue of Changemakers Magazine. Packed with inspiring and thought-provoking personal stories and powerful accounts of people tackling burning issues, the magazine hopes to inspire, equip and connect people with ideas on how to change their own lives and play their part in building a sustainable and peaceful society
Rajmohan Gandhi, former president of IofC and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, spoke to a packed audience on the futility of war, the importance of reconciliation and challenges to minority rights, including in today’s India. And in 2018, on World Refugee Day, over 100 people gathered at a parliamentary reception to mark the launch of Refugees as Rebuilders™ training programme aimed at equipping refugees with knowledge and skills that they may not access through studies or work experience. These include facilitating dialogue in conflicting communities, fostering ethical leadership practices to counter corruption and nepotism, and ways of promoting sustainable livelihoods, when local economies have collapsed.
In 2017, IofC’s global community guided by the international communications team looked how to best take the organization’s heritage into the future by refreshing the brand with the help of design agency ACW. The refreshed brand was launched on January 17, 2018, during the 50th anniversary celebration of Initiatives of Change’s centre in India: Asia Plateau in Panchgani.
On World Refugee Day, over 100 people gathered at a parliamentary reception to mark the launch of Refugees as Rebuilders™ training programme aimed at equipping refugees with knowledge and skills that they may not access through studies or work experience. These include facilitating dialogue in conflicting communities, fostering ethical leadership practices to counter corruption and nepotism, and ways of promoting sustainable livelihoods, when local economies have collapsed.