ICP Model Wheel

The Institute for Community Peace has three iterative goals:

Discovery: Partnering with communities and funders to advance and sustain community change through combining research and practice with local demonstration.

Cultivation: Building the capacity and leadership of community change agents through training and technical assistance.

Transformation: Stimulating the development of social norms, policies and practices to support healthy community at the national and local levels.

Structures & Change: A Framework for Community Transformation

Our first Discovery project, taught us that unless fundamental aspects of community are transformed, the gains achieved can not be sustained. We believe that sustaining community change requires approaches that support structural change. ICP’s Structures and Change framework, guides our work with community by shedding light on ways that existing structures impede community change and exposing ways to change them.

What is a structure and how does it change?

Our research reveals that a structure is created by the simultaneous interaction of three principles (cultural schemas, modes of power and resources). The interaction of the three principles, creates an important instrument of structural change that we have termed “social networks and boundaries,” which serves to maintain the structure. Changing a structure and sustaining it requires simultaneous movement among the principles and the development of social networks and boundaries.

Understanding the Components of a Structure

By recognizing and understanding the elements of a structure, we can start to imagine the task of developing and engaging in processes that support the development of alternative ones. In 2010, ICP convened a meeting entitled “Structures and Change” where a few thought leaders discussed these principles.


Schemas are the explicit and implicit values, norms, rules, laws, policies and representations that govern social interaction, often recognized “as the rules of the game”. They are used to organize and shape public opinion, move public policy and mobilize community. The values upon which our nation was founded include individualism, fairness, opportunity, faith, equality and justice. These values have since been used as organizing tools to reinforce the status quo as well as push for change.

Understanding the power of schemas and how difficult they are to dislodge, demands that social change efforts include deliberate communications strategies that work to reinterpret cultural norms, values and images.

How values shape policy and public perception
Susan Bales, President of the FrameWorks Institute, explained the role of strategic communications research in revealing our country's prevailing values and how the dominant population understands these values. She explains part of this process in the video on the right.
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The role of visual representation in cultural narrative
In any given society, cultural schemas are also expressed through the visual representations that embody cultural values. These representations are transmitted widely via political campaigns, laws and policies, pop culture and commercial advertising. Because of this, they shape some of our unconscious thoughts.

As an example of the power of visual image in supporting cultural narrative,
Martin Berger, Professor of Art History at the University of California, Santa Cruz discusses the role and use of images of civil rights activists in shaping the public narrative around race and the limits to supporting racial equality. Here is an excerpt from his presentation in the video on the right.
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Modes of power (power relations) specify explicitly or implicitly, which cultural schemas (values, norms, laws, policies and procedures) are legitimate, determine the distribution of resources, and neutralize threats or contestations to the prevailing power structure. In this excerpt, Joan M. Palmer, a consultant for ICP, discusses modes of power in the video to the right.
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Resources include financial and human capital (innate and acquired) that can be used to enhance or maintain power. Resources have multiple meanings, may differ by agents and may have different implications for different structures. This results in the ability of actors to use resources toward different ends. In the following video excerpt from her presentation, on the right, Karen Fulbright-Anderson, of the Aspen Institute discusses how structural racism has caused an imbalance in societal resources by race.
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ICP believes that social networks and boundaries (alliances, political and advocacy groups) develop as structures develop. They serve the role of strengthening the structure and supporting it against contestations. ICP consultant Joan Palmer speaks to the development of social networks and boundaries in the excerpt video on the right.
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What is clear from our understanding of structures and change is that effecting and sustaining structural change requires comprehensive, collaborative, well-coordinated and long-term effort. ICP is translating these concepts into practice and is developing tools and training to support change agents to engage in structural change work at the local and national levels.

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