The starting point for research conducted at IICD is that the world we live in is in need of solutions to a range of big issues such as ongoing conflicts, social problems, poverty and environmental challenges.
IICD tackles the highly complex and global issues outlined in its mission statement by operating primarily as a research organization. The research model applied is an action research model. The methods are experimental.
The problems of poverty, wars, disease and disregards for human rights have plagued developing countries ever since the term was coined and the world at large for much longer. A great many individuals, organizations and governments, not least of which the United States government, have engaged in finding ways to solve these hard global problems, which persist to this day.
The basic claim made by IICD, a claim to which we have dedicated the efforts of the institute, is to research in great detail, that is, by carefully constructing a program with a range of untraditional elements, by creating what we have termed "Another kind of school", it is possible to transform young participants so that they become capable of solving and ready to act to solve big issues of developing nations and the world, and by so doing, promote international cooperation by practicing international cooperation. Thus the participants are transformed and the wider world becomes a better place.
The fundamental issue under study is whether it is possible by a training program that includes extensive international and national practice to transform the participants, in essence making him or her a better and more capable person while at the same time improving the world we live in.
The research is carried out through the implementation of the programs of the institute while also continuously monitoring and improving the programs by applying an action research model.
The entire operation of the institute and its activities both at the training center in Dowagiac, among people in Africa and with people across the United States is of an experimental nature.
The research carried out at IICD is based on a broad theoretical foundation drawing on theories from within the social sciences and the humanities.
Our research methodologies are built on the action research model first defined in the US by MIT professor Carl Levine in 1944, on social-psychological experimental methods, sociological participant observation in case study methods as well as anthropological field research methodology.
IICD's pedagogical theory is inspired by teachers and activists of times past such as 19th century Danish folk school leader Kristian Kold; 20th century social innovators such as John Dewey, American educational reformer, philosopher and psychologist, and Julius Nyerere, Tanzanian political leader; and 21st century neuroscience, complexity theory and theories about relation between program and learning.
IICD's international development theory is inspired by theories of unequal development, globalization theory and theories of sustainable development.
IICD's international cooperation theory is inspired by theories of human solidarity, Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Ghandi, the UN declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, among others.