The Founding of IISC: A Summary


In the fall of 1992, IA’s partners—Peter Gibb, Thomas Rice, Barry Rosen, and David Straus—embraced the idea of starting a not-for-profit wing of the company.  Their commitment to collaborative action was well established in the private sector, and they felt the time was right to make a similar commitment to the social sector—a unique move for a firm of this kind at the time.

Toward that end—in  October, 1992—they  created a 501(c)( 3)  and named it the Interaction Institute for Social Change. Its mission was to work for social justice and sustainability in underserved communities and organizations.

They made tangible commitments as follows :

  • 10% of IA’s pretax profits;
  • 5% of employees’ time;
  • Unlimited access to IA’s intellectual property;
  • In-kind resources in the form of office space, IT, HR, and other infrastructure support.

Additionally, they funded an independent Executive Director, and—in November, 1992, hired Marianne Hughes, reporting to the founding partners. She became the first Executive Director of IISC in the spring of 1993, with a mandate to collaborate with IA in bringing IISC’s mission to life. In 2012, IISC experienced its first major leadership transition when Marianne Hughes stepped aside from that role in favor of focusing on consulting to both IISC and her own clients, and on developing new client partnerships for IISC. Our new president, Ceasar McDowell, joined us that same year and is leading us forward with an expanded, reinvigorated, and passionately dedicated team.

Meet the Founders

We asked the Interaction Associates partners why they decided to found IISC.

“I could never decide who needed collaboration most: top leaders of Fortune companies or the common boy and girl in the street. After years of research, I figured it out. The answer is: BOTH! EQUALLY!. Collaboration is right for everybody, with or without a stock portfolio.”


“In the long, hot summer of 1992, Martin Luther King’s ‘fierce urgency of now’ struck home for me as I read with horror the daily accounts of African American teens and children, caught in the crossfire of gang warfare, being shot in front of their mothers in communities across the U.S. For them, social justice was clearly missing in action.

In IA at the time, after years of shoehorning our pro bono contributions in between our revenue commitments, it became clear to many of us that our social justice ideals would always be a casualty of bottom line pressure. The solution—which seemed quixotic for a struggling small company at the time—called for a bold, explicit commitment to social justice. But how? In what form? At what cost?  After a prolonged, value-driven conversation among the four partners, we’d crafted our answer, and IISC was born.”

“Years before the IISC, Interaction Associates had another sibling: The Center for Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). The mission of the center was to teach CPS and group facilitation to change agents and to promote the use of CPS with the stakeholders of multi-sector disputes and challenges. The CPS founders imagined working on the world’s most difficult problems with The Interaction Method, augmented by the latest in collaborative technology. But making a living and raising families intervened. As energies went to building IA into a sustainable business, the Center was put into cryonic preservation. In 1992, the metaphorical container of our more noble aspirations was re-opened. The Center was re-imagined with a more focused mission – to advance community-based democracy and a ‘fair chance’ for all people by teaching practical skills for civic engagement and demonstrating the power of collaborative action. With some seed money, and a commitment to nurture the new entity to adulthood, the IA partners launched the Interaction Institute for Social Change.”


“Given Interaction Associates’s commitment to community service and social justice, we needed a vehicle to deliver our consulting and training services in multi-party, collaborative problem solving to non profits, communities, cities, and school systems at rates they could afford and by culturally-sensitive staff experienced in the public sector.”