The International Communal Studies Association was formed in 1985 during the international conference held at Yad Tabenkin, the Research and Documentation Centre of the Kibbutz Movement, in Israel. The conference was attended by scholars, kibbutz and commune members. The purpose of the association was to provide a common framework for a scholarly exchange of information regarding communal life; communes, intentional communities, kibbutzim and other collective communities throughout the world. The ICSA Office has been situated in Yad Tabenkin since the formation of the association.
The organization is multidisciplinary and strives for international representation amongst its members. Its international structure was led from the very beginning by a Board of Directors composed of scholars from different countries. International conferences are held every few years and are organized in the host country by ICSA members.
The first Conference was held at Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel in 1985, when the Association was established. Since that time international conferences have been held in New Lanark and Edinburgh, Scotland (1988), Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA, USA (1991), New Harmony, Ind., USA (1993), Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel (1995), Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1998), ZEGG, Germany (2001), The Amana Colonies. Iowa, USA (2004), Damanhur, Italy (2007), Emek Yezreel College, Emek Yezreel, Israel (2010) and Findhorn, Scotland (2013) and Tamera, Portugal in the summer of 2016. The 13th International Conference will be held in the Camphill Communities in the Hudson Valley, USA in the summer of 2019.
The international conferences of ICSA enable scholars and members of kibbutzim and communes to meet and exchange views and research. The participation of scholars at the conferences has promoted many reciprocal visits of kibbutz and communal scholars to kibbutzim and communes around the world thus enhancing first-hand knowledge.
As an international organization ICSA maintains contact with parallel associations like the Communal Studies Association in the USA. It also instigated the establishment of the European Utopian Studies Association as the result of the participation of some British scholars at the 2nd ICSA conference in Scotland.
The ICSA central office is located at the Yad Tabenkin Institute. In addition the Institute's Archives and Library contain extensive collections on communes from around the world which are available to the general public upon request. An electronic Bulletin, which supplies recipients with interdisciplinary material, is distributed biannually as well as relevant material received from various organizations and publications throughout the world. The ICSA also promotes the publication of the conferences' proceedings and maintains a list of scholars active in kibbutz and communal research.
The ICSA is a forum for exchanging scholarship, information, ideas and experiences on intentional community and to do so with respect. The ICSA is not a venue for furthering political programmes and positions not relevant to the study of intentional community.