The Institute of Contemporary Observation (ICO), founded on March 18, 2001, is a civil society organization concerned with labor, law and corporate social responsibility. Its areas of research and activities include labor, law, public policy, protection of human rights, global supply chain management, environmental protection, occupational health and safety, public health, gender issues, civil society, community development. The organization seeks to benefit migrant workers in the factories producing international markets along the southeastern coast of China, as well as other disadvantaged and marginalized communities. As of March 2004, ICO had helped over 200,000 workers.
ICO also works to develop workers’ capacity for self-development and self-awareness and is striving to develop several different kinds of training programs of benefit to workers. In March of 2004, along with the University of California, Berkeley, ICO established a community college for migrant workers providing free public education courses in legal awareness; occupational health and safety; HIV prevention; basic health; etc. In addition, the college also provides professional courses in foreign languages; computers and IT skills; management and entrepreneurial skills; etc. in order to give migrant workers the opportunity to continue their education and seek career advancement.