PICO was founded in 1972 under the leadership Father John Baumann, a Jesuit priest who had learned community organizing in Chicago. PICO began as a regional training institute to help support neighborhood organizations in California.
With guidance from Dr. Jose Carrasco and Scott Reed, PICO developed a new congregation-community model. In this model, congregations of all denominations and faiths serve as the institutional base for community organizations. Rather than bring people together simply based on common issues like housing or education, the faith-based or broad-based organizing model makes values and relationships the glue that holds organizations together.
These innovations have resulted in the development of a network of powerful, long lasting community organizations. Today PICO has 44 affiliated federations and 8 statewide networks working in 150 cities and towns and 17 states. More than one million families and one thousand congregations from 40 different denominations and faiths participate in PICO. In 2004, PICO changed its name from the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations to PICO National Network to reflect its growth into a national organizing effort.