“Fascism did not rise in the 1930’s because it was strong, but because democracy was weak!” These are the recent words of a political strategist in a news interview following the US elections. This declaration stopped me in my tracks.
I have the good fortune to live in relatively stable and prosperous democracy, Australia. I have also lived and worked in countries taking their first steps into democracy. In Yemen, l watched their precarious first, UN-supervised democratic election. In Tanzania, I listened to Julius Nyerere, father of unified Tanzania, make an impassioned plea to his people to act peacefully during the turmoil of Tanzania’s very first multiparty elections.
My life’s work as an intercultural educator has been built on the democratic principle of “better together than apart”, of finding ways to leverage and bridge differences, of responding to difference as a potent resource rather than a source of fear.
The political strategist’s statement about democracy has me reflecting on the rich range of tools I have for participating in my democracy. It has me realising the tools I have at the ready to understand the position of “the other” who represents different thinking. And there is no shortage of that!
I have been using Cultural Detective© as a primary training tool since 2003. I use it with my clients from Mumbai, India, to Wellington, New Zealand; from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia. It does not mean that I try to shoehorn it into every design I create, however, it is a reliable go-to resource. It’s a favourite tool in my toolbox, applicable in very diverse situations where training, facilitation, or coaching is concerned.
Right now, as I respond to the after-shocks of Brexit and the US election, I am also reaching for the simple Cultural Detective Method that applies three core questions:
- Who is doing and saying what here?
- Assuming they have a reason to respond in this way, what might that be?
- In what ways can we bridge this difference, this divide, and then take appropriate action?
Cultural Detective is a well-tested tool for taking effective action in these mutable, turbulent times.
These three questions at the heart of the Cultural Detective Method were taken up by two client organizations who joined together recently in Adelaide, South Australia, for a two-and-a-half-day Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification course. The workshop was hosted by Multicultural Aged Care, a group that has long been actively engaged in building intercultural competence for the aged-care workforce, and Scope Global, managers of international development and educational programs throughout Asia and the Pacific. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
Both organisations were drawn to this in-depth course to learn more about the multiple applications and strengths of the Cultural Detective Method and materials. Over a three-day period, they shared intense, guided interaction, and gained many useful and practical insights:
“I really got that I need to adjust the type of bridge to the specific situation. I had thought of bridging as a major project like the built-for-hundreds-of-years Sydney Harbour type of bridge. Not true! Bridging can flex according to the situation and not all bridges need to be the permanent stone structures.”
—Agnieszka Chudecka, Multicultural Aged Care, South Australia
“Before doing this course I had understood that bridging could happen at the interpersonal level and not really considered the ways this could happen systemically as well. That’s changed. I get it. I now see multiple ways we can make simple low-cost systemic modifications that will facilitate bridging.”
—Ammeline Balanag, ScopeGlobal
I reach for Cultural Detective with confidence. It’s safe. It works alongside other tools. It gives me a deliberate approach and process to understanding different viewpoints. It enables participation and the inclusive practice of democracy in our teams, in our organisations, and in our communities.
It continues to have my participatory vote and that of my clients.