New Law Threatens to Tear Apart Israeli Community

coverIsraelA new law threatens to tear apart communities and mutual agreements in Israeli society and brings up questions that haven’t been discussed—more democratic or more Jewish? There may be hope yet.
Guest blog post by Cultural Detective Israel co-author Anat Kedem

I wanted to share with you what has been going on in Israel. A new law declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people, the so-called “Jewish Nationality Bill,” was passed last week. It has the weight of a constitutional amendment because it’s a “basic law.”

It fits right in with similar laws passed recently in other parts of the world. Sections of the law formalize symbols of statehood such as the national anthem and emblem, something that lawmakers say was missing from the Israeli legislative basis. Israel has 15 Basic Laws that require a 75% majority in the parliament to change. They constitute the legal foundation of our different institutions and are intended to be the basis for a future constitution.

The controversy is around the timing and impact of the new law and mostly around two sections in it.

  1. The first makes Hebrew the only official language, downgrading the position of Arabic to a “special” language—no longer a formal one.
  2. The other section allows communities (like the communal village where I live) to turn away people not belonging to the same ethnic group. Before this law, someone denied permission to live somewhere could sue on the basis of discrimination. With this new law there can be religious towns that will be allowed to deny secular people; Jewish villages that can turn away Arabs wanting to live there; and Arab villages that can not accept Jews. This is where the potential for division and destruction in this law is most apparent.

The new law is quite a coup for Bibi and his supporters, with protests by opposition who say it runs counter to the Basic Laws of Israel, including “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex. The Druze minority has found themselves excluded by the law, becoming second-rate citizens in spite of the fact that they shoulder citizen duties such as service in the military.

There was a major demonstration last Saturday evening, one of the largest in history, where side by side Jews and Druze showed solidarity. Our Arabic language learning group attended together. The protest finished with a loud and emotion-filled singing of the national anthem. It was very strengthening to come together and show that we have more unity than divisiveness.

It is a heartbreaking moment here, a death-inducing blow to everyone who believes in different groups living together, anyone that holds a vision of Israel being democratic and Jewish at the same time with equality for all. Holding both sides, as good Cultural Detectives do—being a democracy and a Jewish state—has always been a work in progress, necessitating gentle maneuvering, extensive dialogue and bridge building, but now the very fabric of our mutual existence here has been brutally torn apart. I see this as a state-generated act of exclusion, drawing a line between those that “belong” and those that are required to live in a permanent sense of existential insecurity, dependent on the good will of the government.

That said, we don’t yet know if this law will stand up to supreme court scrutiny. It was legislated by a very narrow margin and major lawmakers are conceding it will need to be changed. The Israeli parliament is out for summer break so nothing can be done now.  Things in Israel change all the time adapting to new circumstances—so who knows?!!!!

We’ve been holding counsel with friends and neighbors, and have witnessed lots of grass roots initiatives going on now. This might be a change for the better after all. People need to be much more involved with the daily work of representation—no more ballet once in four years and believing that things will be taken care of. We are in for interesting times. Passing the law has had the opposite of its intended impact, bringing us closer together. All around there are acts of solidarity. One of the hospitals had the staff stand outside with signs: “Jews and Arabs working here will not be made into enemies.” Impromptu Arabic learning groups have gathered, and Israel’s president, who must sign the law, said he will sign it in Arabic. A well regarded Israeli Arab lawmaker resigned from parliament, and writers and former chiefs of Army staffs are speaking out.

David Grossman, an Israeli writer who won the Man Brooker award and who serves as our moral compass, wrote an open letter in the August 3rd newspaper. He wrote,

“For hundreds and thousands of years, the Jewish people were a minority in the countries in which they lived. The experience of being a minority shaped our identity, sharpened our moral sensitivity. Now we Jews are the majority in our country. It is a tremendous responsibility to be a majority, and it is a great challenge, political and social, and especially human: to understand that the attitude towards the minority is one of the major tests of the majority in a democratic regime. … Equality is the starting point of citizenship, not its product. It is the land from which citizenship grows. It is also what allows the highest freedom—the freedom to be different. Different, and yet equal to everyone else…. Perhaps this law does us a great favor, and reveals to us all, from the left and the right, without illusions or self-deceit, where we are, the point to which Israel has deteriorated. Perhaps this law will finally shake all of us, from all sides of the political map, who fear for Israel; for its spirit, its humanity, its Jewish, democratic and human values. I have no doubt that there are so many, on the left, right and center, decent and sober people who know that this law is a disgraceful act and a betrayal of the state by its citizens.”

Netanyahu, as usual, presents this as a struggle between the left and the right. But it is a much deeper and fateful struggle, a struggle between those who have given up and those who still hope. Those who have succumbed to nationalist and racist bias, and those who continue to oppose it, who insist on preserving in their hearts a picture, an image, a hope of how things can be in a proper country.”

To subscribe to Cultural Detective Online and learn from over 70 intercultural skills development packages including CD Israel, or to license printed materials of this world-class, theoretically-grounded and immediately useful series for your classroom, training, or coaching, click here.

 

Miracles Happen

IMG_1539I grew up in small town Wisconsin USA surrounded by Catholics of German ancestry. While I moved when I was eleven, I remember the town as having a wonderful community spirit—a volunteer ambulance way back before small US towns had such things. I remember a town that was lily white, the men barrel-chested; hard-working people who weren’t very emotionally expressive. The biggest cultural differences, and they were huge, were between town folk and farmers.

Today I have tears in my eyes as I have witnessed a most beautiful blessing. I heard there would be an outdoor Mass in my hometown, Burlington, in the park where I ice skated as a kid. I love outdoor spiritual celebrations. It’s a beautiful day, and I was excited to attend.

IMG_1537When I showed up at Echo Park there were several large tents set up and an altar ready in the pergola. Parking was at a premium. This was to be a tri-parish Mass: St. Mary’s and St. Charles from Burlinton, and St. Joseph’s from Lyons. There were three choirs and three priests.

 

As I walked into the celebration space, much to my surprise, the choir was singing a song in Spanish! I got out my cell phone to record a snippet. How very cool. I knew there is a Spanish language Mass each Sunday at St. Charles; I’ve attended it several times. Would this outdoor Mass be in Spanish? That would be cool and unexpected.

I love that my birthplace, founded by immigrants, once again has such a large immigrant community. When we are up here visiting family in the summer, I travel to nearby Burlington to buy jamaica (hibiscus) leaves for tea, Mexican cuts of meat for cooking, and a few other Latino savories. There seems to be a strong local Latino community. Last weekend we attended a very popular new Mole Fest in Elkhorn.

But when I attend Spanish-language Mass I see mainly Latinos there; the larger parish doesn’t seem very involved. There seems a definite segregation or separateness, though Mole Fest did have lots of every sort of people. I know that over one out of every five rural priests in small town USA are foreign-born, as there is a shortage of priests in the USA. Thankfully, many of them receive training using Cultural Detective materials.

 

The opening prayer celebrated diversity and unity. I beamed. The next song was in English. I noticed people around me, hundreds of them, and mostly the blonde-haired, blue-eyed variety that live in these parts, were reading along as they sung. I went over to grab the bulletin for today’s service. It was written in both English and Spanish! Not just one or the other, but an integrated, bilingual bulletin!

Really? In my small, what I perceive as insular town? I know and love these local Catholics. They send out mission trips every year to help the needy in the USA and abroad. They pray for peace and harmony, the cessation of war and violence, that the homeless, immigrants and refugees can find home. But, I also believe that some if not many of these parishioners have a hard time praying this latter petition. Many of them voted for Trump, after all.

 

This morning’s miracle got better and better. The second reading was in Spanish, by a native-speaking man. It felt so good. The response to the reading was in Spanish, and that response didn’t just come from the Spanish-speaking choir, but from voices here and there, scattered among the hundreds of people gathered in the shade of the tents. Wow! How cool!

The sermon was in English, given by the priest who was not the main celebrant. That was nice; they wanted to include the priests from all three parishes in the celebration. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but, the Colombian priest giving a sermon, too! And he gave it in Spanish! He said the same things the first priest had said, but in Latino style, with much more passion. And of course with more references to the Virgin. I looked around. These German-Americans that I’d grown up with listened politely. I assume most of them didn’t understand. But I heard them join in the Latin-sounding “Ah-men,” vs. their normal “Ey-men.” Things have obviously been changing around here while I’ve been gone. And, then again, they haven’t. I heard the ladies behind me remark after the Colombian’s sermon, “He sure gave a short homily. Maybe we should check out his Mass.” 😉

 

The songs during Mass rotated between Spanish and English, with a few of them bilingual: one verse English, one Spanish. I was thrilled to hear that those around me singing along to the Spanish lyrics. The accent wasn’t pretty, but they were trying! This was, truly, an inclusive, integrated service.

Time for Prayers of the People. A gringa lady got up, and she read the prayers in both languages. She struggled with the Spanish, but she read it respectfully. We responded first in English, and to the Spanish ones in Spanish. I couldn’t imagine this Mass getting much better. Today encouraged me so much about my birth town’s people and community.

 

Communion was interesting. Most of the US Americans took the host in their hands, as is the custom here, while most of the Latinos received communion on their tongues, as is the custom for them. It was nice to see both.

 

At the conclusion of Mass, I thanked the celebrant, telling him I’d been born in Burlington and never would have dreamed that we’d be celebrating a bilingual Mass; that it was such a blessing. He thanked me for letting him know; I had the feeling he was happy to hear it, as perhaps he hears the opposite as well. I then thanked the Colombian priest. He gave me a big abrazo/hug, and thanked me also. Then a large portion of those attending, rather than hurry home as I’m so used to up here, wandered up to the picnic area to share coffee, orange juice, lemonade, and the always-present Wisconsin milk and kringle.

Viva diversity and integration on a clear sunny day in the Heartland of America! Today my stereotypes of my beloved birth town were updated, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Haziz and Our New Iranian Friends

I am in Dubai to present at a conference directed by the author of Cultural Detective Arab Gulf, Abdulhamied Alromaithy. His wife, Layla Al Bloushi, will moderate my panel. It’s my first time here, so I’m excited. Today was my tenth anniversary cancer-free, and we planned to celebrate by going to the top of the Burj Khalifa. It was beautiful.

In the morning, however, we walked around the old part of the city. Greg and I were fascinated by the organized chaos of the port. Boats were anchored three to six deep. How in the world did they get out once they were loaded? Packages were stacked everywhere! How did they keep track of what was where? Aren’t there waves in the Gulf? Wasn’t the loading precarious? Here the longshoreman show up in pickup trucks, SUVs and small trucks, to hand-load packages of textiles, boxes of spices, and many, many appliances to be shipped around the Gulf. We even saw electrical transformers.

 

The boats themselves were absolutely gorgeous, wooden structures brightly painted with filigree and other details. They looked very old. And the men who were working them were so very welcoming, cheerful, hardworking and happy.

 

The highlight of our day serendipitously became the invitation we received to board and tour an Iranian shipping vessel at the port in Dubai Creek. Our visit was accompanied by tea, lunch, shisha, and some great non-verbal communication that bridged my non-existent Farsi with our hosts’ non-existent English. Thankfully a spice trader helped us out with some translation.

To board the boat we had to climb up a very rickety ladder, then crawl over the side and jump down quite steeply. Our hosts very politely watched out for our safety and were extremely hospitable. They got a kick out of our adventurousness and curiosity.

 

We learned that it takes 15 hours to sail from Dubai to Iran, and that they visit five ports there. Our hosts assured us that even with our USA passports we would be safe and happy. As I have work today, going with them wasn’t really an option to consider.

They showed us the captain’s bridge, the sleeping quarters, below deck where there’s a kitchen and stowage, the roof where there’s more stowage. We were told they bring gold from India to Dubai, textiles from Dubai to Iran, and spices from Iran to Dubai. All of them had been doing this their whole lives. There were also loads of household appliances bound for Iran: washers, freezers, and loads of things made in China.

I asked how they got in and out of the port amidst so many ships. “No problem,” was the answer, as Haziz pointed to a small opening between boats, through which none of the boats would fit. Leaving port obviously takes a lot of cooperation between vessels. I asked how they knew where everything was, to load an unload. “We know.” I guess a lifetime teaches you the order in that apparent chaos.

 

Many thanks to David Benson of www.goexploreae.com, who told us we could go up to the multi-level parking structure across from the port to get a bird’s-eye view of that organized chaos going on in the creek. Thank goodness we did! What a view of both the boats in the waterway and out the other direction!

 

It was a wonderfully full day of cross-cultural interaction. We spent time with Filipinos, Malays, Indians. Not many Emiratis yet, but there is always tomorrow.

We Want to Get Rid of You!

“The Power of Storytelling in Intercultural Communication”
Many thanks to Joanna Sell, a certified Cultural Detective facilitator, for this terrific guest blog post. Be sure to check out her new intercultural storytelling blog at http://www.interculturalcompass.com/blog/.

DOD

It was early autumn when Martin, a German project leader, relocated to Mexico. At the beginning of his assignment he was very excited about the new challenge and curious about the host culture. His only concern was the fact that he was an introvert.

Every day before going to his company he threw a coin and “played heads or tails”. When he saw heads he would talk to the very first employee he encountered on his way. While seeing tails he would breath a sigh of relief that he did not have to “jump over his shadow” to practice small talk. Nobody knew about his habit and his team members were quite puzzled by his behavior, seeing that he did not talk to them as often as had their former leaders.

Pretty soon even those who had been very talkative at the beginning of Martin’s assignment limited their exchanges with him to the minimum. His assignment became challenging and Martin could not help feeling excluded, not only in the professional context but also in private life. Actually, he almost had no private life at all. Spending extra hours at work in the evening and during weekends resulted in isolation amidst a crowd of smiling faces in Mexico.

One late October morning, shortly after arriving at the office, Martin noticed a colorful skull made of sugar on top of his desk. He closed the door and slowly sat down. He remained frozen for half an hour or longer. He noticed that his colleagues barely spoke to him. Seeing the skull, he got terrified that they most probably wanted to get rid of him.

What happened next?

When Katrin Sihling—a dear colleague of mine from the Munich area who was raised by her Mexican mom and her German dad in South Germany—finished the story and asked that question, everyone in our group at Jena University smiled. Someone hurried with a possible explanation: “People in Mexico celebrate November 1st with parties to commemorate their ancestors and give one another sweet skulls to highlight the festive character of this feast”.

Listening to that explanation I sketched the following concluding scene in my head: Luckily, Elena, one of Martin’s team members, originally from Switzerland, entered his office and got concerned when she saw Martin’s pale face and absent gaze. When he indicated towards the skull without saying a word, she immediately noticed the cultural misunderstanding. It was she who had put the colorful sugar skull on his desk, as she did every year for all the people in their department. She explained the symbolic meaning of the sweet skull and asked Martin whether he wished to join the Mexican part of her family in celebrating El Dia de los Muertos.

That day both of them learned something new: not to take the world of obviousness (their world of obviousness) for granted, but to ask for new meanings instead.

The power of the storytelling approach in the intercultural context lies exactly in this attitude. Exchanging stories across cultures enhances curiosity and redirects attention from a focus on general, simplified assumptions and towards sense making and re-narrating the world of obviousness; that’s why the Cultural Detective Method is built around stories! Every critical incident in our series is a true story, sometimes a combination, involving real people in real situations.

“Culture is a set of stories that we enter” (Jerome Brunner) and exchanging facts and data about cultures without exchanging stories is a dead-end street.

“It is the stories we share with each other that help us to overcome cultural conflicts, cope with transition stress, and shape how we perceive the past and see the future. Thanks to an exchange of stories we become able to rethink our assumptions and change our behavior. Changing behaviors definitely requires mindfulness in order to recognize which behaviors are inappropriate and which are desirable in different cultural contexts.

To sum up why we need storytelling in the intercultural context, I would like to offer a short list (instead of a story) that includes the following issues:

  • Storytelling suppports zooming in and out effects and, therefore, enables perspective change.
  • Storytelling allows the discovery of cultural roots from multiple perspectives.
  • Storytelling offers insights into the complexity of multicultural identities.
  • Storytelling can be an eye-opener in new cultural surroundings.
  • Storytelling adds the emotional layer to the cognitive level.
  • Storytelling serves as a means of transmitting cultures.
  • Storytelling deals with new stories of belonging.
  • Storytelling initiates change processes.
  • Storytelling serves as sensemaking.
  • Storytelling moves hearts.

Sell, J. (2017): Storytelling for Intercultural Understanding and Intercultural Sensitivity Development in: Chlopczyk, J. (ed.) Beyond Storytelling. Springer Gabler, pp.234-235.

Made you curious? Please find more about the storytelling approach in the intercultural context with a focus on choice biographies and identities in flux, coping with the danger of a single story, new stories of belonging and a hands on compilation of storytelling methods that can be applied in intercultural programs in two of my chapters published in following books:

Sell, J. (2017): Storytelling for Intercultural Understanding and Intercultural Sensitivity Development in: Chlopczyk, J. (ed.) Beyond Storytelling. Springer Gabler.

Sell, J. (2017): Segel hoch und auf zu neuen Ufern – Eine Reise durch die Welt der Storytelling-Methoden im unterkulturellen Kontext in: Schach, A. (ed.) Storytelling. Geschichten in Text, Bild und Film, Springer Gabler.

Of Friends and Transitions

Living overseas seems to bring with it a mobile and transitory lifestyle of a caliber foreign to those who steward the home traditions. We become accustomed to a series of pronounced and frequent life transitions. In Tokyo foreign friends would transfer to assignments in other exotic locations every three to five years. It makes it nice for traveling, a privilege to be able to stay with friends around the world, but their departures leave huge holes in our lives. In Mazatlán there seems to be a frequent seven to ten year cycle to expat life, with beloved friends moving to the interior of the country or back home, closer to grandkids, so they can be an integral part of those children’s lives.

Transitions are a normal part of life; I know this. Life is comprised of cycles; I know and believe this from the depths of my heart. Yet dealing constructively with transitions is the reason I made a career as an interculturalist oh so many decades ago. I am not good at them. They hurt. Things change. They can even change for the better, open new doors and windows for which we’ll forever be grateful. But, they involve change nonetheless. Someone “moves our cheese.”

Read full article: Of Friends and Transitions

Today in the USA

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Asha Deliverance, left, the mother of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, leans in and embraces a woman who approached her at the vigil. Photo by Beth Nakamura/Staff, The Oregonian/OregonLivecaption.  

I almost feel guilty as I write—80+ people were killed in Kabul today and I am focused on two men who were killed in Portland, Oregon, a few days ago. You may have heard about it: three men formed a wall between two young ladies (one wearing a hijab) and a man who was verbally accosting them on a public train. Two of the men ended up dead and a third was seriously wounded. A vigil was held the following evening at the place the attack happened. Here are some photos from it; click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I am convinced that heroic actions take place every day in our world, but we frequently don’t hear about them. This time we did. It happened not far from my house, across the street from where I grocery shop, and just around the corner from our weekend farmers’ market. I didn’t attend the vigil that was held for our local heroes. But the reports from those that did spoke of the kindness and love that was evident—and the gratitude for those who had stood up to hate.

Right now, from outside of the US, it may look as if our country has changed since our new president was inaugurated. And in many ways it has. Some people are more comfortable making and hearing racist statements than they were before the election. They feel they no longer have to be “politically correct” and can say and do whatever they feel. After all, they are just following the example of the president.

But many people are not accepting these “new norms” and are actively and quietly doing their jobs to make sure the laws of the country are upheld. A few examples follow.

  1. When the “travel ban” was abruptly instituted, a group of state attorneys general worked diligently over the weekend to prepare the case to take to court on Monday morning. Many corporate attorneys whose companies were affected, university attorneys whose students were stuck overseas, and other interested legal organizations gave up their weekends with family to help prepare the necessary documents.
  2. Amidst the noise of ongoing “Russia investigations” and leaks and counter-leaks, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his staff are quietly doing their jobs—investigating the accusations and finding out what actually took place and what didn’t. It may look from the outside as if nothing is happening because you will hear no tweets or leaks from that group—they are just doing their jobs.
  3. I belong to a local neighborhood online group. Two weeks ago, there was a post with a lengthy list of furniture and clothing needs for a recently arrived Syrian family. Within a few hours, the items were donated and the family had a comfortable home to settle into. And it wasn’t the first time the neighborhood had pitched in; this was at least the third similar request in the last six months.

So what is my point? Individuals can and do make a difference. Everyday. In the most unexpected places and in unexpected ways. Kindness matters. Civility matters.

Cultural Detective provides a method to help us understand others who are different from ourselves. It provides a way to listen and understand another’s view, whether or not you agree. Get a clue and check out CD Online—and use your intercultural skills to share a little kindness in a culturally appropriate way.

Cross-cultural Teaming in a Laboratory

This is a guest blog post written by Amy Prunuske and Katie Nemeth. Their biographies follow the text.

lab-1825276The laboratory is a multicultural environment that stimulates innovation but also contributes to misunderstandings. Scientists often have formal training in research techniques, but rarely in communication, and particularly not in cross-cultural communication.

In the University of Wisconsin biochemistry laboratory in which Amy did her research training, there were lab mates from Korea, Germany, Japan, India, and Poland, as well as the USA. This diversity is vital for the development of new ideas, but it can also create communication challenges. Many of the undergraduates in the US Midwest come to the university with minimal exposure to people from different backgrounds, so it is important to help them understand that different cultures have differing verbal and nonverbal rules mediating social interactions.

During Katie’s postdoctoral training, she participated in many active learning and training workshops. While diversity and inclusivity were part of the lesson designs, she wondered if and how students could become actively mindful of the role that culture plays in a group setting. Seeking out ideas, she participated in non-science workshops and discovered Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. After finding this vital missing link, Katie worked with Amy to add the experiential learning component to various courses and groups in the biology department.

We have found that Ecotonos is an amazing way to expose scientists to the existence of cultural differences and how to use them as assets. As part of the activity, students are divided into three monocultural groups: Delphenius, Zante, and Aquila—each with a unique set of cultural characteristics. Ecotonos comes with ten sets of rule cards, three case studies and three different tasks, so students can play the game repeatedly and each time it’s different. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

In our work with the biology students, we have them practice their new cultural rules by creating a flag that represents the values of their culture (see pictures). The students in the monocultural groups enjoy taking on these new characteristics, with some finding it easy and others finding it challenging to behave in new ways.

After the monocultural work, participants are re-sorted into multicultural groups of different structures: minority-majority, joint venture with balanced populations, and diverse membership with representatives of all three cultures. In their multicultural groups, we have them rank the performance of three hypothetical workers, with the three workers demonstrating characteristics similar to one of the three sets of group rules. This exposes the participants to the ways in which we can be biased toward people with behaviors similar to those of our own culture, and allows students to practice getting beyond their biases.

We have used the program as part of the introduction to the biology laboratory, where they will be expected to work in groups, as well as in programs for undergraduates from groups under-represented in the sciences.

Ecotonos is a great ice breaker activity for the students to get to know their classmates, and students often carry forward some of the behaviors learned during the activity, like snapping in approval, as part of creating a new shared culture for their group. Most students find the activity to be fun, and leave it with a much greater appreciation for the challenges of working across cultures.

Here’s a typical student comment: “It was helpful to understand how difficult it might be interacting with a different culture for the first time.” This is an important lesson for scientists, who often believe their discipline is a meritocracy not subject to the biases that are universally found. We are currently measuring the impact of Ecotonos using the cultural intelligence assessment.

We would like to thank Dr. Shelley Smith for introducing Ecotonos to us.  We are grateful for the time she took to share her expertise in running the activity.

amy-prunuske-2016
Amy Prunskee is a Faculty Curriculum Program Manager and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Medical College of Wisconsin — Central Wisconsin.

katie-nemeth2
Katie Nemeth is an Assistant Professor of the teaching faculty in College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN.

 

Fascism, Democracy and Inclusion

cdfc-grad-5I am very pleased to share with you a guest post written by Taruni Falconer, Lead Facilitator of Cultural Detective Certified Facilitator Workshops, and co-author of Cultural Detective: New Zealand

“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:

  1. Who is doing and saying what here?
  2. Assuming they have a reason to respond in this way, what might that be?
  3. 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.

On the Road with Migrants: Translation Help Needed

migrants-2-7123c.jpgThe Caritas game “On the Road with Migrants” is now available online in Italian and Greek, in addition to French, English and German. Please scroll down the following link for your free download:
http://www.secours-catholique.org/actualites/en-route-avec-les-migrants-un-jeu-a-telecharger

I am working on a translation to Spanish. Would LOVE your help! …. Please let us know if you are willing and able as we are putting together a team.

Thank you for helping us build respect, equity, inclusion and JUSTICE in our world!

Inclusion in Cyberspace?

I am pleased to present you a very interesting guest blog post written by John Gieryn, about inclusion and intercultural competence in online communities.

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The internet was a promise of open access and global inclusion, but has this been realized? You have most likely felt or heard hints of the web’s democratizing potential. You might have also sensed that the internet isn’t living up to this potential, and that barriers to global access and equity are yet to be bridged. The internet was born in a time before 4G access and smartphones. The current design of our web no longer supports the progress of society and is in need of a major remodel to ensure it supports inclusion, and a social cohesion that fosters both cultural and individual diversity. I write this post as a call to action. My hope is to spark discourse, the sharing of challenges and examples, lessons learned, and practical ways towards self- and group-improvement in the arenas of open source design, participatory organization and online collaboration.

Background
I’m a digital native, having communed and convened through the web since I was young. For the last nine months, the majority of my social and professional interactions have occurred online. Engaging with what I’d consider progressive and impressively democratic networks, I’ve seen and heard surprisingly little in open source design communities on intercultural competence seeking.

My interest in such competence began from a painful yet most valuable experience. For six years I have been working primarily as a community organizer, within the framework of social change. At the end of my first year, I had the opportunity to learn in a personal and powerful way what my privilege meant. A long story short: myself and two other males had been dominating the conversation in a non-hierarchical, direct-action collective, in the midst of the biggest protest movement Wisconsin has ever seen, and several women of color felt unable to bring their issues up for a period of months. The outtake was a dramatic pair of sessions, six hours each, that were necessary to reestablish the balance and harmony of our group.

I’m cis, white, and male, from the lower-middle class. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much easier I can move through my world than others who don’t have these same privilege-granting characteristics. It was just easier, more comfortable, for me to speak than for people whose experiences differed vastly from my own. This balancing lesson taught me how to authentically collaborate through the lens of power with instead of power over, and it continues to shape my work and increase its effectiveness.

In my current work online, the lessons I learned about balancing power have become harder to apply, because 1) I can’t always tell who is in a virtual room, 2) it’s harder to determine what privileges are held by those present, and 3) asynchronous communication lacks many of the visual cues that are so helpful in facilitating safe(r) spaces and recognizing when someone is in discomfort or shut down. With the loss of visual cues and physical presence, new tactics are required for safeguarding groups from imbalances and reversing disparities when they occur (e.g. asking someone for a quick face-to-face after an online meeting can feel very different than it might in a face-to-face meeting).

Why Intercultural Competence Matters
Cultural competence is defined as “a complex, psychosocial and socio-cultural process of cultural awareness, content knowledge, and applied or practice skills. It is as an active, developmental, and ongoing process, one that is aspirational rather than achieved,” (. It is the awareness of cultures, the distinctions of their context, their sense-making, and their values and norms and the applied practice of interacting with them through communication and other collaborative processes in appropriate and competent ways. Beyond being a fair or just concept, intercultural competence is just plain effective, as it can activate and sustain collective action in many ways, especially through Social Capital. Cultural Detective, since it helps people develop intercultural competence, can thus play a role in activating social capital.

Beyond being a fair or just concept, intercultural competence is just plain effective, as it can activate and sustain collective action in many ways, especially through Social Capital.

Benefits of Social Capital
Social Capital is a concept used to identify resources that are neither human nor financial, but interpersonal. It’s important to note that the phrase “social capital” is problematic, as “capital” has represented a relationship of domination and oppression for half a millennium or more. I use the term (without intending these connotations) as it is widely used in the literature I cite, and is useful until a better naming emerges. The resources found in “cross-cutting personal relationships…provide the basis for trust, cooperation, and collective action in such communities,” write Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998). In that same paper, they found it useful to identify three dimensions of social capital— structural, cognitive, and relational— though they admit there is much interrelation between each.

The structural dimension refers to the makeup of the network, who relates to whom and how strongly. The cognitive dimension refers to the self-rated expertise and tenure one might have; self-efficacy, or control belief (the belief that my actions will yield the intended results) has a significant effect on whether one will intend to do anything, let alone participate in an online community.

The relational dimension has the largest potential impact, in my opinion, for the way online communities organize. Relational Capital can be further broken down into four aspects.

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In a group that has high amounts of Relational Capital, it’d be likely that:

  • A member has confidence in the other group members
  • Members identify with the group
  • Members feel a sense of obligation to participate in the group; I’ve renamed this interdependence above, since it is a primary cause of this commitment
  • Members understand and abide by group norms. This may be reinforced through sanctions

Intercultural Competence for Collective Action
Relational Capital is where intercultural competence can be effectively leveraged in order to build collective action and increase knowledge sharing in online communities. Intercultural competence, as I explained above, means being able to understand someone’s cultural context, communicate in ways that are appropriate, and take actions that are mutually understood. I’d also describe it as being fully present with someone. Such competence is required to build confidence, create shared identity, communicate and form norms, and enable commitment. Intercultural competence strengthens all of the components of Relational Capital.

Another leg of the stool for collective action, that I’ve depicted below, is reciprocity. Studies, “consistently found that reciprocity is critical for sustaining supportive relationships and collective action” (Chechen 2013). Intercultural competence is key to reciprocity because, in any exchange, understanding the context of someone’s culture and the ways that they send & receive signals is critical. How can you return the favor if you don’t know what you’ve received? How can you pay it forward if you don’t know what you gave, in the eyes of the other person? This is why online communities need intercultural competence.

In future articles I hope to write more about some of the other concepts depicted in this Collective Action Hypothesis, above. The dotted lines are my personal understandings, and the solid lines are backed up with formal academic research.

Call To Action

If we are to reach the admirable, attainable goals of the internet—to bring democracy, inclusion, and access to people everyone around the globe—then intercultural competence must be on the agenda. The Open Source movement, as well as participatory organizations and any online collaboration, have much to gain from prioritizing dialogue and resource sharing on intercultural best practices, as cultural competence is a key component of open access to tech.

I invite people to share any resources, comments, or quotes by making a suggestion here. I also hope that you will spark these sorts of conversations, and share these types of resources, with your community. Continuous learning and diverse lenses have the capacity to transform our world into a more sustainable, flourishing home. So please— stay curious.

Resources + Examples

  • The World Value Survey created this very interesting cultural map depicting traditional values versus secular-rational values and survival values versus self-expression values
  • “The Challenges of Managing Cross-Cultural Virtual Project Teams” research paper on the challenge of leadership, virtual aspects of communications and developing trustMany of the online resources I found were proprietary. However, this
  • 6 Levels of Culture diagram was helpful; the DIE assessment is a freely accessible & widely used method to teach cognitive flexibility, frame of reference shifting and curiosity
  • Short videos, like this one on New Zealand & German cultural differences, can be helpful

References

  • Carroll, Doris Wright. “A Model of Cultural Competence in Open Source Systems.” Safari. IGI Global, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
  • Chechen Liao Pui-Lai To Fang-Chih Hsu , (2013),”Exploring knowledge sharing in virtual communities”, Online Information Review, Vol. 37 Iss 6 pp. 891 – 909.
  • Faraj, Molly Mclure Wasko; Samer, and Wasko. “Why Should I Share? Examining Social Capital and Knowledge Contribution in Virtual Communities” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
  • Nahapiet, Janine, and Sumantra Ghoshel. “Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage.” Academy of Management Review 23.2 (1998): 119-57. Web.

john gieryn | @coopchange | john(at)enspiral.com Licensed  CC BY-SA 4.0