Unsolicited Review

coverAfAmI just had a chance to review the newly released Cultural Detective: African-American, by Kelli McCloud-Schingen and Patricia Coleman, as well as talk to the authors yesterday in the teleconference on the topic of “Black versus African-American.” Normally, I don’t review items in this series, not just because I’m the co-author of several, but because the formula for their success both in printed versions and now online hardly requires special notice for the individual items which now number well over 50.

However, in this case I think a word is necessary. Necessary, particularly because my suspicion is that most folks reading the title twill probably think largely in terms of diversity and inclusion, rather than in terms of culture. While these issues are at a certain point inseparable, one of the weak points of the diversity movement in the USA has been to imagine itself as intercultural, with little attention, and sometimes fear of dealing with the attitudes and values of targeted groups. There is still a lot of sensitivity here. Consequently when people, particularly outside the US, see publications focused on US minorities, they may think to dismiss them as some of the same-old, same-old diversity stuff.

That is not the case here. This is truly a work of intercultural significance, despite the fact that the participant guide runs to only about 30 pages. First of all, the introduction, slightly longer than the average instrument in this series is absolutely brilliant. It gives the user an overview that is rich, thoughtful, insightful, even for, perhaps particularly for US Americans who tend to see racial issues one at a time, without a sense of heritage and culture in their historical context. But it is certainly what outsiders need and should want to know in order to work well with African-Americans.

“Truly a work of intercultural significance!”
“Absolutely brilliant.”
“Rich, thoughtful, insightful.”
“Heritage and culture in historical context.”

For the many expats going from other parts of the world to the USA, there is usually a question of, “What should I know about… How should I behave around… What should I avoid when dealing with African-Americans?” This instrument helps you cut to the chase, not by offering “kiss, bow, and shake hands tips” but providing insight into the values, strengths, and sensitivities peculiar to a part of the US population who are still to a great degree consciously heirs of a trajectory anchored in slavery, passing through personal pain even while also arriving in corporate boardrooms and occupying the Oval Office. This is a solid cultural perspective on the discourse, on the story that leads to the core values of African-Americans today, in all their diversity, and in contexts where bias and discrimination are still possible obstacles to appreciating cultural identity.

So, if you are preparing expats to go to the USA, or if you are one, this is an important tool, and now one of several dealing with internal cultural dimensions of the very diverse USA, now available in the easily accessible online versions of Cultural Detective.

 

What Do You Mean?! I’ve Worked Abroad 20 Years and Score Low?!

Image from The Vegetarian Athlete

So many of you seemed to resonate with my blog post about intercultural fitness, Tweeting it, Scooping it and passing it around the social media networks, that I thought you might be interested in a short article I originally drafted back in 2005 that uses the metaphor of an athlete to explain intercultural competence.

Developmental Intercultural Competence and the Analogy of an Athlete

Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), first published in 1986, provides a well-regarded theory about the process people go through as they learn to make sense of the complexity of cross-cultural communication. In the late 1990s after much research, an assessment for measuring intercultural sensitivity based on the DMIS was developed. Version 3 of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is currently in use by qualified practitioners. Owners and users of the IDI have in turn used their results to revamp the DMIS into the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC).

While such tools can be useful for measuring program effectiveness when used for pre- and post-testing, and can be hugely beneficial for individuals who want to improve their cross-cultural communication and collaboration, there are downsides. I’ve worked with career expatriates and global nomads, for example, who score quite low on the IDI. What this means is that the low-scorer may have a lot of experience, but has not yet engaged in systematic, structured sense-making of those decades of complex intercultural experience. I’ve also worked with quite a few individuals who value harmony as fitting in, and thus, on a scale that measures celebrating differences, they score comparatively low. Predictably, low scores can cause people to become focused on discrediting the instrument or rationalizing the assessment process, rather than on gaining benefit from what the results have to say.

To help learners focus on the guidance these tools can provide, I often use the analogy of an athlete. Just as athletes need multiple abilities to perform well, so do intercultural communicators. Both athletes and intercultural collaborators can use assessments to guide their performance improvement training.

Let’s say that the data on my athletic performance shows that I need increased flexibility. I dedicate several months to becoming more flexible, and then my coach tells me that I now need to shift my focus to building strength — of course while maintaining my flexibility. Months later, I may find that I need to refine my technique in order to make the most of my superior strength and flexibility. Or, I get injured, and I decide to add to my training a focus on my mental game: overcoming adversity, learning from mistakes, being fully present in the moment. Athletes thus focus on multiple abilities at different points throughout their careers in order to perform at their best.

In a similar way, the DMIS, IDI and IDC can be used to show us which issues we should focus on at a given point in time in order to maximally improve our intercultural performance. While developmental models and assessments are designed as measuring sticks or standards of comparison, their value for personal competence development is to highlight to us what competencies we should focus on building at each point in our careers in order to improve our overall performance.

Each of us has to balance the dynamic between comfort and stretch, challenge and support, growth and rest, in our own ways. Knowing what we are good at, as well as where we can improve, can help ensure we continue to develop. Using an assessment tool to gauge and target our intercultural development, in combination with a competence development tool such as Cultural Detective Online for ongoing, structured learning, is a powerful combination.

Mashing-it-Up in Hong Kong: International Schools

By Barbara Schaetti, co-author of Cultural Detective Blended Culture
Reposted from Personal Leadership May 2012 Newsletter

International educators have historically assumed that K-12 international schools are, by default serving multinational and multicultural expatriate communities, providing students with experiences that result in intercultural competence. But are international schools truly teaching students to make meaning of their unique cultural experiences or, when it happens, is it more by good-fortune than by design?

I recently had the honor of being invited to HKISpresent a series of half-, one-, and two-day programs, at the Student Services Summit sponsored by the Hong Kong International School (HKIS). HKIS is among the top tier of K-12 international schools worldwide, and enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a premium institution. Although it was my first time at HKIS, working with and at the School had a quality of home-coming for me: I grew up attending international schools in West Africa and South East Asia, and consulted extensively with international schools throughout Europe and South Asia in the 1990’s. Although each international school varies from the next, the culturally diverse environment they typically offer is very much home territory for me.

And so what a joy to be asked to facilitate a two-day program for international educators titled Deepening Intercultural Competence: Developing an Intercultural Practice. Participants were international educators from across Asia and beyond, mainly developmental guidance counselors (with a couple of administrators too), who share a common passion for preparing their students to participate successfully in a globalized world. They were very ready for a professional development program focused on strengthening their own abilities to role model moment-to-moment intercultural practice.

I centered our time together on The MashUp: A Professional Toolkit for Developing Intercultural Competence. The MashUp (MU) is a natural and powerful combination of two leading processes in the development of intercultural competence: Cultural Detective (CD) and Personal Leadership (PL). Where PL provides a process to disentangle from automatic judgments, emotions, and physical sensations, and to open to the unique possibilities of the present moment, CD provides a process for deconstructing the intercultural dynamics at play, considering the values, beliefs and personal cultural sense that may be motivating people’s words and actions, and developing cultural bridges to close the gap. As an integration of the two, the MashUp offers a proven and exceptionally effective way to successfully strengthen intercultural competence in individuals, in teams, and across organizations.

In Hong Kong, the MashUp was very well received by participants who immediately saw its relevance and practical service to the daily situations they encounter – as international educators and as expatriates themselves. As one person put it:

“How thrilled I am to have experienced these past 2 days – I feel excited and energized, ready to begin a new journey! This has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I am leaving today with great ideas to enrich my practice, and steps to move towards this goal. I also believe that I have a group of colleagues who have a similar mindset and interest in adding value to their practice.”

I too left the session inspired. These international HK BAYeducators are ready to intentionally provide their students (no longer simply to trust to good-fortune) with the role-modeling, orientations, and practices that develop intercultural competence. And if that’s true of the educators in my session, then we can know it’s true of many more!

You have two opportunities to learn more about this developmental MashUp of PL and CD.

  1. The first opportunity will be live and in-person at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, July 16-20. Developing Intercultural Competence: An Integrated Practice will be conducted by Dianne Hofner Saphiere and myself, Barbara F. Schaetti.
  2. The second opportunity will be a blended learning course to be held September-December 2012. Developmental Intercultural Competence: Cultural Detective, Personal Leadership, and the DMIS, a transformative professional development course is an avant garde blended learning course focuses on how best to use the MashUp to support the development of intercultural sensitivity as illustrated by the DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity). This course will be conducted by Dianne, Heather Robinson, and me.

Movie Review: The Separation of Nader va Simin (Iran)

The media attention on Israel’s potential response to Iran’s nuclear activity has piqued my interest to learn a bit more about Iranian culture. Last week our family watched a most incredible film that I felt provided so much insight, so I asked my very good friend, Cultural Detective certified facilitator Pari Namazie, what she thought about what I had learned and seen.

I trust you’ll all enjoy her insights as much as I have. It would seem that this film could be an excellent learning tool for those working with Iranians.

Pari joon, thank you for sharing your insights with us!

They were proud moments for us Iranians when Asghar Farhadi received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Golden Globe and the Golden Bear of Berlinale, for his film A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin).

The film, which talks about a divorce between Nader and Simin, has two main underlying themes: responsibility and truth. Though one initially thinks the film is about a divorce case, Farhadi cleverly weaves many layers of Iranian society into his film, including power, religion, truth, gender, family, and social class. The points which stuck out most when I watched the film were:

The role of women: Iran is governed by Islamic law. The society is patriarchal and the laws between men and women unequal. Although the foreign media might portray Iranian women as weak and dominated by men, the reality of the matter was captured well in Farhadi’s film, which showed Simin wanting to leave Iran with her daughter, as she believed it was not an environment for a child to grow up in. When her husband refused to immigrate with her (due to his father’s condition), she then insisted on divorce and moved into her parents’ home. It also showed a more religious woman taking fate into her own hands looking for a job, despite the fact that in her family the breadwinner was undoubtedly her husband. Any one who has visited Iran will know the strength of character and conviction of its women.

Truth: The film beautifully portrayed the search for truth in the Iranian culture: from the court, to Termeh (the daughter) asking her father if he knew Razieh (the helper) was pregnant when he pushed her out of the house, to Razieh swearing on the Koran that Nader’s pushing her caused her miscarriage — if she swore on the Koran and it were untrue, then she would condemn her daughter’s future and fate. These behaviors show one of the strongest elements in Iranian culture: the search for truth.

Religion: Beautiful to see how Farhadi craftfully showed the secular and religious segments of society, how they came together respectful of one another, and yet also their existing tensions. Nader and Simin are more secular and Razieh and her family, religious. On one occasion Razieh called her religious authority to ask if it was permitted by Islam to work with an elderly old man, who was not related to her and where she would have to wash and change him.

Responsibility and Family: The relationship and responsibility towards family from the younger to the older generation. In the opening scene at the family court, Nader tells the judge that he cannot immigrate with Simin as he has an elderly father suffering with Alzheimer’s and can not leave him. Other scenes show Nader’s commitment to his father and his relationship with his daughter Termeh. Although he is under many pressures he still maintains his attentive concentration towards Termeh’s studies and taking care of his father, the two main priorities in his life.

Farhadi competently shows the different viewpoints of all the actors, without taking sides, and lets the audience reflect on the circumstances and situations. This film is a must-see if you have not yet!

Book Review: How Maps Change Things

by Ward L. Kaiser, published by the New Internationalist and ODT Maps, 2012.
Free download through March 31 for Cultural Detectives

Anyone looking to develop a new class or training program to improve intercultural competence? This just-released book, How Maps Change Things: A conversation about the maps we choose and the world we want, could be the basis of one terrific learning journey! I highlighted something on nearly every one of its 188 pages. I learned so much, on so many different yet related topics, that I now have five or six threads of learning and discovery I want to pursue!

At first glance you might think this is a book about maps. Then you read on page six that it is about

“… how we shape and use maps and how they in turn shape us. It’s about how we see the world and how we therefore understand our place in it.”

So you start to hope that How Maps Change Things could teach us to be careful whether we label a certain body of water the “Arabian Gulf” or the “Persian Gulf,” or color-code parts of Kashmir as Indian or Pakistani, but it goes way beyond that.

“Because such maps encourage the feeling that some areas are home to movers and shakers while others shelter mere pawns.” — page 74

Mr. Kaiser, the author, is a big fan of equal-area projection maps such as the Peters, as most in the global diversity and inclusion field are, and points out how maps such as the Mercator aren’t good for much other than navigation. But in addition to showing us how maps can be used to perpetuate bias, he shows us how maps can also be used to promote perspective shifting, equity, and social justice:

“Through internalizing many ways to see the world we may even develop openness to other people’s points of view and greater self-awareness.”
— page 164

“What if people all over the world threatened by, well, you name it – logging, commercial development, polluting factories, hydrofracking chemicals in drinking water, say – what if they could all see maps as tools of analysis and action? …

How about a map to make clear where the hazardous electronic wastes of the developed world get dumped …

Bring together maps, available technology, human creativity, and people’s willingness to take a stand and you’ve got a powerful recipe for changing events.” — page 176

For these reasons and others this volume will be useful to interculturalists and those interested in diversity, sustainability, and social action.

The author premises that maps are tools that serve a purpose.

“Maps are verbs. They may seem to be tactile objects, documents we can handle or fold – nouns – but don’t be fooled. In persuasively framing questions and selectively supplying answers they act; they initiate; they function as agents.” — page 15

To illustrate this point he shares some terrific stories: one about the role of maps in a territorial dispute between First Nations people and the Canadian government (pages 35-39); another about how a map can skew our view of a country as a source of oil or as a residence of people and families (pages 8-17); and a third showing how a map was used to get one county to pay for a highway interchange that served another county (pages 34-35). There is a chapter about the connection between maps and faith/values (chapter 10 page 141), and how maps are used for disease control and health (page 170), as well as for crime prevention (page 173), a topic of special interest lately with concerns of profiling and ethnic bias.

The book is written in a lively, accessible style, though it gets heavier and slower toward the end; ironically, the final chapters are where Mr. Kaiser’s true passion seems to lie. It contains several embedded learning exercises (e.g., page 121) and interesting conversations such as how indigenous North Americans mapped (page 40). Via this latter conversation, he shows that the “culture” of map-makers is not universal. This, to me, is a hugely important point. Too many people believe their area of professional practice is culture-neutral or universal when, in fact, even science is culturally relative (as well as discipline-relative!).

One of the pleasures of reading How Maps Change Things is that it contains quite a few valuable “hidden” gems. One of my favorites: as the author discusses the huge socio-economic gap in our world, variously referred to by such inadequate (or judgment-laden) terms as North-South, 1st/3rd world, Developed/Developing nations, and Viable/Failed states, he provides in the footnotes a list of experts from diverse political persuasions and walks of life who share a consensus on the absolute need to bridge this gap (pages 138-139).

Through March 31 our friends at ODT Maps, the publisher, are offering this ebook FREE to our Cultural Detective community. I urge you to take advantage of this offer and help the author get this book put to good use!

Maps are tools, and can be purposed to perpetuate bias or to help us to create a better world. Cultural Detective has long been passionate about maps as learning tools. Way back in December of 2005 we dedicated an entire edition of our Cultural Detective e-news to maps (including 3 articles of activities and curricular ideas and a quiz), relying in large part on the expertise and generosity of our friends at ODT Maps.

It included: Using Physical Maps to Transform Mental Maps8 Map Activities for Intercultural Learning; a World Map Detective quizTraining with Map Power; and a free offer (a Mecca-centered Azimuthal map, a Peters Projection map, and a Population Map) from our friends at ODT Maps.

Bob Abramms at ODT has a wealth of books, DVDs, globes, puzzles, games, props, and  world maps for different purposes — terrific training material for intercultural and global diversity and inclusion professionals. If you’re not familiar with his great stuff, be sure to check it out.

Link

I see so many terrific ways to educate using these beautiful maps. What is the difference between a stereotype and a generalization, how do we use information to inform rather than to box people in, how might others see us or our team members (hopefully before they get to know us)…

And, as with any “loaded” tool, how do we get “beyond” or “use” the pitfalls, the errors, the hurt or misunderstanding tools such as these can cause?

Mapping Stereotypes – The Geography of Prejudice | Digg Topnews.

How would you use, and not use, these images?