Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (Scoop.it, Paper.li, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. Vekantiebabbels.nl: voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA

AEA statement coverDo you want to promote intercultural competence in your organization or industry? Are you looking for some guidance? A blueprint? A success story? If so, do I have a “Cultural Effective” for you!

Just over a year ago, friend and colleague Stella Ting Toomey and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the American Evaluation Association‘s annual conference as invited speakers. There I was pleased to witness a commitment to responsible inclusiveness that was truly state of the art.

Six years of diligent work by a task force and other concerned individuals had resulted in a theoretically sound and practical Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation (AEA 2011, Fairhaven, MA USA).

There is so much about this public statement that stands out for me, not least of which is a definition of culture that is at least on a par with the best of what I’ve seen come out of the intercultural communication field!

Culture can be defined as the shared experiences of people, including their languages, values, customs, beliefs, and mores. It also includes worldviews, ways of knowing, and ways of communicating. Culturally significant factors encompass, but are not limited to, race/ethnicity, religion, social class, language, disability, sexual orientation, age, and gender. Contextual dimensions such as geographic region and socioeconomic circumstances are also essential to shaping culture.

Culture is dynamic, fluid, and reciprocal. That is, culture shapes the behaviors and worldviews of its members and, in turn, culture is shaped by the behavior, attitudes, and worldview of its members. Elements of culture are passed on from generation to generation, but culture also changes from one generation to the next.

Culture not only influences members of groups, it also delineates boundaries and influences patterns of interaction among them. Evaluators frequently work across these boundaries.

I remember my excitement the last couple of times a book has been published with “intercultural competence” in the title. If I am truly honest, I will admit to you that I’ve been disappointed. Amidst good work and steps forward, the books I’ve reviewed rehash a lot of what I feel is old and tired or, even, counter-productive to good practice. But this AEA statement! How do they define intercultural competence? For me it’s spot on — both theoretically sound and skillfully applied!

Cultural competence is not a state at which one arrives; rather, it is a process of learning, unlearning, and relearning. It is a sensibility cultivated throughout a lifetime. Cultural competence requires awareness of self, reflection on one’s own cultural position, awareness of others’ positions, and the ability to interact genuinely and respectfully with others. Culturally competent evaluators refrain from assuming they fully understand the perspectives of stakeholders whose backgrounds differ from their own.

Cultural competence is defined in relation to a specific context or location, such as geography, nationality, and history. Competence in one context is no assurance of competence in another. The culturally competent evaluator (or evaluation team) must have specific knowledge of the people and place in which the evaluation is being conducted—including local history and culturally determined mores, values, and ways of knowing.

The culturally competent evaluator draws upon a wide range of evaluation theories and methods to design and carry out an evaluation that is optimally matched to the context. In constructing a model or theory of how the evaluand operates, the evaluator reflects the diverse values and perspectives of key stakeholder groups.

It is tailor-made for a Cultural Detective: process-based lifelong learning (CD Worksheet); knowledge of self and others and the ability to bridge (3 fundamental CD capacities); situation-specific, contextually grounded effectiveness (CD Critical Incidents); grounding practice in theory (pulling salient theoretical teaching from practical experience); and acknowledging people as complex amalgams of the influences of multiple cultural influences (layering Lenses).

The AEA statement includes the following content:

The Role of Culture and Cultural Competence in Quality Evaluation

  1. What is culture?
  2. Evaluations reflect culture.
  3. What is cultural competence?

Why Cultural Competence in Evaluation Is Important

  1. It is an ethical imperative.
  2. Validity demands it.
  3. Theories are inherently cultural.

Essential Practices for Cultural Competence

  1. Acknowledge the complexity of cultural identity.
  2. Recognize the dynamics of power.
  3. Recognize and eliminate bias in language.
  4. Employ culturally appropriate methods.

The AEA’s blog and their annual conference include lots of project examples and discussions about how to conduct culturally responsible evaluation, through which I’ve witnessed honest dialogue about successes and difficulties. Intercultural competence in evaluation has definitely become an organization-wide effort and an ongoing process for the AEA membership.

The work of the task force continues through today, as they do their best to develop cultural competence in evaluation via education and training, within and outside the AEA, as well as by sharing the public statement and what they have learned via the process they’ve engaged. I am proud to have had a very small role in their extensive process, and pleased to be able to help share it so that others can leverage their work.

Kudos to Dr. Melvin Hall, Cindy Crusto, the American Evaluation Association, and all of those involved in this terrific effort! I know they join me in hoping that their efforts might help you further yours. I will close with an excerpt from their closing:

Evaluators have the power to make a difference, not only directly to program stakeholders but also indirectly to the general public. This is consistent with the Guiding Principle that obliges evaluators to consider the public interest and good in the work they do. In a diverse and complex society, cultural competence is central to making a difference.

Cultural competence connects with and complements existing knowledge and skills in the field. It offers both opportunities and challenges for evaluators. Cultural competence presents evaluators with new horizons for learning, opportunities for renewal, and the potential to deepen understanding of one’s own work in all contexts. Cultural competence challenges evaluators to deepen their self awareness and sensitivity in terms of their own cultures and those of others.

Many evaluators are actively exploring the terrain of cultural competence. They are expanding the boundaries of what it means to respond to cultural diversity in authentic and respectful ways. This statement invites new conversations and connections to advance this sensitive and exciting work.