Theater Facilitates Difficult Conversations

American DreamsIncreasingly US American families are split between red and blue, torn over how to deal with issues ranging from immigration to women’s bodies to world trade. Young and old report that they no longer talk politics or religion with even their closest friends; there seems to be no space for the crucially important task of discussing and thinking deeply in community about important yet delicate matters facing the nation.

News feeds now have razor-thin aim, reinforcing what we already believe, hardening and emotionalizing beliefs into convictions so that we feel anger towards our neighbors. Amidst this reality are frequent revelations about foreign powers feeding the frenzy of hatred; their active fomenting of division within US American society is the newest weapon of mass destruction.

How do we reclaim our public spaces for civil discourse? Can we think things through together, deeply and constructively, without degenerating into insults? One new hope has presented itself in the form of an extremely well-reviewed interactive play called “American Dreams.” According to the website, “American Dreams” is:

“An immersive, interactive theatrical event that imagines a world where the only way to become a U.S. citizen is by competing in a nationally-televised game show run by the U.S. government.

The live “studio” audience votes after each of the five rounds, determining which contestant will win the ultimate prize — citizenship to the “greatest country on earth.”

Weaving multiple levels of audience engagement with up-to-the-moment questions about immigration and citizenship, this playful participatory performance invites us to explore who and what we choose to believe — and how those choices shape who we are as people, communities, and nations.

Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow:


“American Dreams” creates a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of critical thinking as well as a bit of learning about the laws of the USA and the rights of its citizens and residents. CPT’s Executive Artistic Director, Raymond Bobgan, says the play captures the fact that:

“To live in the Unites States now is to always live in that tension between desire for freedom and equality for all people and at the same time the desire to protect what we have achieved.”

The performance will be making a “Red State Swing State Tour” in summer 2020, and the next important step is to bring “American Dreams” to your community to help recapture civil public discourse and critical thinking; enough of the “dumbing down” of the USA by outside powers and our own laziness or righteousness! Click here to learn about bringing the show to your city!

4 Reasons to Add EPIC to Your Toolbox

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Many thanks to Debbie Bayes, Intercultural Consultant and Trainer at culturecrux.org, for this guest blog post.

I recently had the chance to use EPIC (Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence) for the first time with a group of people who train student leaders in a university setting. There were several surprises along the way… all of them good!

  1. Reasonably quick prep to put together a quality training event—The structure of the EPIC process, which brings together both Cultural Detectiveand Personal Leadership methods,made it possible to plan a quality training event in a short amount of time. It saved me hours of work and was a breeze to facilitate!
  2. It was helpful to have the EPIC experience to look back on when going over IDI results after the training—This particular group had asked each member to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) prior to the EPIC training. As I met with individuals to go over their IDI results following the training, I found that having the common EPIC experience to look back on provided many concrete examples that I could use to illustrated ideas that are sometimes difficult for people to grasp. Concepts like the limitations of Minimization and the value of working towards Acceptance were far easier to explain because moving through the EPIC process so clearly and tangibly demonstrated both.
  3. EPIC worked well with people at all levels—Because I had IDI results on the group before doing the EPIC training, I had some sense of people’s abilities prior to meeting with them. Participants in the group ranged from Denial to Acceptance. It can be difficult to plan an event for a group that has such a wide range of abilities. I was pleased to find that everyone in the group was engaged and interested throughout the training.
  4. EPIC was fun and eye-opening—The two most frequent comments I received on the EPIC training in the weeks following were that it was both fun and eye-opening. The training challenged the participants, caused them to see both themselves and cultural others in new ways, and inspired them to press on to learn more. And all the while, they were having fun!

I expect to use EPIC frequently in the year ahead. It’s a great tool to have in the box!

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.

Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion

Do One Thing logoIn 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better. In 2011, a grassroots campaign ‘Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion’, celebrating the annual World Day for Cultural Diversity was launched by UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

Cultural Detective is proud to announce that we have been selected as an ambassador of this global campaign. Goals of the campaign include:

  • Raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion.
  • Build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and every day-life gestures.
  • Combat polarization and stereotypes to improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures.

Won’t you please join us in celebrating diversity and inclusion tomorrow, May 21, 2013? Below we share with you ten ideas from the event’s organizers, and we’re pretty sure that readers of this blog will have more savvy ways to celebrate global diversity and inclusion. We look forward to seeing and hearing what you do!

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  2. Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share your customs
  5. Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi)
  6. Go next week-end to visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  7. Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.
  8. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China.
  9. Spread your own culture around the world through our Facebook page and learn about other cultures
  10. Explore music of a different culture.

The campaign works through a dedicated Facebook page, serving as a platform for people around the world to share their experiences through posts and videos. Following this event, on May 29, 2013, in Baku, Azerbaijan, will be the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue.

“Most Multicultural Teams are Dominated by One Cultural Group”

Or so claims Jeanne Brett in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. I will agree that most of the multicultural teams I’ve worked with over the past 28 years have been dominated by a sub-group of members. My guess is that’s the same for most teams, no matter the visible diversity of their composition.

This idea caught my attention, and I also really liked that rather than the usual analogy of talking about multicultural teams as symphony orchestras or likening them to herding cats, Jeanne relates multicultural teams to fusion cuisine. And who doesn’t like fusion cuisine? Way to sell multiculturalism!

“It turns out that fusion teams often … break a large team into smaller subgroups, encourage informal conversations, and thereby get input from previously quiet team members. Eventually, the subparts have to be integrated back into a whole; this turns out to be less of a problem than you’d think. In the teams we studied, the trust and respect generated within the subgroups made it reasonably easy to facilitate collaboration in the larger group.”

Another of Jeanne’s points very much echoes what the six expert, globally dispersed authors of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork have to say. Many of you know what a dynamite package that is and, if you don’t, please be sure to check it out! To quote Jeanne’s post:

“We’ve come across team leaders who achieve the same result (getting the most out of all cultural subgroups) by carefully establishing team norms at the start of a project. For example, we know of one manager who was leading an English-language software-development project; English was not his first language. In fact, his English was strongly accented. When he met with the team for the first time, he told them, ‘You’ve probably noticed I have an accent. If I could get rid of it, I’d be happy to do so, but since I cannot, we’re going to have to communicate … regardless of my accent or for that matter yours. If you do not understand me, or one another, whether it’s because of accent or anything else, we need to communicate until we do understand.'”

What do you think? In what ways are multicultural teams like fusion cuisine? What are some of your tried-and-true best practices for multicultural teamwork?