Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity. – Robert Alan (American writer, artist and social activist. 1922-1978)
Last week I was lucky to spend hours of work and fun with people from 10 different countries. Different personalities, various experiences – what can be a better learning environment?
We all gathered in a nice little village in Mollina (Malaga, Spain) to get more information and share our experiences of work with Erasmus + projects. Working with the topic for quite a long time I still found it so beneficial and priceless to discuss and share things in this multicultural setting.
I always say that such trainings are all about people, as actually we are the core of every event and with our contributions we have the power to grow the tree from a seed.
This post I would like to devote to the importance of intercultural learning and non-formal education that are in the center of not only non-profit sector right now, but also business sector. And if you care just a little bit about motivation and inspiring environment at work place, then this is what you should develop and focus on!
If you are new to Erasmus +, here is a brief intro to what it is:
Most of the people I meet heard about Erasmus +, but the common association that they have with it is exchange students. Well, yes, this is a part of it, but what about other opportunities that the programme gives you? Education and training, youth work and sport are parts of Erasmus + as well. This video gives a structured introduction of Erasmus + actions and budget. This is the funding that you can use to develop collaborative international projects valuable for your team, organisation and society!
What I find awesome about it is the opportunity of cross sectorial collaboration! Just imagine how diverse your work could be if you exchange experiences and take the best out of profit and non-profit sectors, businesses, universities, research labs and much more! And this is what we are doing now when working with “Does Culture Matter?” project which is bringing so much quality, awareness and motivation to work and every day life of its participants representing various sectors in Europe and Asia!
Coming back to the intercultural learning, I should confess that every time when working with culturally diverse groups I realise that it’s so much more to grasp! Intercultural learning is a life long process that sometimes seems to look like a circle of knowledge, awareness and attitudes. One can not exist without the other. And this model looks so easy at the first side – first you learn about different cultures, then you digest this knowledge and try to behave accordingly, right?
Well, in reality it doesn’t work this way! Having knowledge doesn’t mean being aware and our behaviour is often lead by other factors such as emotions, expectations, fears and projections of our own culture and personality. At this point dealing with cultural diversity is a tough thing to do! ho cares, we have other tasks at work places, right? We need to deliver, we need to work for result, so “Sorry, we don’t have time for this intercultural bla bla bla”. Does it sound familiar? I heard it so many times, but still work in different way, seeing intercultural learning as one of the priorities.
This is the hardest decision to take to focus on intercultural learning, as it won’t give you immediate results! But this is an investment into people, teams and organisations that will fill in all the gaps and give more quality, awareness, understanding, acknowledgement and motivation.
For me, intercultural learning goes hand in hand with non-formal education and training. You can grasp a lot from reading a book or listening to TED talk, but you gain much more when you are the actor on the stage and getting your own experience, share it with others, analyse and plan your actions, re-connecting to your reality and working with your attitudes.
Diversity becomes an opportunity and often brings best results if you know how to play this game! And it takes only one decision to make – invest your time into learning the rules!
ps. I’m open for discussions, reflections, ideas, questions related to intercultural learning, trainings and communication competence development workshops. You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org