Yes, it is promising that the UN has inspired a World Day of Cultural Diversity Dialogue and Development intended to provide an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the cultural diversity values and how to learn to live together better. Out of this came the slogan ‘Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion.’

However, I am intrigued that  ‘dialogue’ does not seem to be acknowledged in a way that will evoke the change we need from this potentially powerful mantra.  Rather, examples on the website mainly focus on only the doing by exploring different cultural foods, art or theatre.  So where is the dialogue?

To begin with the roots of the word dialogue come from the Greek words dia and logos . Dia mean ‘through’; logos translates to ‘word’ or ‘meaning’. In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning.  In the ancient sense, it also meant a coming together perhaps as community, which we can infer as having relationships.

Consider how frequently at work or in the media does the word ‘dialogue’ appear.  And yet how often do we stop and reflect on what the word actually means …and the possible positive implications?

William Isaacs Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together writes that:

“Dialogue… is a conversation with a center, not sides. It is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before” … and I would add, to achieve something better than even imagined; the benefits of actualizing dialogue.

The question is how does one dialogue respectfully considering that respect can look so different in a multi-cultural world? That’s where developing your Cultural intelligence or CQ in the four capabilities of drive, knowledge strategy and action is essential.  A strong CQ enables each of us to function effectively adapting across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.).

( Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, “Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence” in Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3.

Let’s assume you are motivated to ‘do for diversity’ with the goal of achieving an enhanced understanding of another, thereby strengthening your relationship. Consider reaching out to some one different than your own cultural background and invite them for a coffee. The invitation is to mutually explore each other’s culture through a dialogue of respect from the each other’s perspective.

How to begin? Given your drive or enjoyment, confidence and understanding of the benefits to this dialogue is already strong, start with some research to gain knowledge about the person’s cultural value dimensions. Think of these dimensions as a range of possibilities- neither end being better than the other and only a starting point of awareness on how to act or behave.   For example, there are values on time, family, status and risk. Values such as ‘low context’ express an emphasis on explicit or direct communication that rely on words, while a ‘high context’ stresses indirect communication that is subtler in tone and includes elements of silence.

However knowing is not enough.

Plan your strategy with the awareness and intent to adapt your actions because:

  1. Research proves we all have biases- both unconscious and conscious (Source: Blind Spots M Banaji A Greenwald). Do the Implicit Association Test to find out yours.
  1. ‘Checking in’ with your self and your colleague will identify for example, the context distinction: what you will ‘hear’ and learn about the content of the answer is different from listening for how it is delivered.

Bottom line:

Uusing the four CQ capabilities of Drive Knowledge and Strategy enables you to Act with more respect having authentically dialogued with an openness to the center. Experience the delight in achieving a meaningful  multi cultural connection!

Just doing it as in Nike’s powerful slogan simply does not cut it in today’s world of global connectedness and conflict. Developing your Cultural Intelligence to Do for Diversity: Dialogue and Develop is the only way to go!

about the author - Rhonda

World Day for Cultural Diversity and for Dialogue and Development

In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December of 2002, the UN General Assembly declared May 21st to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, in order to promote tolerance and further our global commitment to cultural diversity. The Universal Declaration was created in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001 at the UNESCO general conference to make the assertion that “respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security, on a global and international level”. UNESCO’s Universal Declaration lays the groundwork for implementing Cultural Diversity through 12 articles, each comprised of a paragraph or two focusing on a specific aspect for furthering this global initiative.

Over the past few years there have been several efforts to promote and raise awareness through this international day of action. Most recently in 2011, UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNOAC) started a grass roots movement, by the name of “Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion” that featured a Facebook page dedicated to individuals and organizations who are taking steps to create more diversity in their lives and leading by example. Since its start, the page has supported things like the Intercultural Innovation Award, the “Do One Thing” video contest, and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Summer School.

This June 2015 the UNOAC along with Education First (EF) will host the third edition of their “Youth For Change” Summer School program, that that brings together 75 youth leaders from around the world to “engage in dialogue across borders, focusing on how to better understand, manage and promote diversity, while also learning how to leverage differences in identity to shape a world that is healthier, safer, more peaceful and inclusive”.  It can give us such great hope to see the kind of passion and dedication that many youth have today, as they set out to lead our way towards a more tolerant and diverse world in the future. As the Director- General of UNESCO Irena Bokova so eloquently explains, “it is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change”.

On a personal level cultural diversity enriches all of our lives with a deeper understanding of the dynamic world around us. In the world of business, cultural diversity is the natural next step in navigating the reality of a global marketplace by helping us to develop a global mindset.  As they point out in Forbes, “some of the most successful entrepreneurs and most admired leaders will all tell you the same thing, that diversity really is essential to the growth and prosperity of any company, and in many ways it is one of the most critical aspect of an organization’s ability to innovate and adapt in a fast-changing environment”.

When we break it all down Dialogue leads to Action, and Action leads to Change! When we begin the conversation about cultural diversity and inclusion with those around us we put into motion the gears of possibility. By coming together to understand one another’s culture and background, of what makes us unique, we begin the journey of bridging the gap between nations, coming together for a common goal, a common good. Often when we begin to celebrate each other’s differences we begin to realize that we have more things that unify us than separate us.

Interested in learning more about cultural diversity, contact us today. 

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