How can we work effectively across our world’s cultural divides? USIP and Burning Man Project travel to that frontier, hearing stories and practical lessons for working in unfamiliar cultures. The podcast complements USIP’s online, self-paced course on Cultural Synergy. Both help us cultivate the skills we need to do good work in a diverse world.

  • Episode 1: Crossing cultures is hard—even for ‘multicultural natives’
    Laurette Bennhold Samaan was born with roots in three distinct cultures. But even as a multicultural native, she says, her missteps have taught her how cross-cultural competency is never fully natural, and cannot be reduced to formulas. Identity, context and humility are critical, she says.
  • Episode 2: Stay in the circle: Patient listening can connect across cultures
    Burning Man Project’s Kim Cook has—literally—danced on the cross-cultural divide. She recalls lessons in cultural competence from her work in creative enterprises like theater and hip-hop. (And one day … there was that chocolate cupcake.) For Kim, humble persistence is the way to overcome our inevitable gaps in cultural understanding.
  • Episode 3: A practitioner's discovery: ‘cultural respect’ is not enough
    Any relationship is shaped by a first meeting. To prepare those encounters, USIP trainer and cross-cultural expert Stephen Moles suggests we go beyond what’s in the rule books. Stephen suggests an approach for this work that he’s built from experience in more than 65 countries.
  • Episode 4: Building cross-cultural trust, even in the face of extremist violence
    How do we build trust across cultural divides? USIP’s Leanne Erdberg Steadman has spent years seeking trust across the most painful of chasms—with former violent extremists in the Middle East and Africa. She shares a story of what she’s learned. 
  • Episode 5: The Benefactor’s Dilemma: Am I helping? Or am I wielding power?
    Tom Price has built a career helping marginalized communities—from Native American tribes to hurricane-ravaged towns to locales facing the Ebola virus in Liberia. He warns himself, and us, against the temptation of the outside benefactor to imagine that, because we have resources and privileges, we also have the solution to a community’s problem.
  • Episode 6: As cultural outsiders, we are given a pass. But, should we take it?
    We accept our need to show cultural respect. But Brazilian psychotherapist Kerley Most says West Africa taught her the difference between learning a culture and absorbing it. She notes the extraordinary value of correcting our mistakes. While as guests we’re often given a pass on cultural norms, that’s a privilege we should try to decline.
  • Episode 7: To open a ‘problem-solving space,’ honor the group—and the person
    Cuban-American-European mediator Juan Diaz-Prinz says cultural competence means understanding not simply cultures but people and their values—honoring both a community and an individual. It means creating a space with another person in which they can safely talk about problems and seek ways with you to address them.
  • Episode 8: Connecting with others means seeing them. Labels get in the way.
    People’s identities are multi-layered—giving us various possible points of connection with another person. Stereotypes obscure those possibilities, as Afghan Taliban negotiators found when they talked with an Indian-American Muslim diplomat named Tamanna Salikuddin. Tamanna tells how she seeks individuals’ identities to build the trust for negotiations.



Culturally Attuned Credits

Executive Producer: Dominic Kiraly
Co-Creators: Christopher Breedlove, Kim Cook; and Dominic Kiraly
Audio Engineer and Sound Designer: Tim O’Keefe
Contributors: Honey al-Sayed; Jeffrey Helsing, Ph.D.; Kye Horton; Justine Ickes; Stuart Mangrum; Namiko Uno
Narrator: David Yang