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 9: Bridging Divides through Restorative Justice
Roman Haferd went to a good law school and he works for the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office. Yet his work on behalf of justice is not as a lawyer. Rather than writing briefs or taking cases to trial, Roman heads a team of facilitators who seek “restorative justice.” Their work builds connections between perpetrators and victims, facilitating dialogues that aim to find justice in the heart, not in the courtroom. At its core, restorative justice attempts to break the cycle of crime and punishment.
- Episode 10: Okay, we don’t know everything
Cultural humility requires us to put aside our assumptions and open our minds. While we may have resources and know-how, that does not ensure that we have the best approaches or plans to meet the needs of people in another place or culture. An open mind and taking the time to listen to locals helps us to re-frame problems as well as determine what people need with more confidence. And, it is equally important to think through the consequences and potential pitfalls of any plan of action.
- Episode 11: Leading with human-centered design
When we set out to help in some other culture or community, we have learned that we should shape our project through what practitioners call “human-centered design.” This doesn’t mean altruistically imagining our own design to fit the humans we think we see. It means investing in the community – with its members leading the design process.
- Episode 12: Learning their world goes a long way
Working with a partner across a cultural divide – for example, in a negotiation – we may face a request or an action that we must refuse. In that difficult moment, we should look first for the motive behind the action and frame a response that helps our partner retain his or her honor and thus sustains mutual respect. A vital start can be our acknowledgment of the history of the other person and his or her culture.
- Episode 13: Don't be afraid to change course
In many cultures, meaning is often expressed non-verbally. So, be aware of body language, expression and tone of voice. Misunderstanding is often due to poor communication and misperceptions. So, one must be prepared for different forms of communication and to work to find meaning across cultural divides.
- Episode 14: Connecting across historic divides
People who live amid violent conflicts suffer trauma–and even inherit it when that conflict has extended across generations. While trauma can harden us against our perceived foes, remarkably, people can use shared traumas to build connections, even with those we have seen as enemies.
- Episode 15: When seeking solutions, give people space—and watch what they create
Working across cultural divides makes it all the more critical that we avoid prescribing solutions to problems, and instead elicit them from those we’re working with. That is Mike Zuckerman’s career-long focus—from San Francisco to Greece to Uganda. He discusses how he does it.
- Episode 16: Brains and Biases
The human brain is hardwired to constantly scan for cues that signal safety, trustworthiness, and social desirability among others. As we work among people of different races and cultures, it’s vital that we stay aware of these patterns within our own selves, because they drive our biases. If we don’t notice our own patterns, they can obstruct valuable connections with people around us.
- Episode 17: Summary Compilation Episode
In this final episode of Culturally Attuned we travel around the world to hear stories from five seasoned practitioners on how to work and communicate effectively across cultural divides. From their parting advice we learn the importance of cultivating relationships with local counterparts that create trusting, inclusive, and mutually beneficial connections.
- 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
Producer, engineer and narrator: Dominic Kiraly
Co-Creators: Christopher Breedlove, Kim Cook
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