Working in interdisciplinary teams is part of everyday life in globally organized companies. Samuel van den Bergh, founder of the Centre for Intercultural Competence and Professor Emeritus for Intercultural Communication, examines inclusion from the point of view of intercultural competence.
Following the UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 4
This blog post focuses on inclusion in the aspect of intercultural competence. Working in interdisciplinary teams is part of everyday life in globally organized companies. Among others, the Corona crisis has revealed interdependencies in supply and value chains, which also affect companies with a local market orientation. Intercultural competence therefore does not refer exclusively to cross-cultural teams within an organization, but to successful cooperation overall at local, regional, and global level.
The variety of solutions offers the potential to be better prepared for new challenges.
Samuel van den Bergh
Samuel van den Bergh, founder of the Centre for Intercultural Competence and Professor Emeritus for Intercultural Communication, provides information on the dimensions of intercultural competence, its development and how we can raise awareness.
Communications-Circle: You are the founder of a training and consulting company specializing in intercultural communication, intercultural management, multicultural team building and diversity management. Your company trainings are focusing on "Leading Across Diversity and Culture" and "Managing multi-cultural teams". Intercultural competence has stayed with you for many years. How did it come?
Samuel van den Bergh: In my "previous life" I was a lecturer in English. In the nineties, I developed a program ofEnglish and international project management, which led me to intercultural communication. I realized: Language is one thing, but it needs more than language skills to interact successfully in an international environment. The topic has not let me go since.
CC: Today, the subject is much more present. However, the term "Diversity & Inclusion" or "Diversity & Inclusion" is still more common than intercultural competence Diversity, Equity & Inclusion - DEI for short - is used as part of global HR strategies. Is DEI synonymous or where are the differences to intercultural competence?
Van den Bergh: The terms "intercultural communication / competence" or "transcultural competence" are narrower than "diversity & inclusion". The former often refers "only" to differences and consensual options of action between people of different nationalities, while "Diversity & Inclusion" deals with any differences between people and the inclusive handling of differences; examples include gender, age, individuals, organizations, Countries, professions, minorities, sexual orientation, etc.
CC: We are currently experiencing an extraordinary time. The world is in a state of emergency. It will be interesting to see the forces and shifts that outgrow the corona crisis. The futurologist and renowned political expert of Germany Dr. Daniel Dettling stated in his guest contribution to the NZZ on 18 March 2020 that global and local civil society is reorganizing itself. However, compartmentalization and isolation do not lead to a better future and he thus contrasts the terms "all against all" with "we-society". He points to the rediscovered glocalization and interprets the synthesis of globalization and localization as a new understanding. How do you assess this and what is the role of intercultural competence in the context of glocalization?
Either or solutions don't really lead anywhere.
Samuel van den Bergh
Van den Bergh: "Intercultural competence" and "Diversity & Inclusion" aim to experience differences as enrichment. For example, the variety of approaches to the corona pandemic in different countries has the potential to be better prepared for new challenges. Global cooperation and global competition are needed to review and compare the various solutions, so that sustainable effective solutions can be generated for all. Either or solutions don't really lead anywhere.
It’s very similar with "local and global". They are only supposed opposites. In theory, the local focus in the crisis has had a positive impact, with case numbers declining. However, the isolation has severely impacted the globally networked economy. In the future, we need an increased focus on the local (much can also be produced locally), as well as an intensive global exchange of ideas, solutions, services, and goods that are not produced locally, because they cannot be produced economically and/or ecologically.
The promotion of transcultural competencies among employees, as well as the "diversity & inclusion" approach in companies, both aim to recognize differences as only supposed opposites and to target synthesis, reconciliation, and inclusion.
CC: Regardless of economic and social development, knowledge, and thus the education and promotion of intercultural competence, will remain crucial. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 (SDG No. 4) advocates equal educational opportunities for children and young people as well as lifelong learning. Above all, the Alliance of Civilization, founded by the UN in 2005, wants to promote intercultural dialog, mutual respect, and cooperation across borders. What impact do these international efforts have on your work?
I help people promote their transcultural competencies by exchanging ideas across borders.
Samuel van den Berg
Van den Bergh: The topic of "Diversity & Inclusion" has stayed with me since the nineties. My motivation is intrinsic. I do something meaningful. I help people promote their transcultural competences such as flexibility, resistance to uncertainty, tolerance of ambiguity by exchanging ideas across borders. This promotes respect for otherness and heightens the awareness of injustices such as discrimination, exclusion, and exploitation. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 gives me certainty that I do the right thing.
CC: Where do you see intercultural competence at the company?
Van den Bergh: In this context, I like to quote my mentor Charles Hampton-Turner: A diversity strategy as a figurehead of an organization developed solely by HR does not bring about any lasting change. And if we place the responsibility for inclusion on the individual alone, then everyone and nobody are responsible. The synthesis is not either/or, but and: Diversity and Inclusion sponsored and assessed by HR [and] practiced by everyone. (1)
(1) Trompenaars Hampden-Turner Survey 2005, The Dilemmas of Diversity
CC: What role do you think communications should play in this?
Van den Bergh: Corporate Communications shows how diversity and inclusion initiatives have a positive impact, both internally for the workforce and externally for the company.
About Samuel van den Bergh
Samuel van den Bergh is the founder of the Centre for Intercultural Competence and Professor Emeritus for Intercultural Communication, Intercultural Competence and Diversity Management. He is the founder of his own training and consulting company, van den Bergh Thiagi Associates GmbH, which specializes in intercultural communication and intercultural management, multicultural team building and diversity management. His activities include training, consulting, coaching and research. He conducts in-house trainings on the topics of "Leading Across Diversity and Culture" and "Managing Multicultural Teams".
On April 2, 2020, he published the book "Interkulturelle Begegnungen in Gesundheitsberufen” (Intercultural Encounters in Health Professions), in which he co-authored. It can be obtained from the hep Verlag.
On the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The 193 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The 17 goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), form the universally binding reference framework for sustainable development. This is based on the awareness that poverty can only be overcome through strategies that promote economic growth and integrate a number of social needs, namely education, health, equality and job opportunities. Climate change and the preservation of our oceans and forests are also targets. The UN member states have agreed to jointly achieve these goals by 2030.
The SDG No. 4 aimes at improving quality education. This is also based on the growing international awareness that education is an important element and quality feature of a good education and that it is only through this that sustainable development is possible.