I am a black woman, a Lawyer by training, a mother, a Christian, I was born in Moscow former USSR, and I am of Nigerian/ Dutch citizenship. I went to school in Uganda, Nigeria, Italy, Switzerland, and I was also educated here in the Netherlands. In addition to these countries I have lived in Indonesia and the Central African Republic. As you can see, my life has been a kaleidoscope of cultures, peoples, traditions, and stories.
Growing up, living, and working, in this vortex, means I have been shaped and formed across cultures, languages, societies, political configurations, religions and traditions. Like a chameleon, I can speak in a diversity of accents. My environment is one where interculturality is much more than just a theoretical construct.
In today’s world, my experience is not at all unique. Boundaries are fading, retreating, due to globalization, migration and technology. For many, a sustained exposure to several cultures rather than one native culture, is a normal state of affairs. Equally likely, with our very mobile populations, is the disconnect of 2nd or 3rd generations from the traditions and cultures of their parents. Interacting across different or estranged cultures is more and more common. This however raises challenging issues of diversity and inclusiveness as societies become less homogenous.
At the Hague University of Applied Sciences, the Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusiveness is running a series of ‘brave conversations’ with the aim of making the university a truly inclusive campus. At the global level, the United Nations has set apart the 21st of May as the World Day for Dialogue and Development, in the realization that three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension and that bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.
Unfortunately, the well-founded dictum, ‘change is difficult’ often means that our responses to other cultures, to other peoples, is driven by a ‘fear of the unknown’, by the fear of a ‘different tribe’, or by a hostility to things we do not understand. A willful shunning or rejection, be it unconscious or conscious, often characterizes our response and unfortunately undermines the possibility for dialogue, for interaction, or for the empathy that can lead to an ‘awareness’ of the ‘other’ or for a ‘mutual respect’ for our different stories.
So how do we change this around? How do we develop a set of cultural skills that is more attuned to ‘this time’ and ‘this place’? How do we become unafraid? How do we break the cycle of evolutionary habit and lean towards ‘diversity’ instead of ‘homogeneity’; towards ‘inclusiveness’ instead of ‘exclusion’.
I think the starting point is to become ‘aware’. To acknowledge that even with the best of intentions, we are ALL trapped by the ‘known unknown’ of ‘unconscious bias’. The encounter with a stranger who looks and sounds nothing like us, more often than not, triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response. We intuitively retreat into our safe homogeneous enclaves and do our very conscious or unconscious best to keep the ‘threat’ outside. … to keep the ‘other’ out. Science points to the truth that we are ALL at various points of the ‘unconscious bias’ spectrum.
This can become very problematic when we are trying to build a team, whether that team is our country, or our organization, or in our classrooms. Unless we take steps to educate ourselves, we risk a ‘self-blindness’ or ‘doublespeak’.
‘Stay in your own lane’ occurs in so many forms, and at so many levels, that it can become a systemic dysfunctionality where we may, for example, strongly push for training in diversity and inclusivity in the classroom, or on the work floor, but prefer to remain standing, rather than sit down next to a visible ‘other’ on a train or tram!
Ultimately, inclusiveness means empathy. It is the willingness to open the door to the ‘other’, to step into the shoes of the other’; to listen to the ‘other’. When we listen, we change. When we change, diversity in the workplace or in our personal lives comes closer within reach.
Fortunately, I see in many of my students, a measure of openness and a curiosity about other cultures and peoples. In their formative years and undergraduate education this ‘openness’ and ‘curiosity’ should be ‘fostered’.
At THUAS our educational goal is that ‘Every graduate leaves THUAS as a global citizen who can act based on justice and integrity, who can handle uncertainty and bring about positive change.’ Beyond our talk and seminars, what practical tools can we develop as educators to bring interculturality into the classroom and leverage this curiosity in our students?
Values Game Intercultural Exercises
So, how can we use the Values Game of the IntegrityDLM to go from the ‘Me’ to the ‘Us” of interculturality? The IntegrityDLM can help us to foster interculturality by providing a platform for discussion at a much deeper level in a safe and respectful way.
We do this by asking three questions :
(1) Who am I?
(2) What is my Native Culture? and
(3) What is the culture of the group I find myself in?
Question 1: Who am I?
Using the Values Game, I identify my 10 core values. I then interact with these values by prioritizing the importance of each of these values to me in a Pyramid of my Core Values. To make it actionable I then give advice to my future professional self about WHY it is important for me to live in accordance with these values. I end up with ten pieces of advice, which we is my Personal Code of Conduct. This activity gives me a grasp my personal integrity framework.
When I am finished, it is helpful to reflect back on this exercise and ask the following questions:
1. What are my first thoughts about the Values Game? Are they mostly positive or negative?
2. What were some of the most interesting discoveries I made while building my pyramid?
3. What did I find most challenging and why?
4. How can/will I use what I have learned in the future?
After you finish your personal pyramid, if you feel comfortable doing this, discuss this in your group. However, this is not necessary for the interculturality exercises. The key thing is to know YOUR starting point.
Question 2: What is my ‘Native’ Culture?
As we have discussed, we live in a variegated diverse world, and we also live with generational shifts of culture. To explore and become more aware of the interculturality in our own lives, we play the Values Game a second time.
This time, we identify the 10 core values that best represent the norms of our ‘Native Culture’. A good way to do this is to think about the voices and advice of our grandparents, uncles’, aunties, parents, family group events. Choose the 10 values that correspond most closely to the core principles of that group. When you finish, create a hierarchy of these 10 values. This is your Native Culture Pyramid.
It is helpful to reflect back on this exercise and ask the following reflective questions:
 Individual Reflection
1. Were there any common Values between my Personal Pyramid and my Native Culture Pyramid? What were they?
2. Were there any differences between my Personal Pyramid and my Native Culture Pyramid of Values?
3. What could be the implications of these differences?
 Group Reflection
1. Place all your Native Culture Pyramids on the table.
2. Are there any striking commonalities between these Native Culture Pyramids?
3. Are there any striking differences between these Native Culture Pyramids?
4. What could be the implications of these differences?
Interestingly, when I did this exercise, only three of the values in my personal pyramid showed up in my ‘Native Culture pyramid’. For all intents and purposes, my native culture pyramid seemed to have been built by a completely different person with whom I had little in common.
This gave me some insights about some of the latent cultural tensions I find myself navigating. More interestingly it also gives me a window into the latent tensions between my myself and my children whom I unconsciously have been bringing up and holding to this cultural standard. Food for thought!
Question 3: What is the ‘Culture’ of the group I find myself in?
The third step in this fostering of interculturality using the Values Game is possibly the most challenging. It takes a group. It is a game we play with the ‘other’. In class or at work we reach out to individuals who are different from us. The more different the better. Just this act of reaching out, is a first step toward interculturality. We are explicitly seeking for and leveraging diverse representation. This is the best way to have a meaningful discussion.
After setting up the group, play the Values Game. Your guiding questions are: What shared values are important to build a diverse but inclusive group that will work well as a team and take on of challenges together? A group that is bonded, where everyone is a link in the chain?
Take the time to discuss and choose 10 Core Values of a strong diverse and inclusive Group that is ‘intercultural’. This conversation will lead to your Intercultural Group Pyramid of Values.
When you are finished it is helpful to reflect back on this exercise and ask the following questions:
 Group Reflection
1. What are our thoughts about the intercultural values game? Are they mostly positive or negative?
2. What were some of the most interesting discoveries we made while building this pyramid?
3. What did we find most challenging and why?
4. How can we / I use what I have learned in the future?
 Individual Reflection
1. Were there any common Values between my Personal Pyramid and the Group Culture Pyramid? What were they?
2. Were there any differences between my Personal Pyramid and the Group Culture Pyramids? What were they?
3. What could be the implications of these differences
Personal Code of Conduct Rules on Interculturality.
After going through and reflecting on the above exercises conclude by answering the following questions:
1.What have I learnt regarding my interactions with other people? What advice can I give my future professional self in this regard. Write this down and include this rule to your personal Code of Conduct.
2.What have I learned regarding my interaction with my Native Culture? What advice can I give my future professional self in this regard. Write this down and include this rule to your personal Code of Conduct.
3. What have I learned regarding your interaction with the culture of a group? What advice can I give my future professional self in this regard. Write this down and include this rule to your personal Code of Conduct.
These are your Personal Code of Conduct Rules on Interculturality.
It is my firm belief that interculturality makes us stronger and better as individuals, as organizations, or as a country. Brune Brown once said, the antidote to fear is ‘empathy’. Well, interculturality breeds ‘empathy and can therefore serve as an antidote to our latent fear of the ‘other’.
From my life-experience, growing up, living, working between cultures I know that I often felt/often feel, like an ‘outsider’ looking in. Whether in Nigeria or in the Netherlands.
Using the values game has been one more tool in my journey to self-awareness, self-knowledge and helped me to be better able to navigate the intersection of cultures both personally and professionally.
Interculturality exercises using the IntegrityDLM ‘Values Game’ can help us reflect upon and improve our self-knowledge about who we are as human beings, our interactions with our ‘native cultures’ as well our interactions with the ‘others’ that we encounter in our daily lives. This is a life-long learning process and the earlier we start … the better.