Intercultural Education

Vol. 20, No. 6, December 2009, 587–591

Examples of best practice

 

Examples of Best Practice, supported by the Evens Foundation, examines best practices in intercultural education in both the formal and non-formal education sectors.

The Evens Foundation is a philanthropic foundation which promotes European construction in consideration of ‘the other’. It is incorporated in Antwerp, Belgium, and is represented in Paris and Warsaw. It supports projects that contribute to a deeper respect for human beings, in the fields of Intercultural Education, Art, Science, Liter-ature, Building shared values, European Citizenship and Conflict Prevention. More information on the Evens Foundation is available on: www.evensfoundation.be.

For good governance of diversity

One of the definitions of leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. The Intercultural Communication and Leadership School (ICLS) has a clear vision, backed by principles, and strives to translate vision into reality by focusing on young people, who are the foundation of our future. The ICLS experience aims for a better future by helping young leaders on their way, providing them with a few extra tools.

The Intercultural Communication and Leadership School

The ICLS seeks to contribute to reducing and resolving tensions and conflicts between communities, locally and internationally. The aim of the school is to enhance the skills of a new generation of young adults whose influence as multipliers will generate mutual respect, peaceful contacts and long-term cooperation among people who belong to different cultures, religions or ethnicity, in particular in zones of conflict or tension.

The ICLS was born out of a series of international consultations with officials and institutions from the United Nations and the European Union, officials and experts of inter-religious dialogue and conflict prevention, politicians, diplomats and academics. Since 2002, the ICLS has put its principles into practice in a series of residential seminars in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The school addresses young adults between 20 and 30 years old, from different backgrounds, because they can be effective carriers of confidence-building between communities in conflict or in tension. This is an important target group of pre-influential or prospective leaders, who are invited to participate in the programme on the basis of individual merit, rather than as representatives of the communities or organizations they belong to or work for.

The short-term effects of the school are real interpersonal encounter and trust-building between young leaders from different communities and the improvement of their leadership skills. In the medium term, some of them will move into formal or informal leadership positions within their community, while remaining personally committed and active members of the Network of Trust with other ICLS alumni. In the long term, as members of the Network of Trust, they work to prevent and resolve conflicts and tension through interpersonal and other methods, and by jointly address-ing common challenges.

Besides leadership-training and network-building for young adults, new initiatives in civil–public–private partnerships are being explored to bring and hold people together and generate momentum, primarily through the arts, music and intellectual exchanges, for preventing violence and resolving conflict.

What is intercultural leadership?

‘Intercultural’ refers to a context where people of different cultures, religion or ethnicity live among or alongside each other. ‘Intercultural leadership’ refers to the qualities, skills and attitudes of individuals who seek with others to encour-age, enable and motivate communities to ensure that different peoples can live together and function as a community or society in a peaceful and mutually pros-perous way.

How is it done?

The ICLS works with local people to develop intercultural leadership by offering training for young adults from the different groups involved in situations of potential or actual conflict. We support their networks and seek safe spaces and new initiatives for peace and cooperation.

Our operations are based on the principles of the ICLS, through civil–public– private partnerships. A pattern of intercultural leadership and joint ownership runs through all our local and international operations, the management of the ICLS and all its networks.

The principles of the ICLS

1. Honesty and openness

We are different people within the one human family. We are honestly interested in peace and cooperation with each other. We listen to each other with openness, neither ignoring nor over-emphasizing existing differences, the otherness, as ‘the bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices’.1

2. Mutual respect

We show and practise mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and opinion, even if we have opposing views or disagreements. We are ‘creating civilized frameworks to disagree’.2 Our intention is to learn from history, not to use history as a weapon against each other. We do not seek confrontation, do not provoke and do not mock the beliefs of the other.

3. Personal participation

Participation in the ICLS is based on personal merit and not on representation of any institution. We come from different backgrounds, learn about each other and about individual and collective non-violent skills, and take personal responsibility in the local and global Network of Trust.

4. Teaching wisdom

Experts can only speak for their own culture or religion. They face participants from other backgrounds in separate groups during training sessions. They answer any question with wisdom, dignity and empathy, even if challenged or provoked.

5. Decisions and action

All ICLS activities should benefit from balanced male and female participation at all levels. This gives greater wisdom in decisions and greater capacity in action. Our independent decisions and actions are taken in friendly partnerships with civic, public and private actors.

6. Proportionate financing

The expenses of any ICLS activities should be financed in a reasonably proportionate way by the different communities involved or affected. Proportionate financing is a tool for communities that are the main and long-term stakeholders of our activities and networks. These communities hold joint ownership with the ICLS and its external supporters.

7. Network of Trust

We jointly implement these principles, in the same way as the two golden lines meet and rise together in the symbol of the ICLS.3 We facilitate partnerships for applying the arts of peace in the governance of contemporary diversity.

The principles in practice

1. Seminars

The seminar methodology has been extensively and successfully developed in over 30 seminars, with the support of the European Commission and local partners and authorities.

The standard seminar is a residential course lasting four days, focusing succes-sively on identity, conflict and conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and leadership, and the media, and their roles in shaping society and the perception people have of the other. In recent years, seminars have, where possible, also included an analysis of projects and project management, so as to give participants the practical tools to allow them to engage successfully in their own community.

The seminar does not aim to be a comprehensive analysis of such complex concepts and, indeed, the short time available would not allow this: rather, it aims to create in participants the curiosity to go and learn more about these building blocks of harmonious community relations, striving to go beyond dialogue to engage in actual cooperation so as not only to resolve conflict where it exists, but to prevent it where it may develop.

The flexibility of the methodology allows it to be adapted to many different local situations; in 2008, an experimental seminar was even held in a female prison in Rome, and the thoughtful responses provided by inmates were the best possible stimulus for renewing the initiative and possibly widening it to many more institutions and countries. In the words of one of the female participants: ‘I was able to confirm that just listening to the reasons of another is one of the foundations for being able to solve any conflict.’

In today’s changing societies, the challenges facing authorities ought to be addressed also by providing appropriate training for local officials, especially from police forces: in this perspective, the ICLS aims to build a series of partnerships with local authorities with the aim of providing their staff with basic intercultural dialogue training and thereby the tools to improve and facilitate the way in which they carry out their duties.

2. The Network of Trust

The Network of Trust brings together those who have been involved in the range of ICLS activities as alumni, organizers or speakers in the ICLS seminars. They stay in contact with each other through the interactive, dialogue-oriented intercultural Network of Trust and maintain or acquire new contacts, participate in new training activities and develop joint projects.

The Network of Trust implements the ICLS principles and encourages alumni to lead local and global partnerships for transforming conflicts and for balanced sharing in intercultural relationships.

The pattern of intercultural leadership or joint ownership runs through the manage-ment of the ICLS as an organization, its local organizing groups and its alumni networks.

3. Cooperation with other bodies

The ICLS has been involved in a number of awareness-raising activities in the framework of the EU’s Active Citizenship programme. It is a member of the Active European Citizenship Group set up by the EU Commission, was Rapporteur of the Working Group on the follow-up to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and is represented on the steering group of the Platform for Intercultural Europe, which it contributed to setting up.

The ICLS was invited to Istanbul in April 2009 for the Second Forum of the United Nation’s Alliance of Civilizations, and made a presentation there of its methodology and principles.

4. Sustainability

The driving force behind the sustainability of ICLS actions are ICLS alumni. These young people, inspired by the dialogue and interaction which they experience in the course of the seminars, then go on to apply the ICLS approach in their day-to-day life.

This can take many different forms, from engaging in community work to setting up local or even international NGOs to creating journals and on-line communication tools. The on-line French magazine No Ghetto, as well as the Italian on-line magazine Meltin’Pot on web were both initiatives of previous ICLS alumni.

We expect great things of these young people, and we hope that they will nurture the seeds of positive change: in the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

Notes
    1. Jimmy Carter Nobel lecture, December, 2002.
    2. El Hassan Bin Talal at OIC–EU Joint Forum, February, 2002.
    3. Two golden lines, coming from the opposite directions, like writing from right to left and left to right, approaching each other, seem to collide but just before collision they both start rising above, crossing each other’s path and continue rising together until they spark the light that they can maintain only together. (See the logo at the start of this article.)
Notes on contributor

A development economist by training, Guido Orlandini has worked as a senior international civil servant before co-founding the ICLS, of which he is the secretary general. He has hands-on experience of cultural co-operation and a keen interest in renewable energy and its applications, especially for the provision of drinking water in rural areas.