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Last week at the World Renew board meetings I had the opportunity to participate in an abbreviated Cultural Intelligence Building Workshop led by the Office of Race Relations. During the introduction I learned that much of it is based on David Livermore's work (David Livermore is the author of Serving with Eyes Wide Open, a book that our office recomments for everyone going on a work trip). So right away my antennae was up for possible orientation material for volunteer groups.

However, as we explored stereotypes and identified American cultural values and Canadian cultural values versus our own, it became apparent that even in American/Canadian relations cultural intelligence is important! I was also reminded of the time that I was leading an orientation workshop and we reviewed a number of things about Latin American culture . . . and then went through a list of American cultural values. A number of people in the audience said that the American cultural values did not describe them . . . and then made the connection that maybe the list of Latin American values didn't really apply to individuals in that country either. Hmmm. So we can be cross cultural even in our own culture!

David Livermore explains Cultural Intelligence this way:

Few of us need to be convinced we’re living in a multicultural world. But many approaches to cross-cultural effectiveness are either way too simplistic (“Smile, avoid these 3 taboos and you’ll be fine”) or way too complex (“Don’t go anywhere until you’re a cross-cultural guru.”). Cultural intelligence offers a better way.

Cultural intelligence is described as the ability to be effective across various cultural contexts—including national, ethnic, organizational, generational, ideological, and much more. The research reveals four capabilities that consistently emerge among individuals who are effective in culturally diverse situations:

1. CQ DRIVE: They possess a high level of interest, drive, and motivation to adapt cross-culturally.
2. CQ KNOWLEDGE: They have a strong understanding about how cultures are similar and different.
3. CQ STRATEGY: They are aware and able to plan in light of their cultural understanding.
4. CQ ACTION: They know when to adapt and when not to adapt when engaging cross-culturally.

The definition in bold caught my attention. How many of our churches are wrestling with differing contexts of organization, generation, and ideology right in their own congregation? This is applicable even without considering issues of ethnicity. Would learning how to identify these differences and work through them increase harmony within our churches and neighborhoods? Make more effective outreach globally and locally? How can we increase our cultural intelligence?

What do you think?


I always appreciate your perspectives on short-term missions. Keep up the good work of promoting cross-cultural sensitivities!

Wendy Hammond on May 9, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you Donna, glad to know that they are appreciated! (and being read :-)

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