Portions of the following are based on an interview with Antimo Cimino on January 20, 2020
Many years ago when my husband Ray Fowler, who was responsible for the pre-conference, continuing-education workshops for the Southeast Psychological Association (SEPA), was checking on how they were going, he observed that the psychologists were sitting in windowless hotel rooms, working hard to stay awake while listening to the workshop leaders—but, he thought, it didn’t have to be that way. They could be learning in an interesting environment, like on a boat to Cuba, a therapy clinic in Athens, a resort on Martinique, a psychiatric hospital in Beijing. He proposed the concept to the SEPA Board of Directors who told him to make it happen. And so he did.
The idea of holding workshops in interesting, relevant spaces follows in the tradition of interculturalists like Jack Condon who has taken groups to Mexico for many years. Jack and Tatyana Fertelmeyster are also known for their workshops in Jemez, New Mexico. I was curious when I heard about Cultural Global Labs to see what Antimo Cimino, Kirk Faulkner, and Lori Welch had done with the concept. Wanting to know more, I went to the source and called Antimo. First, I learned a lot about Antimo. He was born in Italy and at age 16 he spent a summer in France. It opened a “Pandora’s Box” of beauty for him. He had always escaped in his head to other places but in France he really experienced thinking differently and seeing the world with different eyes, and he knew that he wanted more. After graduating from culinary school and serving his obligation in the Army, he returned to London where he had spent some time after high school. He began to realize that he missed living in Italy, but while there he missed living in other places. An American he met suggested that Antimo go to Portland, Oregon. And so he did.
Antimo obtained a Bachelor’s degree in international studies at Portland State University and during that time took a class with Kim Brown. She turned him on to intercultural communication and suggested Antimo volunteer at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) where he found “his people.” He earned a Masters in Applied Intercultural Relations (MAIR) and worked for ICI for 5 years, enjoying the magic of SIIC. Knowing that he needed more business experience and speaking 6 languages, Antimo soon found a position with the Oliver Wyman company of global management consultants. He found he was well equipped to survive in the corporate culture. After more than 9 years with Oliver Wyman Consulting, he realized that he had adapted to and functioned well in the corporate world, moving comfortably from a non-profit organization to corporate culture and back again. However, his years with ICI motivated him to return—and so he did.
Antimo held a growing vision for an innovative approach to intercultural learning. To hone his ideas he interviewed workshop leaders and asked their participants for feedback. Why labs? He felt that breakthroughs happen in laboratories and he wanted the same to happen in Cultural Global Labs. He was mindful that to serve others you need to take care of yourself. His training model includes early morning routines like mindfulness, flexibility to expand curiosity and prepare body and mind for the day, as well as peel off stress and preconceived ideas. And so it will.
Antimo oriented the program around 5 pillars: vulnerability, stories, connection, transformation, and growth. The importance of vulnerability came from all his years seeing buttoned-up corporate leaders respond to transformative learning that allowed them to be authentic and feel more. Antimo knew that stories have the power to transform and lead to personal growth. Workshops with intercultural and diversity trainers fill the middle of the weeklong program taking theory to practice. And here is the piece de resistance: the practice takes place in southern Italy. Participants take their leadership principles and learning from the workshops and have the opportunity to bake bread or stack produce, working with the Italians in Lecce, Italy. Antimo describes the last day of the program as the “icing on the cake.” It’s an opportunity to work on topics that didn’t get enough time (according to the participants) and will be done as an Open Space activity where people can contribute, connect, take a deep dive into a subject, and answer the question: What next?
Antimo’s program has much to offer. It builds on traditions in education while having its own character and promise. The pilot program is June 15-19, 2020 and Antimo has generously offered a 10% discount to all SIETAR USA members who register by February 29th. I feel that this program deserves your serious consideration. You can look at https://cultural-globallabs.com and find out for yourself!
Sandra M. Fowler