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  • 10 Mar 2019 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Commoditization of Intercultural Services
    by  Michael F. Tucker, Ph.D., CMC

    Michael F. Tucker, Ph.D., CMC

    When company employees and their families are sent on international assignment, it seems obvious that their ability to adapt to cultural aspects of life and work in the country of assignment is critical to their success.  However, the ability to adapt apparently is not a high priority of many global companies, as recent data show that only 22 percent of 140 companies employ intercultural assessment tools for screening, selection and development of expatriates, and only 25 percent make intercultural training mandatory.

    So why is this, since many of us believe that intercultural services have become mature over the past 40 years? There are many reasons, of course, but a major one may be what I call the “Commoditization” of our services. This is a shift from a true service focus to a “purchasing department” one, which is more commonly used to acquire things rather than services.  Company International Human Resources Departments have seen major downsizing due to cost cutting and outsourcing. 

    “Cultural Orientation” is often a minor component of a global relocation contract and is purchased on a short time -of- delivery and cost basis.  This has resulted in our services delivered without high customization through needs and situation assessments of client company international businesses and projects and thorough needs assessments of the employee and family.  Commoditization has also resulted in short training programs of one day or less, and little or no follow-up evaluation in-country.  Perhaps the most problematic is for the assessors/trainers/coaches being cut off from the global client company.  They are considered a “third party”, working for the primary contract holder, with little or no direct connection to the company. 

    A promising movement among global companies is the emergence of global talent and leadership development managers.  They are competing for the best global talent and want the best intercultural services for their future leaders.  They seem to be seeking best practices, even for intercultural competency assessment/coaching prior to assignment.  This is especially true for international assignments taken on for leadership development purposes.

    To sum up, a true service approach is where the service delivery professional works directly in partnership with the client company to ensure that the needs are closely met and the partnership is considered a business asset, and not just a cost, by the global company. 

  • 10 Mar 2019 10:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet the SIETAR USA Associate Editor: Chris Cartwright, Science Editor.          

    In 1973 at age 14, Chris Cartwright had a life changing experience when he toured Romania for 3 weeks with his high school choir. He caught the travel bug and it hasn’t left him yet. He was fascinated by the differences between the culture where he grew up in Battle Creek, MI, and the Romanian culture behind the Iron Curtain. He is still in touch with pen pals from that time and serves on the board of a multicultural center there.

    Chris’ Mother was the local newspaper librarian. He helped after school by cutting out the newspaper articles so she could mount them and file them based on categories that would help reporters when they had to write about the person or subject of the article. This experience taught him the importance of good research and keeping information well organized in order to write well.

    There were several building blocks that led to his intercultural career. He is trained as a sous chef and while managing the kitchen at a Tex-Mex restaurant owned by a Romanian whose staff was all Romanians he had an early cultural challenge to overcome; the staff were baffled about Mexican cuisine so Chris helped by creating instructions for what to make and how it should look using pictures to overcome the language limitations. He said he learned that language and cultures can indeed be bridged.

    He also had a warm, welcoming 1st grade teacher who celebrated cultural differences. When this African American woman moved to Battle Creek from Chicago no one would hire her, but Chris’s mother was instrumental in getting her the teaching position. Returning to his elementary school as an adult, Chris was prepared to apologize to her for giving her a brooch and earring set in the shape of watermelon slices he’d given her on the last day of school as a child.  The gift could have been construed as an insult, but the teacher laughed and said that she wore them with pride to this day and always on the last day of school … ‘Watermelon’ was the tension release term used by the teacher and Chris’s mother whenever they encountered push-back for bringing an African-American teacher into the local school system.

    Throughout college, Chris was endlessly intrigued with what the social sciences bring to life experience. The stories and the context that surround social science theories brought him in and keep him there still. He finds the process of teasing out the patterns from what initially seems like a mish mash of data, analyzing the elements to find patterns among the situations, the players, the behaviors to be what he most likes to be doing. This is the catalyst for deep conversations that can be helpful to people by bringing them insights and when it is just right—a breakthrough in understanding. He asks “what is meaningful to you? How does it bring meaning to your experience?” and then lights go on.

    He credits Janet Bennett with introducing him to the intercultural context. He took a course from her at Portland State University and then a Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) course from Lee Knefelkamp on intercultural assessment and leadership. He decided to do his PhD dissertation on assessing intercultural competence and leadership, and this work is the basis of his current consulting practice.

    Chris is married to a homeopathic veterinarian who makes house calls to dogs and cats. She is also a green-thumb gardener. They live in a 100 year old house. He does yoga and meditates every day and knows it’s a good life. He is career ‘transition’ after 10 years with the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI) as the Director of Intercultural Assessment was eliminated in ICI’s reorganization. As Associate Director of the now closed Graduate Program he coached Master’s Program’s students to complete their coursework, and found it an exhilarating space to learn about motivating culturally complex students. He said he learned a lot in that decade from the SIIC faculty, the wonderful ICI staff, and especially the students. Not entirely sure what comes next he is sure that it will involve his two loves: leadership and research. We wish him well.

  • 10 Mar 2019 10:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     In response to the January Issue artile: Harry Triandis: Researchers and Practitioners, we received the following response from Michael Tucker:

    Harry—well said and so true about out intercultural world.  Togetherness was the original concept behind SIETAR International.  Researchers would come together with educators and trainers to share, discuss and collaborate.  Researchers would focus on what practitioners needed and practitioners would apply research results.  Then researchers split off into IAIR.  Sandy Fowler and I tried to bring research back into SIETAR USA by means of special sessions at conferences.  More of this needs to be done by both IAIR and SIETAR USA.

    Michael Tucker

  • 10 Mar 2019 10:00 AM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    What's going on in Florida?

    Florida Spring is here. Temperatures are warmer and Spring breakers are invading the State in March!

    We have a very active group of SIETAR Florida members who are contributing to wonderful ideas and events.

    Our February event for Black History Month was a virtual dialogue about "Black Experience in Florida". A replay will be available on SIETAR Florida Youtube channel.

    We are celebrating Women's History month as well! Follow us on Linkdedin, FB and Instagram @sietarflorida.

  • 05 Mar 2019 9:37 AM | Karen Fouts (Administrator)

    Join us on March 26, 2019 beginning @ 11 am (ET) for the March webinar:

    Dispelling Myths About Muslims and Islam: Intercultural Interventions for Pluralism and Inclusion of American Muslims

    With the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has permeated our political stage, it is critical that intercultural practitioners find ways to break the barriers of fear and anti-Muslim bigotry. This webinar will address common misperceptions about Muslims and Islam and provide resources for interculturalists to engage with others to fight Islamaphobia. PLEASE NOTE THE DATE CHANGE: Webinar is now March 26, instead of March 19, 2019.


    About the Presenter

    Lobna "Luby" Ismail is the founder and President of Connecting Cultures (www.connecting-cultures.net). An inspiring speaker and trainer, Luby is an intercultural expert on Arab, American and Muslim cultures and the engagement for business and peace building.

  • 13 Feb 2019 7:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join SIETAR USA on February 26th for the Webinar
    Living Our Values: SIETAR's Living Code of Ethical Behavior

    Presenter: Kurt Nemes

    Ethics helps us determine the right action when values are in conflict.  In this 90-minute webinar, Kurt Nemes will lead a discussion using scenarios drawn from SIETAR members’ experiences with dilemmas they have faced in their work. Using SIETAR’s Living Code Of Ethical Behavior, Kurt will show how it can guide and serve us as professional interculturalists.   Participants are encouraged to submit ethical situations they may be wrestling with to the Critical Incidents site (https://www.sietarusa.org/page-1852367) in advance. There will ample time for questions and answers.  Kurt is also designing an ethics program for SEITAR and would like devote part of the session to gathering ideas and/or suggestions on how such a program would meet the needs of members.  

  • 12 Feb 2019 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Partner with complimentary service providers

    Depending on the cross-cultural service, you will have different partners.   If your clients are expats, here are a few partners to consider.  Contact other Cross-Cultural Consultants, Language Providers, Translation Services, Relocation Companies, Movers, Temporary Housing, EAP (Employee Assistant Programs), IEAP (International Employee Assistant Programs), Embassies, Consulates, Immigration Attorneys, Universities, and Real Estate Agents.   For my business, relocation companies have been the most beneficial partners.

    Meet with potential partners to determine their clients needs and explain the benefits of cross-cultural services.  Determine how both partners can benefit from the business relationship.  I attend local and national relocation events and conferences to develop relationships with partner companies.  For example, the ERC Employee Relocation Council hosts an annual event in the US.  Another partner for CBC has been companies who provide services (financial, taxes, payroll, HR) for businesses expanding globally.  If you can recommend your partners services to others, then both parties will succeed.

  • 11 Feb 2019 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    February is Black History month and SIETAR FL will be celebrating it with an exchange to raise the awareness of colorism across cultures and not just with African Americans.  

    Save the Date

The Black Experience in Florida

    February 21st 12:00-1:00pm Eastern Time

    Join the Virtual Dialogue:


    More about the event:

    “Racial and ethnic diversity in Florida are statistical facts, yet we are prone to overlook the significant diversity that is present WITHIN these racial and ethnic groups. Latino and Hispanic scholars have coined the term LatinX, to acknowledge and embrace the diversity and intersectional experiences and origins of the descendants of Spanish-speaking people in Florida. Until recently, however, no similar attempt has been made to highlight the diversity and intersectional experiences of the racial and ethnic groups that our labeled “Black” in our state.”

    SIETAR Tri-state (NY-NJ-CT)

    SIETAR Tri-state (NY-NJ-CT) is a local group of SIETAR USA.  The mission of SIETAR-USA is to promote and facilitate intercultural education, training and research through professional interchange.  SIETAR Tri-state strives to connect anyone interested in the intercultural field in the tri-state area through guest speakers, cultural events, and get-togethers. 

    We are in the process of recruiting members as well as planning our first meeting for February of 2019.  Please email us at sietartristate@gmail.com to be added to our mailing list. We would also appreciate your suggestions for programs and activities you are interested in attending.

  • 11 Feb 2019 5:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I just got back from China where I conducted workshops on designing training games in different locations for 10 days. I also consulted with game designers for 5 days. My recent experience confirmed what I learned from facilitating game design workshops in 26 different countries around the world: Playing games is a human universal. We are all homo ludens.

    I have conducted training activities that last from 3 minutes to 3 hours. With intercultural audience, brief activities work better than lengthy ones. My intercultural trainees become more engaged and learn more effectively with the type of brief training games that I call jolts.

    Jolts lull the participants into behaving in a comfortable way and deliver a powerful wake-up call. They force the participants to re-examine their assumptions and revise their standard procedures. Jolts typically last for a few minutes but provide enough insights for a lengthy debriefing.

    Here’s a sample jolt from my collection called Clock on the Ceiling:


    To explore how point-of-view determines what you see


    One or more. Even large numbers of people can simultaneously participate in this individual activity


    3 minutes for the activity. 5 to 15 minutes for debriefing.


    Ask the participants to stand up. When the participants stand, ask them to extend their right arms and point their index fingers up toward an imaginary clock on the ceiling. Then ask the participants to lower their right hands below shoulder level by bending their elbows while still pointing their fingers to the clock on the ceiling.

    Rotate the fingers around the clock. Next, ask the participants to raise their hands above their heads again and point to the 12 o'clock position on the imaginary clock. Then ask the participants to use their fingers to circle around the clock to the 3 o'clock position, then around to the 6 o'clock position, then up to the 9 o'clock position, then back to the 12 o'clock position. When the task is complete, ask the participants to continue moving their fingers in a clockwise rotation without stopping.

    Ask participants to lower their hands. While the participants continue to circle the imaginary clock in a clockwise direction with their right index fingers, instruct them to keep their fingers pointed toward the ceiling and their eyes on their extended fingers as they circle around the clock. Instruct participants to slowly lower their hands so their index fingers (still rotating) come to a position below shoulder level.

    Point to the direction of the rotation. Ask the following question about the rotation direction: "What direction is your finger moving now, clockwise or counterclockwise?" All the participants should be looking down at their rotating fingers (in contrast to looking up at their rotating fingers earlier). All the participants should clearly see a change in the direction of rotation. You can act surprised when participants report a counterclockwise rotation of their fingers.


    A change of perspective. Ask participants why they think the change in direction of rotation occurred. Steer the discussion toward this conclusion:

    The participants' fingers actually continued rotating in the same direction after their hands were lowered. What changed was the point of view.

    Explain that when participants looked at their rotating fingers as they pointed toward the imaginary clock on the ceiling, the perspective was from the bottom up. Once the hands and rotating fingers were lowered below shoulder level, the point of view was from the top down. This change in perspective explains the perceived change in their finger rotation direction.

    How does this relate? Continue the debriefing discussion by asking participants to identify situations in which a change of perspective results in a radical change in perception.

    Learning Points

    1. Our perceptions depend on our point of view.

    2. By taking time to appreciate the power of perspective and its impact on perception, radically different understanding is possible.

  • 11 Feb 2019 5:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Chris T. Cartwright, MPA, EdD.
    Director of Intercultural Assessment,
    Intercultural Communication Institute

    • What is the right or best way to assess intercultural competence?
    • Will this assessment process work across all cultures and contexts?

    These questions pose a Koan or riddle interculturalists ponder regularly. Whether we are asked to select or prepare an executive for an international assignment, intervene with an agency challenged by unconscious or implicit bias against underrepresenting populations, or demonstrate the impact of an international education sojourn—settling on a definition and assessment plan to meet those needs can be complicated.

    Assessing intercultural competence is a complex endeavor in part because this complexity is reflected in the multiple definitions of the construct, as well as the theories these definitions are based upon. Moreover, each model has multiple assessment methods and or tools, some quantitative and others qualitative in their data collection processes. 

    But the complexity we face is appropriate. We are appraising how people can learn to effectively engage across a variety cultures and contexts (1). Each element of this definition (people, effective engagement, cultures, and contexts) can send the interculturalist through a myriad of decision-tree options with multiple assessment practices to choose from. People vary greatly in the aspects of their identity most salient for them to embody in different contexts. For example, how is ‘effective engagement framed in this initiative?

    • Leading a culturally complex team?
    • Creating an equitable and inclusive working environment?
    • Demonstrating open mindedness and empathy as a result of an international service-learning project?

    Finally, scholars have studied culture and contexts for generations and their work has revealed many contextual and cultural general as well as specific dimensions that can be considered.

    The phrase “It depends” is frequently used in the intercultural field when an opportunity or challenge is presented. That phrase opens the door for more exploration … and it buys us time to initiate the decision tree of options.

    Where should we start assessing intercultural competence?  Below are three frequent paths for assessing intercultural competence and there can and are variations of them used by many intercultural professionals. Some will assert that we need to initiate an organizational stakeholder analysis and uncover or compose a new shared definition of intercultural competence to fit the culture and context of that campus, company, or agency. Then an assessment process with new or tailored tools is created to fit this unique definition and desired outcome.

    Others balk at the time and energy required to harvest such a new definition and its associated measurement practices; they prefer to adopt an existing well-researched definition and its accompanying assessment methods. Sometimes these professionals will start with the cultural specific measure to point out cultural differences the learner should note, and some will start with a cultural general measure to point out a set of competencies, intelligences, sensitivities, and so on, that might be most effective in a new culturally complex context.

    Still others will reject even the notion of assessment, preferring a narrative or story gathering process to determine what has occurred, is occurring, or might occur, and thus what might be developed based on personal, professional, or organization goals. Whether or not a formal model or rubric is used in this final narrative process, the intercultural professional is still assessing intercultural competence; it may be in the form of an appraisal of readiness, sensitivity, humility, intelligence, or another term that best fits their practice.

    It is important to note that ‘competency’ as a construct in itself, is the interplay of cognition (knowledge), behaviors (skills), and beliefs (attitudes). So, in the intercultural realm we seek measures that can give us a perspective in all three domains. It is impossible to assess intercultural competence with a single measure and at a single moment of time; there is simply too much at play in the equation to capture this level of complexity with a single snapshot or even a brief ‘video shoot’ practice. This is why most assessment professionals recommend multiple measures over time, so they can observe and record the dynamic interaction of the headset, handset, and heartset required to navigate intercultural exchanges.

    When focusing on the learner, client, or organizational need for the type of assessment practice that is adopted, the way the data is reported is exceedingly important. For some learners, the data should be acute and direct; for others is should be more expansive and indirect. Since our assessment practice can help the learner connect their head, hands, and heart, compounding multiple types of evidence is recommended—weighting and sequencing the forms of data based on their culturally and contextually preferred orientation.

    None of these definitions, methods or assessment tools answers the two questions facing interculturalists posed above neatly or comprehensively. In every case, ‘It depends’. Fortunately, we have a rich buffet of models and methods available for the inquiry.


    (1)  Author’s own abbreviated definition of Intercultural Competence based on the hundreds he’s read.

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