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Human connection ‘key’ in shifting mindsets

The World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence held its semi-annual meetup online on May 9 to discuss how societies can come together to embrace a shared humanity.

Deardorff is increasingly focused on research on cultural intelligence through a lens of social emotional learning, empathy and compassion

In her welcome address, founding president, Darla Deardorff posed several questions to attendees around this theme.

“In this post-pandemic time, when societies have become even more polarised, as we’re seeing all around the world, the burning question for me is, ‘What is necessary for us to all get along together?’” she said.

“Given all that faces us,” she said, “the human connection is so important in today’s world, particularly with the divisiveness we are confronting.”

Deardorff said she is increasingly focused on research on cultural intelligence through a lens of social emotional learning, empathy and compassion.

“What if we viewed ourselves through the lens of ‘we’ instead of ‘us versus them’? What if we viewed ourselves through the lens of neighbour, both local and global? And what does it really take to get along together as neighbours to each other?”

She suggested that these lenses may help shift the thinking about global and intercultural competence from abstract to concrete. 

Veronica Boix-Mansilla, senior principal investigator at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shared a personal story about growing up in Brazil and the “transformational experience” of teaching English to children.

“What if we view ourselves through the lens of ‘we’ instead of ‘us versus them’?”

“Children were encouraged to learn English so they could tell the story of Brazil, of the culture, of the Amazon and of the contribution it could make to the world,” she said.

“It also positioned the children as having a seat at the table in the global conversation. And for me this flips the conversation about global competence in a very important way.”

Boix-Mansilla proffered one needs to have both a cognitive and an emotional understanding of the world to “not only know something about the world, but to be standing in the world in a new and different way”.

The next gatherings of the World Council will be in-person at NAFSA in Washington DC and online at the Global Forum on May 24-25, which will feature an opening keynote from Gert Jan Hofstede, plenary panels, a research forum, an interactive workshop on global inclusion, a special presentation from UNESCO, and networking opportunities.

Reflecting on the latest event with The PIE, Deardorff circled back to the central theme of connections.

“The incredible interest and participation from colleagues from all around the world demonstrated not only the enduring interest in and critical need for intercultural and global competence, but also demonstrated the desire for meaningful human connection, which is more important now than ever.”

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