The “Network on Intercultural Learning in Europe” (NILE), an initiative which brought together twenty-one persons from various European countries under the coordination of DVV International, wound up its six years of work at a conference in Brussels in September 2008. The network’s four working groups presented their results to an audience of adult education specialists and practitioners, and explored in-depth issues of interculturality. Discussion focused on the following key questions:
For the sake of example, the following aspects were among those identified by the participants in an examination of the factors that contribute to the success of intercultural dialogue (question no. 4):
A list of recommendations elaborated by the participants was presented to the representatives of the European Commission in attendance at the conference for submission to the Commission.
The network will continue its efforts to promote interculturality under the coordina tion of the European Association for the Education of Adults. At its September 2008 general assembly, the EAEA adopted a position paper on intercultural dialogue, and set up an ongoing Internet forum on the issue.
“INTERtool”, co-financed by the European Commission from 2006 to 2009, seeks to contribute to the professionalisation of intercultural project management. In this project, institutions from Austria, Romania, England, Finland, and Switzerland have collaborated in the development of a web-based tool for providers of “lifelong learning”. Project teams can register at the project website – www.intertool.ro – after which the various team members are able to take a test and create a diagram that visualizes the diversity of their team. Virtual functions are available to help the team take advantage of their diversity by agreeing upon rules for their co-operation. The methods used provide opportunities for the team to change the rules during the course of the project.
As the individuals in a team became acquainted during a project kick-off meet ing, they found that one of the members was not accustomed to using English for communication. There had been no difficulty with written work – background papers, reports, etc. – but he obviously found it hard to speak English, and had major problems with pronunciation.
What were the main challenges and conflicts?
The person found it difficult to communicate with the others, and most of the others, not wanting to embarrass him, avoided asking him questions or including him in conversation. Participation in discussion was further complicated by the fact that the matter at hand did not directly relate to his field. Unfortunately, the person did not make an adequate effort to participate in the project. What made it difficult for me as coordinator was that I always had the feeling that we were excluding him. But at the same time, I felt unable to offer a solution.
What advice would you have for others to avoid such problems in the future, and how would you deal with the situation if it happened again?
In such a situation it is helpful to map the levels of language proficiency in the team at the very beginning of a project. As the work progresses, of course, per sonal initiative is required on the part of everyone in the group. It is important for the coordinator to facilitate participation for all members of the group, taking into consideration that everyone works at a different pace.
Within the framework of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue DVV International received additional funds from the European Commission and the German government to help finance 41 functions at various Volkshochschulen. The most interesting of these functions were documented in a special issue of the Institute’s “International Perspectives in Adult Education” series (Volume 60). Detailed in formation on all the activities and creative ideas can be accessed in German at www.interkulturelles-jahr.de
Another European project in which DVV International participates together with partners from Belgium, England, Bulgaria, and France, involves the development of training materials and the organization of multicultural learning experiences and workshops to foster recognition and respect of cultural diversity, to discour age prejudice and discrimination, and to develop intercultural skills. In June 2008, the project was distinguished with the European Commission’s Gold Prize in the Grundvig “lifelong learning” category for delivering high quality adult education. During the reporting period, various five-day workshops were conducted on the European level. Two two-day workshops – one in 2007, and one in 2008 – were also held for German-speaking audiences in Berlin and Munich respectively.
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