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Overcoming Cultural Difference

Overcoming Cultural Difference

What’s an example of a particularly challenging intercultural difference in a conflict?

 

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One of the most interesting examples of dealing with a cultural difference, this is probably a bit out on the wings. It really was fascinating and probably not typical. Quite a few years ago I was working with a team, and we were working on a potential pipeline development in quite a remote part of Peru. An oil company wanted to build a pipeline through a jungle which was where the local communities really had very little experience of… Well all of a sudden you have white people, all of a sudden you have white business people riding in helicopters with chunks of pipeline.

 

Also very unfamiliar with the very, very heavily sort of language base, word base, types of conversation that people were used to. Luckily, we all stumbled to this quite soon. We realized that actually the best way for people to have a conversation was by using visual images.

 

We managed to find a way of putting up vast sheets of paper and we asked local communities to actually draw a picture of their life as it was and to set out things in relation to each other which actually helped them to explain about their lives and what was of concern to them and where their interests lay and also helped everybody else in the room, which was pressure groups, government, business to also understand the picture from their point of view.

 

It was great because they were able to explain it visually in a way in which they could not have done if they were just standing up and trying to make speeches.

 

And that is a way of using cultural difference, actually as a way of enriching the conversation.

 

At its best, I think this kind of dialogue process really does have to be creative. You really do have to actually think creatively about it, what is really going to help people talk to each other.

About the mediator

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Andrew Acland specialises in designing and facilitating stakeholder dialogue and consultation processes in complex, multi-party, multi-issue contexts, often with environmental and social sustainability dimensions. Andrew began his working life as a political analyst specialising in East-West relations and arms control. In 1985, while working on the staff of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, he acted as assistant to the Archbishop’s envoy, T... View Mediator