Posted tagged ‘global citizenship’

Keynote Address: “Intercultural Competence as a Cornerstone of Innovation”

03/12/2014

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I was honored to be invited to give the keynote address at the recent annual Conference of Business Innovation, organized by the FPT Leadership Institute.

First, a word about the parent company.  FPT, Vietnam’s leading technology company, was founded in 1988 as The Food Processing Technology Company.  Its first contract was  to provide computers for the Russian Academy of Sciences in partnership with Olivetti in 1989, which laid the groundwork for its IT department.  A year later, the company was renamed The Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology and the rest, as they say, is history.  In addition to its dominant market position within Vietnam, FPT’s operations are global in scope, with clients or rep offices and companies in 16 foreign countries, including Laos, Cambodia, America, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Myanmar, France, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, United Kingdom, the Philippines, Kuwait, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Keynote Address

Since my topic was Intercultural Competence (IC) as a Cornerstone of Innovation (Mối giao thoa văn hóa là nền móng cho sự sáng tạo), I started off with some comments about innovation, which is a hot topic in Vietnam.  Just in the past week or so, I’ve seen media references such as “Vietnam Needs More Innovation:  Experts” and “Vietnam Needs to Foster Innovation to Sustain Growth, Report Says.”  I added that Vietnam needs innovation to foster sustainable development, which is more far important than growth in the long-term and for quality of life.  While there are many examples of innovation occurring in Vietnam, including at FPT, a copy and paste mentality is still prevalent, including in my industry.

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During the remainder of my allotted time, i.e, one-hour, including 20 minutes for Q&A, which turned into a half hour, I briefly defined the concepts of innovation, culture, intercultural sensitivity (a mindset) and intercultural competence (a skill set), introduced the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), a framework that describes the different ways in which people can react to cultural differences organized into six “stages” of increasing sensitivity to difference, and offered an overview of a related tool that measures intercultural competence, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).  I also mentioned foreign language proficiency as an integral component of IC, discussed ways in which people can develop IC, referred to some recent research that proves overseas experience makes us more flexible, creative and complex thinkers, pointed out some ways in which the US and Vietnam differ within this context (i.e., to Vietnam’s credit and advantage) and shared some useful resources.

The US and Vietnam:  A Study in Cultural Contrast

handbook of ic competenceIn discussing the contrast between Vietnam and the US, I drew from a co-authored book chapter entitled “Developing Globally Competent Citizens – The Contrasting Cases of the United States and Vietnam” (with Dương Thị Hoàng Oanh), which was published in 2009 in The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence (Darla Deardorff, editor).  One of the points we make is that nationalism, which is predominant in the US, is a cognitive and affective barrier to developing intercultural competence and global citizenship.  In Vietnam, where national identity is rooted in patriotism, it is easier to create globally competent citizens.  In general, young people here are more open, interested and curious about the world beyond their country’s borders and are not burdened by a nationalist worldview, or ideology, which exalts one country above all.

A Great Leader of a Global Project with a Multinational Team

A “bonus” was an overview of a case study about Sir Ernest Shackleton, a Anglo-Irish explorer, who participated in four expeditions to Antarctica in the early 20th century, of which he led three:  A Great Leader of a Global Project with a Multinational Team.  The story is as much about leadership as it is about leading a multinational team.  While Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17 failed, he succeeded in that he and his entire team survived the tragedy. (Source:  “Intercultural Competence in Business:  Leading Global Projects,” Robert T. Moran, William E. Youngdahl, and Sarah V. Moran; The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence, ed., Darla Deardorff).

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Making a point. Photo: Hoàng Anh Tuấn

In Conclusion

Among the conclusions were:

  • IC gives you the ability to work successfully with clients around the world
  • IC can play a valuable role as a catalyst for innovation, including with multinational teams
  • IC can give you a competitive advantage in working with foreign clients and partners

Participants ask a number of excellent questions, including some of my impressions of Vietnam after living here for nearly 10 years, ways in which Capstone Vietnam been innovative, some related to IC, others not.  I was gratified to see so much interest in IC on the part of FPT.  It’s not surprising, given the company’s international operations and its focus on innovation.  Just as FPT has been a trailblazer as Vietnam’s leading ITC company, it’s exciting to think that perhaps it will be a trendsetter in this area as well.

Article in Vietnamese:  ‘Giao thoa văn hóa thúc đẩy sự sáng tạo’ (29.11.14)  If you don’t read Vietnamese, just use a service like Google Translate to get the gist.

MAA

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In Celebration of International Education Week (IEW)

14/11/2012

Given the focus of this blog, I thought it was only fitting that I devote a few posts to International Education Week (IEW), “an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.” 

To kick off the week was a post entitled Vietnam Retains 8th Place Ranking Among Sending Countries based on the 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released by the Institute of International Education (IIE). 

There will be another post about Vietnam as one of the top four emerging markets for international student recruitment, based on a recent World Education Services (WES) report and, possibly, one about US students visas in Vietnam (The US Student Visa: It’s Not Rocket Science!).  I will probably close out the week’s celebration with some reflections on three years of blogging about issues near and dear to my heart and mind. 

MAA

“The Sea of Learning Has No Shore”

21/08/2012

No “information, insights or intrigue” in this post just a simple yet profound sentiment that has been expressed in different cultures throughout the ages.  It’s one I enjoy seeing and contemplating, so much so that this picture graces the walls of my office.   

Talking Nationalism, Patriotism and Global Citizenship with US Students in Vietnam

16/03/2012

Last month, I was invited by a colleague from Augustana College (Illinois) to meet with a group of her students who were in Vietnam on a short-term study abroad program.  The students had spent five weeks at Augustana, followed by another five weeks in southern, central and northern Vietnam.  The website describes the program as follows:  Vietnam is an exciting destination for a U.S. college student. This international learning community draws upon multiple disciplines – political science, literature, economics, business, and history among them – offering students a rich interdisciplinary context in which to study Vietnam.

One of the assigned readings was a co-authored book chapter of mine entitled “Developing Globally Competent Citizens: The Contrasting Cases of the United States and Vietnam” (with Duong Thi Hoanh Oanh) that appeared in The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence (2009).  Frankly, I was surprised and delighted to learn that undergraduates were reading this chapter in a book that is probably read mostly by graduate students and academics.  Here’s a brief description:   

The aim of this chapter is to consider global citizenship and intercultural competence, widely debated and often overlapping concepts, against the backdrop of nationalism and patriotism, “isms” that are rarely discussed in the same context. Yet they are the proverbial elephant in the room, towering issues that profoundly influence the methods and means by which global citizenship and intercultural competence are transformed from theory to practice.

This chapter explores ways in which global citizenship and intercultural competence complement and conflict with the national identity of two diametrically contrasting cultures—the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. What U.S. Americans and Vietnamese share, according to anecdotal evidence, the binational experience of both authors, and the results of World Values Surveys, is a deep national pride. Yet as we shall see, this national pride is radically different qualitatively for reasons that are rooted in history. Thus, we examine barriers in both cultures that may inhibit the development of globally competent citizens, as well as factors that may smooth the way.

What are the implications of global citizenship in an interconnected world in which nationalism is still very much a force to be reckoned with? To what extent is global citizenship problematic in countries in which nationalism in its more virulent incarnation forms the mind-set of the majority of citizens? We posit that the path to becoming a global or globally competent citizen may be strewn with more obstacles in some societies than in others as a result of potent historical and cultural forces that have shaped national identity and the dominant ideology, the psychic glue that holds societies together.

Differences Between Patriotism and Nationalism

According to a standard dictionary definition, the distinction between patriotism and nationalism is clear. Patriotism is defined simply as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” This is generally thought of as a benign, sentimental, and inward-looking form of national pride. As such, it does not exclude an openness to and even embrace of other cultures, their values, and the concerns and needs of their members.

In a 2003 essay titled A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism, (the late) U.S. historian Howard Zinn speaks of the need to redefine patriotism and notes that “if national boundaries should not be obstacles to trade—we call it globalization—should they also not be obstacles to compassion and generosity? Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.” Patriotism, as defined above, does not preclude the globalization of compassion and generosity.

In contrast, nationalism is described as loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups. It is the second italicized part that distinguishes nationalism from its less strident and bellicose cousin, patriotism. Exaltation of one nation over another automatically assumes a degree of cultural superiority, a lack of openness and objectivity, and the assumption that “others” wish to be like us and, by extension, the desire to mold them in our image (i.e., missionary nationalism).

Discussion

Most of our discussion in the engaging 1.5 hours that I spent with them and their professors on a rainy February morning in Hanoi revolved around these concepts as they apply to both countries and how to create globally aware and competent citizens, especially given the fact that most young people do not have the opportunity to study overseas.  (Study abroad is no guarantee that this transformation will occur.)  The students asked a range of thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. 

Nationalism is a type of ideology, defined as “a: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture.”  Irrational and rooted in emotion, it consists of seemingly unchallengeable and commonsensical assumptions, “eternal truths,” believing in something that does not exist or does not reflect reality and empirical facts.  To question the precepts that form that basis of US nationalism, or any nationalism for that matter, is to challenge a very potent ideology, a black/white world view that resists contradictory facts and conflicting views that could begin to dissolve this psychic glue.  In this respect it represents a formidable obstacle to the development of global competence and citizenship.

While I’m well aware that these students are certainly not representative of most US Americans in terms of social class (tuition, fees, housing and meals for the 2012-2013 academic year at Augustana are $43,398), education and world view, I was encouraged by the thought and reflection that many had invested in these important issues. 

As a side note, I noticed that most were women, a trend described in this 19 February 2012 Chronicle article entitled In Study Abroad, Men Are Hard to Find

As a bonus, check out this 19 February 2012 essay entitled The American Century Is Over—Good Riddance by Prof. Andrew Bacevich, who has written extensively about the notion of American exceptionalism and the origins and effects of US nationalism. 

MAA

TEDxMekong

31/07/2011

TED has arrived in Vietnam with a vengeance.  The first TEDx event was held last August in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the second one will take place on 18 August in the same city.  So what is TED?  Answer:  A nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  According to  its website, “It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader…”   (Click on the linked website for more information.)  

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.  The latest TEDx event in Vietnam is called TEDxMekong, which will feature video and live speakers.  The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual events are self-organized.  The theme of the 18 August event is Entrepreneurship in Vietnam.  

I’m pleased and honored to be an adviser to TEDxMekong.  Below is a statement I submitted for the advisers’ section of the website. 

Vietnam is a youthful country.  You can see it in the fresh, young faces, as well as the dry statistics (median age:  27.8).   It’s what economists refer to as a demographic dividend, a rare golden opportunity that the country must take advantage of against the backdrop of a ticking clock. Vietnam will succeed because of the intelligence, drive, work ethic, and openness of its young people to the world.

Vietnam needs businesspeople who are outstanding at what they do and who are imbued with a strong sense of social responsibility.  Entrepreneurship is about meeting an individual and/or societal need, and making money in the process.  In many fields, it presents opportunities for successful entrepreneurs to “do well and do good” both through their work and an evolving culture of philanthropy.

Everything begins with an idea and the power of the written and spoken word.  I look forward to seeing more TEDx and similar synergistic, informative and inspirational events that provide a forum for engaged people to discuss “ideas worth spreading,” and create opportunities for them to network and continue the dialogue long after the lights have been turned off.

Congratulations to the TEDxMekong team, truly a group of passionate Vietnamese youth who are dedicated to ideas worth spreading and who are dazzled by the thrilling experience of listening, sharing, and applying intriguing ideas… 

NAFSA 2010: The Intercultural Competence/Global Citizenship Nexus: What International Educators Should Know

02/06/2010

As it turned out, this session was well-attended in spite of the early hour and the stormy weather.  That probably had something to do with the topic and my distinguished colleagues.  Presentations and notes are available at gs029.wordpress.com.   

Title: GS029: The Intercultural Competence/Global Citizenship Nexus: What International Educators Should Know
Begin Time: Wednesday, 6/2 – 8:00 AM
Audience: Teaching Learning and Scholarship
Description: Intercultural competence (ICC) and global citizenship are gaining prominence in international education. Participants explore key aspects of intercultural competence and its development as well as its role in global citizenship. Join ICC experts in reflecting on these relationships for better practice in international education.
Chair: Darla K. Deardorff, EdD, Association of International Education Administrators
All Presenters:
     
Mark A. Ashwill, PhD  Capstone Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam
Janet M. Bennett, PhD Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI) Portland
Darla K. Deardorff, EdD Association of International Education Administrators Durham
Michael Paige, PhD University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis
Margaret D. Pusch   Portland

 

“Policies for Teachers and Educational Leaders in the Innovative Education Process”

10/12/2009

I spoke at an  international workshop today for teachers and educational leaders, sponsored by Vietnam National University’s University of Education.   Topic:  Creating Globally Competent Citizens in Cross-Cultural Perspective.  It was a variation on one of the themes of my co-authored book chapter (see previous posting) with a focus on global citizenship education – obstacles and opportunities.  A Vietnamese translation of the chapter is available. 

If you are interested in the topics of intercultural competence, global competence and global citizenship, how they intersect and how they relate to patriotism and nationalism, please let me know.


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