Manual for developing intercultural competencies: story circles
The costs of intercultural incompetence are so high, including all the dangers of conflict and war . . . just as our future depends upon actions taken today, so the future of cultural diversity respectful of human rights in our social world depends upon our ability to gain and demonstrate intercultural competencies today” (UNESCO, 2013b, p. 38).
Given the grave global challenges facing humans in the 21st century, learning how to live together becomes an imperative. The growth of violent extremism, the mounting migration and displacement crises, and the rise of divisive political populism have underscored the need of expanding, consolidating, and intensifying dialogue among peoples with different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, contributing thus to counter hate speeches and to foster a culture of peace.
What does it take to live together peacefully? How can we bridge societal divides that only seem to be increasing? How can we understand others better, especially those whose beliefs and practices may be quite different? And what can be done to help intentionally enhance others’ ability to live and work together across differences that seem to separate, and at times engulf, humans leading to conflict and even war? These questions are addressed through the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other organizations through such terms as intercultural competencies and intercultural dialogue.
Much of the work done around these ideas still lacks the specifics of what this means for individuals (and organizations working to enhance individuals’ intercultural competencies). This manual attempts to address this void by addressing the individual level and, in so doing, provide a very practical way for anyone to work toward developing intercultural competencies, which is so desperately needed in today’s world. It is built on UNESCO’s work to empower learners of all ages, providing them with the sense of empathy and solidarity to act as global citizens in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals 4 (on education) and 16 (to promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies).
Specifically, the purpose of this manual is to provide a brief overview of approaches and tools for developing intercultural competencies and then to present in detail an adaptable practical tool called Story Circles that can be used in many different contexts and situations around the world for developing individuals’ intercultural competencies. The manual concludes with an extensive list of resources that can be used in further intercultural training and development, as well as supporting materials that are helpful in facilitating Story Circles.