What really happened? – An opinion piece by Matthew Hill
As IC trainers, coaches and academics return from the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, we remember some of the highlights?
400+ People Attended the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, May 2017
With more than 400 attendees it was the biggest event since Granada (when we were joined by the mighty SIETAR USA.) An impressive focus on professionalism and detail delivered a technically advanced event at a top of the range venue – St Pats (Dublin City University) in Ireland has been transformed, enlarged and made relevant, providing an impressive and functional backdrop to the show. With fresh paint, bright colours and a modern social area and the addition of a professional conference organisation crew, this was SIETAR at its slickest, its most efficient and its best.
Special mention must be made of Pari, Barbara and Joe. Their 18 months of hard work, stress, decision-making and perseverance has paid off. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And the 12 volunteers – A great bunch of dynamic and pro active interculturalists working diligently to produce a memorable audience experience and calm the nerves of the presenters, some of whom had never seen a touchscreen interactive whiteboard before!
Keeping us in touch
The Whova app assisted in bringing everybody together, warning us of logistical changes and generally connecting people, before the event, during the busy main days and, now, as we go back to our many countries and various other roles.
Lolo Mayer moved us with his story
We were lucky with the weather and there were some extraordinary moments to take away. Those who saw Lolo Mayer when he spoke will never forget the present and direct moment when this articulate 9 year old told us of his journey from South Africa to Germany and the reactions the people around him – “different race – same culture”. His honest narrative moved us to tears. A special experience.
Milton Bennett brought along an expert in Mysticism – A ripple of hesitation flickered through the full room. As the modestly cynical crowd began their hypnotic meditation submerging beach balls under water, a new line was crossed in SIETAR experiential learning and most of us came out of the exercise better and wiser practitioners.
A third highlight was Andra and Abbey in their WorldWork Trust session – The facilitation was excellent and the atmosphere was conducive to movement, exchange and a worthy end result for all.
Joe Kearns Opens SIETAR Dublin
I must mention the stars of my own film track – Having coerced two local heroes – Dave Walsh and Joe Kearns into attempting culturally relevant and difficult topics, they both more than rose to the challenge – Dave interpreting the cultural significance of “Father Ted” in the context of real events in the Priesthood in Ireland and Joe, with his deep knowledge of Irish and European Viking history, linking this eloquently to the successes and failures of mergers in business and highlighting the choice between cultural domination and cultural integration.
SIETARians Deep in Conversation
And a big thank you to everyone for forming a surprisingly large crowd at my Training films clips session – It was rewarding to see so many people getting fully engaged with the subject and the content.
It would not be a real congress report without one or two negative points to report on. A moan that was heard frequently around the Congress concerned the quality of some presenters when attempting to get their message across. On occasion we seemed to have regressed to pre-Valencia days. Many witnessed poor wordy PowerPoints, over emphasis on research methods vs practical application and a failure by presenters to project, engage or hold their audience’s attention. There were many many TED style talks that were far far removed from the slick professionalism of the real thing. (I will take up the topic of presentation crimes in a separate post next time.)
The drama of the Congress ended with a moving tribute to one of the pillars of SIETAR – Maria Jicheva who died two years ago. She had run and expanded SIETAR UK and SIETAR Europa with years of hard hard work and used her subtle style of influence to make it the success that is evident today. We heard stories and experienced strong felt emotion remembering her effect upon those who were fortunate enough to spend time in her presence. Maria – We know you are watching over us – The success of the SIETAR Dublin Congress in 2017 is a tribute to you, your values and the volume of work you put in. Thank you.
We will see you all in Vienna (Just a GUESS at the next venue…)
A Guide to the European Intercultural Event of the Year by Matthew Hill 1, Meeting people With up to 360 people attending the SIETAR Congress in Dublin later in May, There is no better opportunity this year to … Continue reading
For full details here is the brochure in PDF format – 2_SietarDublin_PreCongressWorkshop_Simons
1.Kate Brubaker brings us the…
The RELAUNCH! Virtual Re-entry Retreat (23rd to 27th January , 2017) This is a f’ree week-long event for global adventurers who don’t want the global adventure to end once they return “home” after being abroad. You’ll feel more confident and excited about your next steps (your “Re-entry Relaunch”) after hearing and chatting with 20 expert speakers, who will share their re-entry experiences, insights, and tips in 15 (f’ree!) sessions over 5 days. Get the event schedule and reserve your seat here: http://www.RelaunchRetreat.com
2.Roberto Ruffino announces…
AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FAITH AND INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE
Bari (Southern Italy), 31st March to 2nd April 2017
“The unspoken sacre /sacred” is the title of this international conference convened by the Intercultura Foundation, discussing the difficulty of sharing one’s own faith (or lack of faith) in intercultural relations.
Why is sacre (Sacred) such a difficult topic to address in intercultural encounters, both between believers of different faiths and between believers and agnostics or atheists?
Bari Old Town
One reason has to do with respect and the fear of hurting other people’s sensibility. We tend to avoid any reference to the religious dimension of life because we feel that we will tread on dangerous ground, where we risk to offend other people’s feelings and touch what is untouchable for many. Historical and contemporary situations tell us that we might be right. Nonetheless this avoidance leads us into dark corners, where misunderstandings, distortions, caricature and even hostility may arise: thus intercultural encounters miss the opportunity of opening a fuller trans-cultural dialogue and deeper mutual understanding.
Our Conference will attempt to separate the different dimensions of religions: theology, liturgy, culture – and it will focus on the third one, culture, leaving aside any discussion on inter-religious dialogue. We welcome presenters and workshop leaders among academics and “experts in religions” (historians, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists), but not among religious leaders or clergy of any faith. In Intercultura’s tradition, we also welcome mediators and volunteers working with multi-cultural and multi-religious situations.
The Intercultura Foundation has always prioritized research and projects involving youth and education. In this Conference it is imperative to clearly separate “doctrine” from “religious culture” and its influence on history, art and literature. Discussions on doctrine belong to religious institutions and their clergy. Religious culture should belong to all and we claim that it must be part of education for young people, to avoid “respect” (or rather “fear”) limiting their ability to understand and appreciate the relevant impact of the sacre on all cultures.
The current silence does not convey respect and understanding. From this Conference we expect a little enlightenment and a few suggestions as to how to turn “the unspoken sacre” into a productive dialogue.
The Conference programme and registration form are available at; www.unspokensacre.org (Early bird fees till January 15th).
Interculturalist and Full Time Italian Roberto Ruffino
3.Ursula Brinkmann announces…
The new IRC Licensing Course Berlin: 9th and 10th March, 2017 (Thursday & Friday)
Registration form; http://www.ibinet.nl/irccourse.pdf
Early Bird Discount ends January 15th
4. Adrian Pilbeam announces… Developing Intercultural Training Skills
A 5 day course – 27th to 31st March 2017 in Bath, UK
A 5 day course for trainers wishing to develop their knowledge and skills in the intercultural training field
Contact Adrian directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Jicheva – a few words by Matthew Hill
As we mourn the passing of Maria Jicheva, we may take a little comfort from our memories. There has been a unified expression both about the shock of her sudden passing and of the positive and quietly influential woman that she was.
She was at her most visible as president of SIETAR Europa and when leading the committee and volunteers to putting on an important and memorable Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria – a country that was significant to her in many ways.
The extraordinary thing about Maria was that she was accepted by trainers coaches, academics and business professionals alike. If you take a minute to think about it, this cannot be said about most people.
My experiences with Maria were mostly set in the context of SIETAR UK. Here she provided solid support and advice for her successors – Stephan Dahl, Robert Johnson and myself.
In meetings and conference calls she would be the soft articulate voice of wisdom, suggestions and common sense. When we were lost Maria would have an answer. When we had a problem Maria had a solution.
Other obituaries have mentioned her honorary title, “the Queen of diplomacy.” This is true and was really put to the test prior to the Bulgarian Congress. Through no fault of her own, a rather critical comment about the “father of culture”, Geert Hofstede, in an e-mail chain had reached the esteemed professor’s office and caused a minor explosion. It is the sort of nightmare that no volunteer President ever wants to face – that of having the most prominent figure in your field completely upset with the volunteer organisation promoting the values of that field.
We know the outcome – shuttle diplomat Maria calmed the waters, facilitated the seeing of reason and offered the esteemed academic a public space to expound his central theories. Few know how close we came to a different outcome.
Continuing the Hofstede theme, Maria introduced Prof. Michael Minkov, first to SIETAR via Bulgaria and then to us at SIETAR UK. His hotly debated theory was later adapted to become an additional Hofstede dimension.
Her successful long-term partnership with Caroline at Coghill Beery saw her flying to many countries and delivering training and coaching to some exceptional senior executives and high-powered teams. Here she was professional, credible and had the depth and persona to deal with the egos and challenging behaviours that she encountered. Not only did the offices of Coghill Beery have just about every book published on culture (normally by Nicholas Brealey) but one sensed that Maria had read, understood and remembered most of them too.
As well as being charming Maria was also tough. Her success in committees came not just from her smile. When a principle was being violated Maria was a charismatic force of nature.
Her legacy is a more mindful and caring SIETAR. It is a standard of principled integrity that was shown to us by an extraordinary exponent of coaching, training and leadership.
For us the spirit of Maria continues with every Congress and, in a way, every training and coaching session. Thank you Maria. You have been heard.
Moving tributes are to be found at http://mariajicheva.com
This year’s congress felt large, professional and inclusive. Set in the city, drama and history of Valencia almost 400 people gathered to experience the breadth and depth of some of the best presentations we’ve experienced in recent times.
At some points, the delegate’s choice was what to MISS across an array of talent filling 7 parallel presentation steams.
Highlights for me were Dr. Sonsoles Morales and her witty and powerful introduction to Unconscious Bias, Dr. Jackie van der Kroft with her exploration of Non Violent Communication and Dr. Noor Azizan-Gardner’s insightful overview of diversity and inclusion within an American university setting. I felt busy rushing to 14 presentations but that meant not seeing more than 90 other contributions in a packed and varied schedule.
Of the key notes – Thiagi held our attention with his humble authority, present wit and his naughty truths.
On a personal note, seeing the documentary about Dr. Geert Hofstede went some way to reconcile the range of strong feelings about the man and his work. Films were presented at the Rialto Cinema in the Ajuntament Plaza as part of the film festival organised by Dr. Marianne Van Eldik Thieme.
The ADEIT Fundacion Universitat-Empressa de Valencia provided an impressive learning space with modern facilities and a wonderful outdoor patio for breaks and the cocktail party.
There is always a little moaning to be heard at any Congress. This time it was about the use of more than one site for the presentations, the lunch and a little drama at the Gala dinner. For me this adds flavour to the story and is to be expected when 400 paying customers attend an event organised by volunteers.
On a personal note, the appointment of Manuel Garcia Ochando has enabled SIETAR Europa to gain a new level of quality and the dynamic committees seemed to have successfully focused the varied voluntary contributions into concrete Congress results. Notable hard workers amongst many hard workers include; Pari Namazie, Barbara Covarrubias Venegas and Joe Kearns.
Praise and thanks go to Dr. Livi Thompson for the unenviable task of “herding cats” and bringing together the opinions and ideas of more than 50 volunteers.
The sad feeling of leaving Valencia and the SIETAR family was softened by meeting so many delegates at the airport and sharing a plane back to London in the company of Richard Lewis – that man is never dull!
There are calls for a different SIETAR Europa event to occur before the Congress in Dublin May 2017. Let us see what emerges…