Mediated Cultural Encounters - a new tool for bringing people together
The origins of Mediated Cultural Encounters
Over the years that Margaret Bornhorst has been designing and delivering cross-cultural training around Australia she has become aware that, for many people, the opportunity to have a real conversation with someone from a different cultural or ethnic background rarely exists. 'I have never in my whole life actually talked to, or got to know, an Aboriginal person'; 'you know, I have never talked to a Muslim'; 'I have to admit, I have never met anyone from Viet Nam'; 'I see all these black Africans in my neighborhood but how can I get to really talk to them?' There is a deep curiosity in many people about 'others' that they don't feel personally empowered to pursue.
In the cross-cultural training room, usually predominately Anglo-Celtic Australians, these opportunites can happen accidentally when an Aboriginal Australian, or Muslim Australian or Vietnamese Australian or an African Australian just happens to be a member of the group of participants. And even then, the personal connections won't happen unless the training process consciously creates the opportunities for people to explore each other's cultures, perceptions, experiences in a safe way. When all the ingredients are right, when the chemistry is right, when the process is right, wonderful things happen.
Having witnessed how enriching this process of connection at a personal level can be, Margaret is experimenting with how to make this happen for a wider range of people. A formal process Margaret calls Mediated Cultural Encounters is the result.
What is a Mediated Cultural Encounter?
A Mediated Cultural Encounter is a planned process whereby people of different cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, mother tongues or religions come together to explore each other's experiences and perceptions under the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable facilitator in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The theme/s for the session can be decided before the session takes place, or can be left up to the group itself to decide at the beginning of the session. The facilitator may, if desired, provide theoretical input from the extensive cross-cultural literature. Margaret Bornhorst has found that providing some theoretical input can be helpful in expanding the frameworks of participants around ethnic and linguistic diversity.
Mediated Cultural Encounters for your community or organisation
Many communities and organisations could benefit from Mediated Cultural Encounters as a fun and enjoyable way to break down barriers and stereotypes. This can be persistent stereotypes between individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, or between whole ethnic communities. Such a process can provide enrichment at the personal, organisational and community level. Experiencing different world-views, perspectives, personal histories, can even unlock unforeseen potential in individuals, organisations and communities.
As a community activity, Mediated Cultural Encounters can be scheduled in neighbourhood and drop-in centres. They can be inserted into community or multicultural festivals.
As an organisational development process, Mediated Cultural Encounters can be run using existing staff and/or invited guests.