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Facilitation in a Cross-cultural Environment


Part of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development

Based on an interpretation of the work of Geert Hofstede on international differences in work-related values. This adaptation is specifically designed to respond to differences in religious belief systems as is the case in inter-faith dialogue. See also Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases


Four dimensions are used (which are interrelated by national culture in an accompanying diagram):

    (a) power distance, namely the attitude to human inequality and relationships to superiors and inferuiors in any hierarchy;

    (b) uncertainty avoidance, namely the tolerance for uncertainty which determines choices and rituals to cope with it in social structures and belief systems;

    (c) polarization, namely the extent to which differences such as masculinity or femininity have implications for social organization and the organizations of beliefs;

    (d) individualism, namely the relationship between the individual and the collectivity, especially in the way individuals choose to live and work together.


A. POWER DISTANCE

LOW POWER DISTANCE
Possible religions: Protestant, Hinduism
HIGH POWER DISTANCE
Possible religions: Catholicism, Buddhism

Consequences for processing views within the belief system

  • pluralistic views ("hundred flowers blooming")
  • evolving patterns of views of relatively stable nature
  • weak polarization of schools of thought
  • stress on equal access to information
  • belief systems organized to ensure maximum dissemination
  • specialized producers of insights organized for pragmatic purposes
  • highly ordered beliefs rapidly categorized
  • sudden changes in the manner by which beliefs are ordered
  • highly polarized schools of thought (if such polarization is tolerated)
  • access to information restricted (and determined by right to know)
  • belief systems designed to conserve the advantages of the information rich
  • if specialized producers of insights are permitted to organize their organizations tend to be ideologically based and involved in the politics of information
Consequences for creativity hypothesis formation and paradigm change
  • success of hypotheses stressing equality
  • paradigm implying power equalization
  • non-reductionist theories
  • stability through exchange of insights
  • success of hypotheses stressing stratification
  • paradigm implying power polarization
  • reductionist theories
  • stability through control of beliefs and insights
Consequences for organization of beliefs and viewpoints
  • less centralization
  • flatter category hierarchies and category networks
  • smaller proportion of information gate-keepers
  • smaller differences in satisfaction from exploration of views and beliefs
  • high qualification of lower strata of processors of insights and views
  • more centralization
  • deeper category hierarchies
  • larger proportion of information gate-keepers
  • larger differences in satisfaction from exploration of views and beliefs
  • low qualification of lower strata of processors of insights and views
Implications for facilitation of inter-faith dialogue
  • dress such as to reduce any differences between facilitator and other participants
  • use style of speech which establishes easy communication with participants
  • avoid any stress on titles or other formal modes of address
  • open to processes which ignore social status
  • dress formally such as to maintain an appropriate distance with other participants
  • use style of speech which maintains appropriate formality of relationships with participants
  • remain attentive to formal modes of address practiced within each religious framework
  • reluctant to engage in processes which fail to acknowledge the respective status of each participant

B. UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE

LOW UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE
Possible religions: Taoism, Hinduism, Lutheran
HIGH UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE Possible religions: Catholicism, Judaism, Islam

Consequences for policies of belief systems

  • slower development of belief system
  • weaker boundaries between spiritual disciplines
  • less aggressiveness towards other spiritual disciplines
  • less cohesive bodies of religious knowledge
  • stronger recognition of competence of individual in processing spiritual insights
  • more tolerance of dissenting and "alternative" views
  • ad hoc approach to methodological issues
  • faster development of belief system
  • well-defined boundaries between spiritual disciplines
  • more aggressiveness towards other spiritual disciplines
  • more cohesive bodies of religious knowledge
  • greater dependence on authorities for interpretation of spiritual insights
  • less tolerance of dissenting and "alternative" views
  • more elaborate methodology
Consequences for creativity, hypothesis formation and paradigm change
  • either no general paradigm or more de facto tolerance of alternative views
  • pragmatic or meditative paradigm
  • relativism
  • practical contributions to spiritual knowledge
  • empirical influence on social sciences
  • pragmatic information fashionable
  • paradigm more intolerant of dissenting views
  • activist paradigm
  • absolutism (search for absolutes)
  • theoretical contributions to spiritual knowledge
  • theoretical influence on social sciences
  • theological information fashionable
Consequences for organization of religious and spiritual insights
  • less structuring of religious activities
  • fewer explicit rules
  • more generalists or amateurs
  • variety of approaches to organization of insights
  • managers of belief system more involved in strategy
  • mangers of belief system more flexible in style and willing to make individual and risky decisions
  • high turnover in processors of spiritual insights
  • more ambitious involvement in spiritual insight
  • less power through control of uncertainty
  • less ritual behaviour in relation to spiritual insights
  • more structuring of religious activities
  • more explicit rules
  • larger number of professionals and specialists
  • preference for standardized organization of beliefs according to dogma
  • managers of belief system more involved in detail
  • managers of belief system managers more consistent in style and less willing to make individual and risky decisions
  • lower turnover in processors of spiritual insights
  • less ambitious involvement in spiritual insight
  • more power through control of uncertainty
  • more ritual behaviour in relation to spiritual insights
Consequences for creativity, hypothesis formation and paradigm change
  • collective conversions to a new perspective
  • empathy for the flows and patterns of spiritual insight in the environment
  • emphasis on traditional perspectives, and approaches to religious insight
  • individual conversions to a new perspective
  • individualistic personal reaction to the religious and spiritual context context
  • encouragement of the independent spiritual quest
Consequences for organization of beliefs and viewpoints
  • individuals associated with organization of beliefs primarily for moral reasons
  • individuals expect to be supported permanently within the religious or spiritual discipline environment to which they give their loyalty
  • the organization of the religious community has great influence on the individual's sense of well-being
  • individuals associated with organization of beliefs primarily for opportunistic reasons
  • belief systems not expected to provide permanent support for individuals operating within them
  • the organization of the religious community has only moderate influence on the individual's well-being
Implications for facilitation of inter-faith dialogue
  • facilitation processes with unclear, open-ended outcomes are acceptable
  • participants may be dependent on implicit contextual clues to which the facilitator needs to develop sensitivity
  • facilitation processes should be clearly defined so that participants understand the rationale and what to expect
  • participants may be insensitive to contextual clues normally provided by certain facilitation techniques

C. POLARIZATION
LOW POLARIZATION Possible religions: Protestant, Buddhism HIGH POLARIZATION Possible religions: Catholicism, Judaism, Islam

Consequences for religious dogma

  • emphasis on a polarized perspective is neither socially nor materially rewarded
  • adaptation-oriented educational system
  • greater benevolence toward the disadvantaged
  • preservation of balance of perspectives perceived as of greater importance than the advancement of the most productive perspective
  • small-scale religious initiatives fashionable
  • polarized perspectives presented and developed within the same religious context
  • polarized perspectives can be equally productive
  • less segregation of polarized perspectives within religious contexts
  • successful enhancement of one polarized position at the expense of the other is rewarded
  • performance-oriented education system
  • less benevolence toward the disadvantaged
  • advancement of the most productive perspective perceived as of greater importance than balance of perspectives
  • large-scale religious intiatives fashionable
  • polarized perspectives presented and developed within different religious contexts
  • in the case of polarized perspectives, one is viewed as productive and the other as supportive or decorative
  • in the case of polarized perspectives, some religious contexts only consider one of them admissible
Consequences for creativity, hypothesis formation and paradigm change
  • conceptual innovation accepted as resulting from either pole of a polarized perspective
  • empathy with subtle patterns of thinking and insight
  • recognition of complementary value of opposing perspectives
  • moderated expression of repressed perspectives
  • conceptual innovation normally expected to result from the dominant pole of a polarized perspective
  • empathy with strong and uncompromising spiritual perspectives
  • greater value accorded to the dominant position in a polarized perspective
  • aggressive expression of repressed perspectives
Consequences for organization of beliefs and viewpoints
  • spiritual insights, whether asserted or not, are not necessarily expected to have a significant impact and do not expect to be viewed as inappropriate if they do not
  • the religious community is not expected to interfere with the development of individual spiritual insights
  • in the case of a polarized perspective, both poles are expected to occupy positions of significance in the religious community
  • less conflict between spiritual perspectives
  • the appeal of religious reform is perceived to lie in the increased integration of the range of perspectives so grouped
  • any spiritual insight asserted is expected to have a significant impact on the information contrast or be viewed as inappropriate
  • the interests of the religious community are a legitimate reason for interfering with the development of individual spiritual insights
  • in the case of a polarized perspective, the non-dominant perspective is not expected to occupy many positions of significance in the religious community
  • greater conflict between spiritual perspectives
  • the appeal of religious reform is perceived to lie in the additional opportunities offered for individual spiritual development
Implications for facilitation of inter-faith dialogue
  • participants may be very sensitive to any facilitation messages which appear to discriminate inappropriately between male and female
  • participants will tend to feel free to use a wide range of bodily expressions and to permit physical contact
  • a range of forms of dress will tend to be acceptable
  • facilitators need to be especially sensitive to the respective roles of male and female in any meeting in which they participate together
  • facilitators need to be sensitive to unstated rules concerning precedence, forms of address, body language, and physical contact
  • facilitators need to be sensitive to dress codes

D. INDIVIDUALISM
LOW INDIVIDUALISM
Possible religions: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism
HIGH INDIVIDUALISM
Possible religions: Christianity
Consequences for religious dogma
  • beliefs ordered for religious community
  • stimulus to gneration of spiritual insights in spiritally rich societies
  • unbalanced distributions of spiritual insight
  • unequal benefits in different sectors from cultivation of spiritual insights
  • more restrictions on publicized religious information and the media
  • potentially repressive religious policies
  • organization of those genrating religious insights
  • individuals expect to be protected and defended by the religious community to which they adhere
  • policies and practices based on loyalty and sense of duty to the religious community
  • access to positions of greater power within the religious community dependent upon seniority within that community
  • less concern with fashionable approaches to organization of beliefs
  • policies and practices within the religious community adjusted to the circumstances of the individual
  • beliefs ordered for society at large
  • reduced generation of spiritual insights once a certain threshold of religious belief has been reached
  • balanced distributions of spiritual insight
  • equal benefits in different sectors from cul;tivation of spiritual insights
  • fewer restrictions on publicized religious information and the media
  • dissemination of socially disruptive religious information
  • disorganization of those producing religious insights
  • individuals are not expected to depend on the religious community to protect their interests
  • policies and practices allowing for individual initiative in relation to the religious community
  • access to positions of power within the religious community dependent upon competence and not restricted to those within that community
  • sensitive to fashionable innovations in approaches to the organization of beliefs
  • policies and practices applied without adjustment for special cases
Implications for facilitation of inter-faith dialogue
  • facilitators should be cautious about challenging individuals to express themselves in situations when they are dependent on cues from their peers
  • facilitators should compensate for any tendency of voluble individualists to dominate group communications

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