What is a global mind-set, and how do we cultivate this in young people who, like adults, gravitate towards the familiar?
Gupta and Govindarajan describe a global mind-set as an awareness and openness to diversity combined with a tendency and ability to integrate new knowledge and experiences across cultures. I like to think of a global mind-set in terms of the doors it opens. A global mind-set allows for healthy encounters with others representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. And a global mind-set allows these encounters to penetrate our experience in a way that encourages us to expand the way we think and act, combining old and new ways of going about the world.
For young people (or anyone, for that matter) to develop a global mind-set, they need the opportunity to wrestle with and challenge their own cultural understanding. Along the path to that understanding, they acquire or hone the ability to empathize, suspend judgment, and either accept or adapt to cultural difference. Empathy, suspension of judgment, and acceptance/adaptability are keys to developing a global mind-set. But developing these abilities in a homogeneous environment is challenging.
In the business world, an international assignment is argued to be best way for people to develop the skills to be an effective global leader. For young people, a culturally immersive experience may be the best way to develop a global mind-set. Providing them the experience of working with others of varying backgrounds is essential to digging deep enough into their own cultural understanding to be able to develop the empathy, suspension of judgment, and acceptance/adaptability requisite to a global mind-set.
In the Urban Youth Development Office (Urban 4-H), we developed a program model and curriculum called WeConnect: An Opening to the World (Skuza, Russo,& Hurtado, 2009) designed to help show youth that they are participants of a global society, inspiring a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people. And using this philosophical base, we provide cross-cultural integration points for the youth in our programs, through experiences such as a leadership retreat, campus visit, showcase event, and service learning groups involving youth from multiple types of clubs across rural, suburban, and urban areas. These inter-cultural experiences are most successful when we:
- Employ a process that emphasizes habitual reflection and active listening
- Engage youth in authentic conversations about issues they care about
- Tackle any emerging conflicts head-on
- Focus learning on helping young people understand their thinking about cultural difference
- Insist on a youth-centered, community-centered learning environment
- Surround the youth with caring, trained adults who can engage them in conversations about their viewpoints
- Provide experiences that appropriately challenge youth to practice what they are learning about accepting and adapting to cultural difference with grace
We find that with this deliberate approach, we are helping our young people develop a global mind-set. One barrier that we encounter is resistance from families based on prejudicial outlooks that have been cultivated in the young person's home. We use a group mentoring model in some of our programs in order to provide a variety of adult viewpoints, and Extension's research on the role of race and ethnicity in mentor relationships is a helpful resource.
What are other ways that you find effective in developing a global mind-set? What are some challenges?