When Cultures Meet
Updated: Mar 8
Jeanine Wiley, Associate Regional Director, Central Asia
While the pandemic separated people from each other all over the world, in one way it has been bringing people of different cultures together in Kazakhstan through the When Cultures Meet® workshop. While sequestered in COVID lockdown, Ron and I received a phone call from an old college friend who offered to help in any way she could in our developing work in Kazakhstan. An experienced, well-traveled cross-cultural, organizational development consultant and trainer, Dr. Susan Stewart volunteered her services to train us and other trainers in organizational development through When Cultures Meet (WCM).
A year later, in October 2021, we were trained and certified to partner with Susan who then joined us in Kazakhstan as a REI short-term professional to present When Cultures Meet at universities in two different cities to students and faculty alike. In April 2022, we again partnered to present the workshop to more audiences hosted by Kazakh-American Free University in Oskemen, East Kazakhstan. But this time, through focus groups of previous participants, we determined that there was high enough interest among them to be trained to present WCM themselves to audiences across the country.
When Cultures Meet is “an insight-provoking, experiential workshop that helps participants navigate the challenges and maximize the opportunities that occur when two or more cultures interact.” The workshop provides the basis for developing robust, integrated cultures that benefit from each one of an organization’s members.
This past January, Susan joined Ron and I again back in Oskemen where we met with ten professors and university international office administrators from seven universities from all parts of the country, training and certifying them to conduct WCM workshops. Together, we also began developing a plan to translate all of the workshop materials into Kazakh and Russian for use with non-English-speaking audiences.
“I work with students from different cultures,” reported one new trainer. “Now, as a trained person, I think that I will try to help students to see the differences and find other solutions [to their conflicts].” Another shared, “I believe that by conducting trainings in Kazakhstan we, as trainers, can make work environments better places and employees happier, particularly, in university settings.”
In April, Ron and I will be back in Kazakhstan, along with our daughter Anna, who is also a certified trainer in When Cultures Meet, to provide mentoring while the training team members conduct workshops all across the country. We will be traveling around Kazakhstan (the ninth largest country in the world) to help our team of trainers spread a message of more effective collaboration and intercultural understanding in organizations and communities throughout the country. The Kazakhstani trainers will themselves be participating in REI’s vision of building people to build their nation.