Good Practices

Leonardo Da Vinci Partnership: InCoso- Intercultural Competence for employees in the social field

Recommendations for intercultural competence training

In this chapter we describe in general the recommandations for good practices in Intercultural Competence trainings. Under the heading pilotprojects (see dropout Belgium) you can find more specific examples of an intercultural training. Our learners created this concrete examples of intercultural training, and they made try outs in their groups.


In Europe, as in other regions of the world, awareness is growing of the potential for conflict – as well as the opportunities for gain – inherent in cultural diversity as experienced in both professional and private settings. The ethnic, cultural and religious heterogenity of our society is increasing with the pluralisation triggered by globalisation, and with it also the contact between people from different value systems. It is therefore foreseeable that in the coming years the constructive handling of cultural diversity and different value systems on an interpersonal level will not only form part of the key skills of managers of transnational companies, but will develop into a general educational goal of everyone’s personal development. It will also likely become a success factor in achieving a productive experience of cultural diversity. Intercultural Training should become an integral part of the curriculum both in schools as well as in adult education.

In the EU project “InCoso – Intercultural Competence for employees in the social field”, recommendations for the successful intercultural training of employees in the social domain were developed within the framework of a two-year cooperation project, together with institutions for education and further training in Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Wales and Austria.In this paper you can find the recommandations from the Belgium partner CVO –Sociale School –Heverlee.

What is Intercultural Competence?

As a starting point, it is important to define what cultural competence in social care is, since it is toward this goal that training will be directed.

Cultural competence refers to the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.
Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency or among professionals and enable the system, agency, or professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
Operationally defined, cultural competence is the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes. Competence in cross-cultural functioning means learning new patterns of behavior and effectively applying them in appropriate settings.
Objectives of Intercultural Training
There is no universal enumeration to find the current list of all the components that make up intercultural competence. Regarding to intercultural competence, we opted for social workers to work with the 'NASW standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice. The advantage of this standards: these standards intend to move the discussion of cultural competence within social work practice toward the development of clearer guidelines, goals, and objectives for the future of social work practice.


Standard 1.

Ethics and Values

Social workers shall function in accordance with the values, ethics, and standards of the profession, recognizing how personal and professional values may conflict with or accommodate the needs of diverse clients.


A major characteristic of a profession is its ability to establish ethical standards to help professionals identify ethical issues in practice and to guide them in determining what is ethically acceptable and unacceptable behavior (Reamer, 1998). Social workers clearly have an ethical responsibility to be culturally competent practitioners.
Culture and ethnicity may influence how individuals cope with problems and interact with each other. What is behaviorally appropriate in one culture may seem abnormal in another. Accepted practice in one culture may be prohibited in another. To fully understand and appreciate these differences, social workers must be familiar with varying cultural traditions and norms. Clients’ cultural background may affect their help-seeking behaviors as well. The ways in which social services are planned and implemented need to be culturally sensitive to be culturally effective. Cultural competence build on the profession's valued stance on self-determination and individual dignity and worth, adding inclusion, tolerance, and respect for diversity in all its forms.
It requires social workers to struggle with ethical dilemmas arising from value conflicts or special needs of diverse clients such as helping clients enroll in mandated training or mental health services that are culturally insensitive. Cultural competence requires social workers to recognize the strengths that exist in all cultures. This does not imply a universal nor automatic acceptance of all practices of all cultures. For example, some cultures subjugate women, oppress persons based on sexual orientation, and value the use of corporal punishment and the death penalty.

Standard 2.


Social workers shall develop an understanding of their own personal and cultural values and beliefs as a first step in appreciating the importance of multicultural identities in the lives of people.


Cultural competence requires social workers to examine their own cultural backgrounds and identities to increase awareness of personal assumptions, values, and biases. The workers' self-awareness of their own cultural identities is as fundamental to practice as the informed assumptions about clients' cultural backgrounds and experiences in the guestcountry. This awareness of personal values, beliefs, and biases inform their practice and influence relationships with clients. Cultural competence includes knowing and acknowledging how fears, ignorance, and the "isms" (racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, ageism, classism) have influenced their attitudes, beliefs, and feelings.
Social workers need to be able to move from being culturally aware of their own heritage to becoming culturally aware of the heritage of others. They can value and celebrate differences in others rather than maintain an ethnocentric stance and can demonstrate comfort with differences between themselves and others. They have an awareness of personal and professional limitations that may warrant the referral of a client to another social worker or agency that can best meet the clients' needs. Self-awareness also helps in understanding the process of cultural identity formation and helps guard against stereotyping. As one develops the diversity within one’s own group, one can be more open to the diversity within other groups.
Cultural competence also requires social workers to appreciate how workers need to move from cultural awareness to cultural sensitivity before achieving cultural competence, and to evaluate growth and development throughout these different levels of cultural competence in practice.

Standard 3.

Cross-Cultural Knowledge

Social workers shall have and continue to develop specialized knowledge and understanding about the history, traditions, values, family systems, and artistic expressions of major client groups served.


Cultural competence is not static and requires frequent relearning and unlearning about diversity. Social workers need to take every opportunity to expand their cultural knowledge and expertise by expanding their understanding of the following areas: "the impact of culture on behavior, attitudes, and values; the help-seeking behaviors of diverse client groups; the role of language, speech patterns, and communication styles of various client groups in the communities served; the impact of social service policies on various client groups; the resources (agencies, people, informal helping networks, and research) that can be used on behalf of diverse client groups; the ways that professional values may conflict with or accommodate the needs of diverse client groups; and the power relationships in the community, agencies, or institutions and their impact on diverse client groups" (Gallegos, pp. 7-–8).
Social workers need to possess specific knowledge about the particular providers and client groups they work with, including the range of historical experiences, resettlement patterns, individual and group oppression, adjustment styles, socioeconomic backgrounds, life processes, learning styles, cognitive skills, worldviews and specific cultural customs and practices, their definition of and beliefs about the causation of wellness and illness, or normality and abnormality, and how care and services should be delivered. They also must seek specialized knowledge about social, cultural, and political systems, how they operate, and how they serve or fail to serve specific client groups. This includes knowledge of institutional, class, culture, and language barriers that prevent diverse client group members from using services.
Cultural competence requires explicit knowledge of traditional theories and principles concerning such areas as human behavior, life cycle development, problem-solving skills, prevention, and rehabilitation. Social workers need the critical skill of asking the right questions, being comfortable with discussing cultural differences, and asking clients about what works for them and what is comfortable for them in these discussions. Furthermore, culturally competent social workers need to know the limitations and strengths of current theories, processes and practice models, and which have specific applicability and relevance to the service needs of culturally diverse client groups.

Standard 4.

Cross-Cultural Skills

Social workers shall use appropriate methodological approaches, skills, and techniques that reflect the workers' understanding of the role of culture in the helping process.


The personal attributes of a culturally competent social worker include qualities that reflect genuineness, empathy, and warmth; the capacity to respond flexibly to a range of possible solutions; an acceptance of and openness to differences among people; a willingness to learn to work with clients of different backgrounds; an articulation and clarification of stereotypes and biases and how these may accommodate or conflict with the needs of diverse client groups; and personal commitment to alleviate racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and poverty. These attributes are important to the direct practitioner and to the agency administrator.
More specifically, social workers should have the skills to
work with a wide range of people who are culturally different or similar to themselves, and establish avenues for learning about the cultures of these clients
assess the meaning of culture for individual clients and client groups, encourage open discussion of differences, and respond to culturally biased cues
master interviewing techniques that reflect an understanding of the role of language in the client’s culture
conduct a comprehensive assessment of client systems in which cultural norms and behaviors are evaluated as strengths and differentiated from problematic or symptomatic behaviors
integrate the information gained from a culturally competent assessment into culturally appropriate intervention plans and involve clients and respect their choices in developing goals for service
select and develop appropriate methods, skills, and techniques that are attuned to their clients' cultural, bicultural, or marginal experiences in their environments
generate a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal communication skills in response to direct and indirect communication styles of diverse clients
understand the interaction of the cultural systems of the social worker, the client, the particular agency setting, and the broader immediate community
effectively use the clients' natural support system in resolving problems—for example, folk healers, storefronts, religious and spiritual leaders, families of creation, and other community resources
demonstrate advocacy and empowerment skills in work with clients, recognizing and combating the "isms", stereotypes, and myths held by individuals and institutions
identify service delivery systems or models that are appropriate to the targeted client population and make appropriate referrals when indicated
consult with supervisors and colleagues for feedback and monitoring of performance and identify features of their own professional style that impede or enhance their culturally competent practice
evaluate the validity and applicability of new techniques, research, and knowledge for work with diverse client groups.

Standard 5.

Service Delivery

Social workers shall be knowledgeable about and skillful in the use of services available in the community and broader society and be able to make appropriate referrals for their diverse clients.


Agencies and professional social work organizations need to promote cultural competence by supporting the evaluation of culturally competent service delivery models and setting standards for cultural competence within these settings. Culturally competent social workers need to be aware of and vigilant about the dynamics that result from cultural differences and similarities between workers and clients. This includes monitoring cultural competence among social workers (agency evaluations, supervision, in-service training, and feedback from clients).
Social workers need to detect and prevent exclusion of diverse clients from service opportunities and seek to create opportunities for clients, matching their needs with culturally competent service delivery systems or adapting services to better meet the culturally unique needs of clients. Furthermore, they need to foster policies and procedures that help ensure access to care that accommodates varying cultural beliefs.
For direct practitioners, policymakers, or administrators, this specifically involves
actively recruiting multiethnic staff and including cultural competence requirements in job descriptions and performance and promotion measures
reviewing the current and emergent demographic trends for the geographic area served by the agency to determine service needs for the provision of interpretation and translation services
creating service delivery systems or models that are more appropriate to the targeted client populations or advocating for the creation of such services
including participation by clients as major stakeholders in the development of service delivery systems
ensuring that program decor and design is reflective of the cultural heritage of clients and families using the service
attending to social issues (for example, housing, education, police, and social justice) that concern clients of diverse backgrounds
not accepting staff remarks that insult or demean clients and their culture
supporting the inclusion of cultural competence standards in accreditation bodies and organizational policies as well as in licensing and certification examinations
developing staffing plans that reflect the organization and the targeted client population (for example, hiring, position descriptions, performance evaluations, training)
developing performance measures to assess culturally competent practice
including participation of client groups in the development of research and treatment protocols.

Standard 6.

Empowerment and Advocacy

Social workers shall be aware of the effect of social policies and programs on diverse client populations, advocating for and with clients whenever appropriate.


Culturally competent social workers are keenly aware of the deleterious effects of racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism or homophobia, anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, classism, and xenophobia on clients' lives and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse clients and communities.
As first defined by Solomon (1976), empowerment involves facilitating the clients' connection with their own power and, in turn, being empowered by the very act of reaching across cultural barriers. Empowerment refers to the person’s ability to do for themselves while advocacy implies doing for the client. Even in the act of advocacy, social workers must be careful not to impose their values on clients and must seek to understand what clients mean by advocacy. Respectful collaboration needs to take place to promote mutually agreed-on goals for change.

Standard 7.

Diverse Workforce

Social workers shall support and advocate for recruitment, admissions and hiring, and retention efforts in social work programs and agencies that ensure diversity within the profession.


Increasing cultural competence within the profession requires demonstrated efforts to recruit and retain a diverse cadre of social workers, many of whom would bring some "indigenous" cultural competence to the profession as well as demonstrated efforts to increase avenues for the acquisition of culturally competent skills by all social workers. Diversity should be represented at all levels of the organization, and not just among direct practitioners.

Standard 8.

Professional Education

Social workers shall advocate for and participate in educational and training programs that help advance cultural competence within the profession.


Cultural competence is a vital link between the theoretical and practice knowledge base that defines social work expertise. Social work is a practice-oriented profession, and social work education and training need to keep up with and stay ahead of changes in professional practice, which includes the changing needs of diverse client populations. Diversity needs to be addressed in social work curricula and needs to be viewed as central to faculty and staff appointments and research agendas.
The social work profession should be encouraged to take steps to ensure cultural competence as an integral part of social work education, training and practice, and to increase research and scholarship on culturally competent practice among social work professionals. This includes undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs in social work as well as post-master’s training, continuing education, and meetings of the profession. Social agencies should be encouraged to provide culturally competent in-service training and opportunities for continuing education for agency-based workers.

Standard 9.

Language Diversity

Social workers shall seek to provide and advocate for the provision of information, referrals, and services in the language appropriate to the client, which may include the use of interpreters.


Social workers should accept the individual person in his or her totality and ensure access to needed services. Language is a source and an extension of personal identity and culture and therefore, is one way individuals interact with others in their families and communities and across different cultural groups. Individuals and groups have a right to use their language in their individual and communal life.
It is the responsibility of social services agencies and social workers to provide clients services in the language of their choice or to seek the assistance of qualified language interpreters.

Standard 10.

Cross-Cultural Leadership
Social workers shall be able to communicate information about diverse client groups to other professionals.


Social work is the appropriate profession to take a leadership role not only in disseminating knowledge about diverse client groups, but also in actively advocating for fair and equitable treatment of all clients served. Social workers should come forth to assume leadership in empowering diverse client populations, to share information about diverse populations to the general public, and to advocate for their clients’ concerns at interpersonal and institutional levels, locally, nationally, and internationally.

The learning process of intercultural skills

The increase of the level of sensitivity in dealing with diversity through a number of steps:

Step 1: Curiosity
The experience of intercultural learning is one of constant change, after all it is process-oriented and does not develop so much in evolutionary stages but more in terms of different individual strategies to deal and cope with cultural difference. In this process, one has to accept that there will not always be an and one answer, or the right answer, and one needs to be open to remain in constant search and to welcome change. Curiosity is important and new perceptions (creativity) are required. Be prepared to:
Questioning assumptions, ideas and stereotypes.
Break away from old beliefs, traditions and ideas. After all, no learning process is free of ruptures, farewells, discoveries and transformation.

Examine the self: everyone is challenged to feel,to think, to be surprised.

Step 2: Extending knowledge and insight
Knowledge and insight is important: what are the facts? How expire group processes? How does people develop their knowledge and insights about cultural values. The more knowledge and insights the better one will see what is happening.
Gathering knowledge and information about cultures is often the first step towards acceptance of the other. The description of typical features of a culture, can give knowledge and insight about what the society expects of a member of the culture, but the risk is that stereotypes and generalisations are omnivalent. More important ist the way in which a trainee deals with the situation, and handling with persons or problems.

Step 3: Self awareness
The departure point for intercultural learning is the own culture, which means also the own personal background and experience. It is in them that one will encounter both the opportunities and the obstacles of this learning process. We all have a personal reality that has shaped us, and we will continue to live with that, enriched with new knowledge and experience. Trying to understand the own self, the own identity, is a prerequisite to encounter others and to engage the own self and identity in meaningful exchange.
It is important to take a close look up on the self and the own experience of diversity..For this and in this way one can recognise the existence of diversity and how to deal with it. This is necessary before starting to work with others: reflection on the own personality ‚ the „being“ in the situation. Being aware means that people can situate everything and able to understand the meaning of it.

Step 4: Development of competences (knowledge insights and tools)
Curiosity, understanding and awareness are starting points to learn how one can take action, how a person can handle. An important skill in dealing with diversity, for example is to stimulate communication about similarities and differences. This also includes to discuss the feelings associated with this. Learn how to deal with the feelings of others starts with recognition and the courage to express the own feelings. In order to make this skills effective one need certain personal characteristics such as openness, respect,the ability to be empathic and creative. Some people have more skills (tools) in this area, but everyone can strengthen these properties by exercise.

These steps aren’t always lineair in time. Sometimes they arise at the same time, sometimes people are focused to only one step. It depends on the situation which step is on the spot: sometimes the personal curiosity starts the process, sometimes another experience… All steps are important, and it makes little sense to learn specific skills if you don’t make any reflections as described.

Some important things to consider when planning incultural competence training and education for social workers

At the beginning of a programme that tries to develop intercultural training tools, we have to know that there isn’t only one method that leads to succes. Although there are some important topics and tips to consider, so we will ask to the reader to give attention to some aspects that determinate the training and what we take into account by the planning of activities.

Becoming interculturally Competent is a Developmental Process

No one becomes interculturally competent overnight or with one or two hours of training. As in any field that emphasizes competence, certain attitudes need to be learned, skills transmitted and knowledge absorbed. Additionally, the learners/trainees need to understand the rationale behind the elements of the training: Why do they need to know these things? How will knowing them be useful in their work? How will they know to use this rationale in their work? Is the information they are acquiring evidence-based, and are the skills known to be effective?

Intercultural learning processes are never ending stories.

Values, standards, customs are continuous changing . Every day people are confronted with changebility and diversity and alternatives voor thinking, performing and give meaning to their reality. People learn continuous to handle the differcences and equalities and they always attempt to give meaning to situations. Therefore intercultural learning processes couldn’t have a fixed starting- or end point, but they work in loop learning processes who grow open like a spiral in further knowledge, emancipation and significance.

Approaching intercultural learning: a question of attitude

Intercultural learning aims are very deep processes and changes of attitudes and behavioural patterns. Most of the time it implies dealing with the invisible forces of culture, those beneath the surface. It is a process of discovery that includes personal engagement and questioning from both sides. It implies risks and tensions, but also opportunities and solutions. It is a question of striking the right balance between challenging ourselves to move further away from our assumptions and respecting our differences as equal elements of the reality.

A positive learning - environment

Intercultural competence training involves attitude changes and the examining of personal biases and stereotypes as an initial step to acquiring the skills and competencies necessary for quality cross-cultural social work. This requires careful guidance and skillful group facilitation.

Therefore training has to create a positive learning environment, should be also to appeal emotions and is based on something ,especially that what can motivate and attract the learning person.

If we work with groups ,we must always remember to find the balance between our objectives with regard to intercultural education on the one hand, and the development of the group on the other hand. One of the most important tasks of the companion, trainer, is to strengthen and promote a good atmosphere between the members of the group, and, as far as possible, encourage and stimulate their own creativity and ambitions. This will be increase the feeling that their work is valuable and productive, and that it leads to good and interesting experiences and decisions.

Confidence and Respect

Building up confidence is important in order to achieve the openness necessary for a mutual learning process. One should feel comfortable to:
Share different points of view.
Share different feelings and perceptions, to arrive at acceptance and understanding. It requires a lot of patience and sensitivity in order to create a learning atmosphere which enables us to listen to each others opinions and feelings as equal and to promote selfconfidence and mutual trust. In this sense, it is necessary to:
Give the opportunity, the scope for everyone to express themself.
Value all experiences, talents and contributions.
Discuss their needs and expectations openly.
Intercultural learning needs to be done on a voluntary basis. Many people are resistant to change because of the anxiety to loose the own identity an support of the own group. Through this psychological barrier intercultural learning is mostly done by people who are already have an open mind and interest for others.(Amorim 2001)

Reality as a Construction

There are many ways to read and discern reality. In a process of intercultural learning one becomes acutely aware of the way everyone constructs their own world. Even such basic dimensions such as time and space can be perceived in a dramatically different way from culture to culture. But still, we all live in one world and that affects our lives and relations with others. Your learning process should be guided by the following principles:
Respect for personal freedom and decisions.
Acceptance of other views as equal in value.
Seeking reconciliation of different points of view.
Being conscious of your personal responsibility in the process (engagement).(Amorim 2001)

The differences in perception will persist but one can use them in a constructive way. The challenge is to operate within different worldviews. Can a person try to picture themself as not belonging to any culture and thus being able to mediate between different cultures as an outsider?
It is a challenge but maybe an interesting exercise to trythe following: just imagine all the different cultural questions and responses that will be able to use in this case.

In Dialogue with the “Other”

Intercultural learning should be understood as a process towards the “other”. In this case the “other” is at the heart of understanding. It starts with dialogue and yet it goes a step beyond. It is a process that challenges a person to perceive himself and the “other” as different but nevertheless complementary. Intercultural learning opens up the possibility to identify yourself with the perspective of the “other” without pretending to live what the “other” lives. It can enable you to experience real solidarity and stimulate real co-operation to happen.

It is important to dare to make a constructive dialogue, to be present to dialogue,to appeal each other on values and standards. This should be practised without arrogance but with arguments. It requires from all the participants the tool to accept critics, and also that basic values and principles are open: that means: there is the ability to discuss this values and principles . . It is important to take the other seriously, especially that we have the courage to dare to be accountable. Perhaps , the other desires final more this form of respect, than a confirmation of his own securities.(Amorim 2001)

The Potential of Conflict

In the drawing up of the supply must be kept in mind that bringing together different cultural groups,is certainly multicultural, but that it does not guarantee interculturality. Condition is that the present groups on an equally based manner interact with each other and that they can work together to formulate solutions for certain problems.

If we take into account the diversity of perceptions different cultures have of time, space, social and personal relations, etc. it appears evident that conflict is sometimes at the heart of intercultural learning. Not every conflict has necessarily a solution but it certainly needs to be expressed. An environment that creates the conditions for self-confidence and mutual trust should also be an environment where people feel comfortable about expressing their:
frustrations and,
hurt feelings.
The various expressions of identity and the effort to valorise differences are both challenging aspects of this process. Diversity can be experienced as helpful and enriching, towards new relational forms and solutions, consequently, you can try to unlock the constructive elements and opportunities of conflicts.(Amorim 2001)

It could be that during the activity, conflicts arise. That is normal and expected;
We are asking people to examinate very difficult and challenging issues, so encourage them to express their own ideas and critical thinking. This is a part of the intercultural training process, but it is never easy, and it can be give a huge amount of stress. Situations who could lead to conflicts who disrupt the learning process should be avoided if possible. It is important that the guide takes attention to everyone, especially for all the painful emotions that through a sort of acitivity or through a specific role-playing game can arise.

Ensure yourself that no one is under pressure to say more about himself than he or she wishes, or to open up in a way that is not good. Give participants time to warm up for each activity, at the beginning to step in the role, and at the end to step out the role.Take also enough time for a report and evaluation round.

Be prepared for conflicts between participants because they are working on issues related to their own emotions, experiences and values.
No panic please! It is inevitable that people become emotionally involved. A conflict is not necesarely negative, on the condition that you keep the situation under control.Here are some tips about how to resolve conflicts in a positive way without to strengthen the existing tensions or to cause paralysis of the work.
Take enough time for the information and evaluation round. If necessary, take even more time than anticipated.
Help people their positions,benefits,views to clarify, so that the tensions in the group decreases. E.g. ask everone to sit down for a moment, or to talk 3 minutes in a small group, say something that will bring the situation in the right perspective, and so on…
Encourage everyone to listen actively to each other. Emphasize what people binds together, don’t stress separation.Search for a consensus. Ask people to find their common interests, instead of trying to reach a compromise so that they are urged to leave their initial positions.
Search for solutions to the problem without creating the conflict again.
Announce that the guide always will talk another moment in a face to face contact , if necessary.
If there are more serious and deeper conflicts arise which create tension and which paralyse the work of the group to a standstill, it might be better to postpone the solution, and to search for a suitable opportunity to resolve the problem. This would be both necessary and beneficial. If you postpone the solution, you get time for the involved people to think about the situation and to bring new approaches or solutions . Make time to think about the situation and about new approaches and solutions. However, it must be pointed out that the conflict will never been ignored, hidden or rejected. To ignore the conflict is useless and often leads to the most negative attitude opposite the conflict.

Evaluation or(and) reflection

We do not often think critical about our experience, but we are only aware of what we feel as good or bad in relation to what is happened. Evaluation and reflection are, however, essential parts in the learning process, and we recommend that you give at the end of each activity with your group attention to what they have learned and how it is related to their own lives, their communities and the wider world.

We encourage the trainer to review the process with the participants via the following questions:
• What happened during the activity and what were the trainees feelings bij the activity?
• What they have learned about themselves?
• What have they learned about the subjects discussed in the activity, and how can you use what you learned?

A group reflection does not need to be a discussion. The trainer can also use other techniques such as body language, drawings, sculpturing, and so on.

We also recommend after each session to reflect on what is happened.

Optionally, notes on:
How was the activity from the point of view of the trainer: preparation, the achievement of goals, and so on.
What participants learned.
What the results are, what the participants will do now as a result of the activity?

Structuring a Cultural Competence Training Program

Not so much the factual differences en similarities form the basis of intercultural learning processes. More important is that different points of view are present , that there is interaction and dynamic shifting significances in different contexts.
Therefore one can not give an intercultural training in the form of an instant course,a short training, or one time activities. The succes is more increasing, when it can be organised as an chain, a serie of learning experiences.

Cultural competence is a field in which a very small training effort can be a dangerous thing, since training programs often raise questions and issues that require time to discuss and work through. However, there are ways to structure traning so that it produces positive results, satisfy social workers and that the training has the potential for enhancing the quality of the practice for multicultural populations. Each requires that we think in terms of a long-term, developmental approach.

The first step may consist of a carefully structured introductory conference, symposium or workshop that includes knowledgeable speakers, special topic break out groups and opportunities for discussion and interaction around the rationale and general concepts underlying cultural competence in social work. Once the topic has been well introduced, there are numerous waysin which follow-up training can be accomplished. These could include shorter profession-focused workshops for different types of social workers.

Additionally, it has been pointed out that many, though certainly not all, social workers have received little background in the social and behavioral sciences in which the concept of culture and its reflection in attitudes and behavior are studied. Therefore, intercultural competence may not at first blush seem relevant to their practices. Acquiring a receptive attitude toward and understanding the relevance of cultural competence training are critical first steps. Acquiring specific skills, knowledge and understandings necessarily follow.

A complementary approach could be to integrate cultural competence training into a variety of other educational offerings. Cultural competence training modules can be incorporated into staff meetings and brown bag lunches.

When participants go through new experiences who are deviant to trusted patterns, there is a strong learning environment and the chance ,the possibility to find new solutions is increased. When in the confrontation, negotiation arises, they will be learn intercultural. Therefore is a wide observation necessary. That means that the trainer looks to the meanings of present current diversity and that he observes how trainees operate in a particular environment.

Many of the special skills that underlie interculturally competent social work require thoughtful analysis and practice. Assessing the cultural elements in a case study requires careful thought and, hopefully, interactive discussion.

In summary, there are numerous ways that short, effective trainings can be incorporated into professionals busy schedules if attention is paid to the sequencing of trainings and they are not seen as one-time only offerings, but as on-going developmental opportunities that build upon each other.

** Criteria for Selecting a Trainer: Checklist

The coach is just as learning as the learning participants. He is an active player in the learning process. He is a handling person who is able to solve problems and already has a variety of skills and tools. The trainer must be aware of his own assumptions, values, standards and weaknesses. In the interaction with the participants, the trainer has to take account of possible differences and the way in which the reality can be approached. This requires flexibility, reflection , continuous dialogue, interaction skills, and a very great willingness to learn.Therefore the underlying basic attitude of openness and respect must be continue present by the trainer.

Not every behavior –as a possible learning chance – is a prior acceptable and desirable. Experience and views of participants and cliënts need to be accepted critically: it is no option to copy every view.
Trainers must remain as companions. They have their own standare positions, they have to explicite and clarify them best. Trainers must have the opportunity to respond when people e.g. present racist statements. However, participants can not be forced to agree with some of the opinions or positions.

The following is a checklist of characteristics to look for in cultural competence trainers.

You have to find a trainer who:
has long-term experience in training social workers and in working with cultural organizations;
can work with organizations in assessing their specific needs;
hasa broad spectrum and depth enough to be flexible in designing training for specific needs;
understands the practical issues of social work organizations, especially when working with the diverse needs of populations.
has full understanding of the concept of culture and its embodiment in social work concepts and practices;
understands the kinds of knowledge, skills, tools and attitudes that social workers need to be able to successfully interact with diverse groups;
sees cultural competence training and learning as a developmental process and has organized training programmes to reflect this perspective;
has a wide variety of teaching/training approaches and is effective in gaining the confidence of social workers;
is bicultural or has experience in working in multicultural training teams;
has developed an extensive amount of resource materials, tools and methods to support their training;
has experience in living, researching or working within cultural communities;
and understands organizational cultural competence as well as individual cultural competence in social work


There are no clear or effective and ready concepts or instruments for intercultural learning that each organization can apply. This text is trying to show some of the stepping stones which can be used in the practice.
"The ideal and the practice are sometimes very different. Also the speed at which people turn into alterations is different and must be taken into account.
It is not because the activities are aware and meaningfully scheduled that the outcome is fixed. The participants could develop positive or negative experiences. Opportunities to negotiate, does not of course and with evidence lead to success. The difference between the cultures or reference points may not be too large

In any case you have to pay attention to thresholds that forms obstacles for people to participate in cultural activities ". (Verstraete, 2005)
Intercultural learning is for the organisations and education workers a learning process and a permanent challenge. And also: "learning to deal with the untrustworthy and strange reality is threatening. That is why there should be no illusions about too rapid changes in knowledge and attitudes "
(Wildemeersch, 1992).
We visited with the Incosopartnership a good practice project in Brussels :de pianofabriek

Cross road : fotoexhibition by the INCOSO partners

Speach by the director of the Social School Heverlee, Belgium:

Dear guests,

I would like to welcome you on behalf of the staff and the learners of our centre for adult education in the social school of Heverlee. Once again, a warm welcome to our European partners who are gathered here today from 6 different countries: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom and Austria.
A special welcome to Mohammed Ridouani, the alderman of education of the city of Louvain.

This evening we festively open our photo exhibition on migration. The exhibition has some very special features. It was organized by the 7 European partner countries that were and are engaged in the so called European INCOSO project and partnership that started in September 2008 and continues until the end of this schoolyear. This INCOSO project was sponsored by the European Leonardo da Vinci Foundation.

Let me first say something about the Leonardo fund and the INCOSIO project, and then tell about the photo exhibition.

The Leonardo Da Vinci programme aims at the specific needs of all persons involved in vocational education and training. The purpose of the Leonardo actions is to help European learners to develop their competences and obtain specific qualifications, and to support and improve vocational training systems and practice. One can do this by installing a partnership or a sort of small-scale cooperation between organizations from different countries. These organizations are brought together around a common vocational training theme.

Our INCOSO project brings together 7 European countries and partners from educational institutions and NGO’s. These 7 partners wanted to strengthen and improve the intercultural aspects in their trainings and programmes; first of all by sharing and evaluating their actual intercultural practices. INCOSO is an acronym. It stands for “INtercultural (IN) COmpetence (CO) for employees in the SOcial (SO) field”: INCOSO.

So the objective of the INCOSO project is to create and implement recommendations for good practices of intercultural competence training in schools and organizations working in the social field. It is a fact that with increasing mobility across Europe, intercultural issues are becoming much more important for workers in the social field. The 7 partners want to raise and strengthen the awareness of the importance of intercultural competences. They also want intercultural competences to become a fix part of educational programmes and trainings

The 7 have been working hard since September 2008. They organized meetings and workshops in Finland, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium, developed a questionnaire, made standards of intercultural competences and a draft list of recommendations. During this process adult learners and students were involved as actively participating partners.

During this cooperation the idea grew to set up a photo exhibition on migration and migration streams in each partner country. Of course, “migration” is a broad term that covers many realities. Migration is a highly complex issue. It is influenced by a lot of factors. It goes far beyond the question of dealing with intercultural issues in an educational setting. But migration certainly makes intercultural differences between people more visible and touchable, thus forcing societies to deal with the question of interculturalism and the constant renewal of their populations.

The exhibition shows us the different faces of migration and of the intercultural debate that is linked with it.
The photos directly of indirectly refer to questions such as
- discussion about the definition itself of a migrant.
For example: the official statistics in Belgium show us that 2/3 of the foreigners in Belgium come from countries of the European Union. There is indeed a lot of temporally or definitive migration within Europe since the borders became more open. At the same time one has to know that these figures do not include asylum seekers, but only people legally residing in Belgium. So asylum seekers or people who remain illegal in Belgium, do not count in the official statistics.

The photos not only illustrate the varied and many migration streams and mobility in Europe, during the last decades. The photos also speak of
- the motivation of people to emigrate (religious, political, economic, fleeing a war, personal reasons)
- the ways to emigrate (by train, car, …)
- the expectations they cherish (a better life, a better job, …)
- the different ways of integrating one way or another in the new country
- the versatility and variegation of their cultures
- the diversity of their practices and habits
- the discussion about their civil rights and duties
- their religion
- the difficulties migrants encounter in everyday life, in finding a house, when shopping and cooking, going to school, finding a job
- the prejudices and negative perceptions, the discrimination
- the identity question, they are confronted with
- their nostalgia, longing for their country of birth or family

The photos thus synthesize the richness and risks of migration. Each particular photo has its own story. Behind each photo lies a whole world of people understanding or misunderstanding each other.

Thus the photos not only give an impression of migration in all its aspects. They also remind us of our own basis human condition, being a migrant or not. It is a fact that migration is of all times and one way or another we all are the children and heirs of migrants.
Above all the photos invites us to set aside one’s own categories and perceptions, allowing the images and pictures to speak for themselves. Thus, they not only show the category of “a migrant”, but they just show people: human beings trying to make the best of their lives, living together with others, feasting together, arguing – laughing - crying, giving birth and dying, doing their job, calling for respect and understanding.

The photos were taken by the adult learners of the 7 European countries, participating at the INCOSO-project; some of the photos were taken from an (literally) original position. They are also presented in a creative and original way.

I would like to congratulate these learners and their partner countries, and thank them for giving us the opportunity to enter into the complex and rich world of migration.

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