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Intercultural Competence – A Key Competence or a Dispensable Feature in a Globalized World?


In today’s globalized world, how much importance should we attach to what is known as "Intercultural Competence"? In the light of a world that has become more and more interconnected, approaching this question has gained in importance for the Bertelsmann Siftung. Western societies that have become more heterogeneous over the years also urge us to concentrate more on obtaining intercultural competences. This need is rooted in the fact that cultural heterogeneity can bring about new opportunities. However, it can also contain potential for new conflicts.

This is why the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Fondazione Cariplo focus on the promotion of intercultural competences. Based on a strategy paper that the Bertelsmann Stiftung drafted with the American researcher Dr. Darla Deardorff in 2006, both foundations designed a thesis paper that discusses central aspects of intercultural dialogue. The idea to write this very thesis paper was born in the course of a workshop that the Bertelsmann Stiftung arranged with experts from the United States and Germany on the 20th of January 2006. The workshop's aim was to discuss Dr. Deardoff's recent research results on the question "What is intercultural competence and how is it possible to convey it?"

We are convinced that acquiring intercultural skills is not only related to the precondition of having a fundamentally positive attitude towards intercultural situations. Additionally, in order to "deal constructively," an individual must be able to interact effectively and reasonably in intercultural situations drawing on unique abilities to act and reflect. The development of intercultural competences is complex, multidimensional and, depending on the cultural situation, it can be highly diversified. This indicates that acquiring intercultural skills is a dynamic as well as continual process of lifelong learning.

You can download the Bertelsmann Stiftung's thesis paper on the right side of this webpage. The paper is currently available for download in English. The discussion paper is meant to fuel a debate and build a foundation for further project development on cultural dialogue and the challenges of a global education.

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