Firstly I would like to ask; why have you chosen to work on cultural diversity? What did ignite your desire?
I naturally gravitated towards the field of cultural diversity as a teenager, studying at Harvard University. I was fascinated by the role of folklore in shaping and expressing culture and was in the first class of the university’s new Folklore & Mythology major, with a specialty in cultural anthropology. I didn’t understood then that while born in Brooklyn, I grew up in Bermuda as the only Jewish little girl on the British island and “represented” from childhood. Returning to the States as a young girl meant being a virtual immigrant, a “polyglot”, and a youthful culture clash expert.
My journey into cultural diversity has been a combination of personal enlightenment, academic curiosity, community activism, and just being myself.
I learned that you have organized many multicultural projects and events. Can you please share one of them which made an important impact on society and you? What was the secret for success?
I created the DuPage Interfaith Resource Network (DIRN) in the Chicago area in 1990. It was a nonprofit organization that brought together diverse faith traditions to address culture clashes around the changing demographics and increased religious diversity in the western suburban technical corridor. DIRN’s signature event was an interfaith Thanksgiving event with shared music and chanting. DIRN also tapped the power of women, acquiring grants to establish a women’s network within its interfaith programs. DIRN served as a prototype for all of the multicultural programming that I recreated in the US Southeast decades since its creation including the American Diversity Report, Women’s Council on Diversity, Diversity & Economics think Tank, Youth Multicultural Video Project, and Diversity Thanksgiving.
My emphasis on creating programs that were larger than one person and could outgrow the “founders business model” was deliberate from the beginning of my work. Given my training not only as a cultural anthropologist but as an urban planner, it was vital to me that my projects have a life of their own, an anchor in the community, and, where possible, a national and even global presence beyond their local impact. Documenting that process was a key element of the success in achieving that goal. A newsletter was integral to that success from Day One as was my keynote speaking activity. Given the cutting-edge nature of my work, I had to overcome my introverted shyness and learn public speaking skills very early into my work. And I had to learn to write more than articles for a newsletter. My books have been the ambassadors for my projects and for the approach I’ve developed to cultural diversity over the years. The contacts that I acquired with my hands-on projects have mentored me and pushed me further into the publishing world so that my work has a growing audience.
As a part of your job role, you are working with different cultures as a project leader or intercultural coach. What kind of challenges and opportunities have you discovered to work with different cultures?
A key issue in communicating across cultural boundaries has been to coach different cultural representatives to connect with a broad audience. After 9/11 when the Women’s Council on Diversity was launched, I made sure that each ethnic and religious group that was associated with the Council was able to participate in public education programs. However, the skill set needed to be a panel speaker an combine information and presentation with others effectively had to be developed. I found myself in the position of being a coach for public speaking. The materials that I developed for training others, some of whom had never addressed an audience in their lives, became popular hand outs in workshops and seminars. The training sessions became a portal not only to cultural diversity expertise but also to global leadership development.
The years of field testing the training illustrated the need for a simplified, combined approach to cross-cultural communication, conflict management, and problem solving. These materials are embedded in my Train-the-Trainer textbook, Matrix Model Management System: Guide to Cross Cultural Wisdom, and the accompanying workbook. I have discovered that the basic methodology outlined in the textbook is applicable to a wide range or cultural diversity specifics including gender, generational, religious, and regional differences. The opportunities to write and coach on cultural diversity has therefore become virtually infinite.
What would your suggestions to individuals to increase awareness and impact of diversity and cross-cultural interaction in their societies?
Consider that the windows into a culture are many and that we can learn more about a culture by looking into those windows than we realize. My favorite windows for both beginners and long-time students of culture are the Arts. Music & Movement, Prints & Photography, Art & Architecture, Poetry & Plays, Culinary & Crafts skills are good places to explore culture and to create cross-cultural interaction. We enrich ourselves and open doors for others when we learn from the Arts. We form lasting relationships when we use the Arts to build bridges.
The key to success is to follow a progression of steps in your exploration: 1.) appreciate the cultural expressions 2.) be aware of the extent of culture diversity, 3.) be competent in understanding cultural differences, 4.) be strategic in forming new projects. Good intentions lead to good planning both short and long term when you plan a mission and goals in advance.
Thanks a lot Deborah.
Deborah is an award-winning author, trainer, and inspirational speaker. Her lifetime passion for crosscultural work began with a childhood as one of few Jewish families in the British colony of Bermuda and grew with her insertion into the New York City area in grade school. As a teenage activist, she joined her first civil rights picket line in 1965, was an early volunteer with SNCC, and joined the first Women’s Liberation March in NYC circa 1970. With degrees in cultural anthropology and urban planning, Deborah spent decades developing cultural programming. Having served as an executive for Jewish advocacy organizations across the USA, Deborah is now headquartered in Tennessee and consults on projects that broaden the Southern - Global Connection
Deborah specializes in...
GOING GLOBAL: Deborah's copyrighted textbook & workbook, Matrix Model Management System: Guide to Cross Cultural Wisdom are the product of more than a decade of field testing her storytelling methodology. Her handbook, Inspire Your Inner Global Leader, is a thought-provoking set of True Stories for New Leader that blend current leadership challenges with historic events such her father’s role in liberating a work camp in Nazi Germany.As a Global Leadership Trainer, Deborah provides cross-cultural workshops and coaching for several consulting companies working in the US Southeast with clients such as Volkswagen Chattanooga,International Paper, Nissan, and Kimberly Clark. She was recently appointed to the Tennessee Advisory Committee of the US Global Leadership Coalition in part due to her development of a global leadership class for Chattanooga and its teenage version for area youth. As a Keynote Speaker, Deborah shares her expertise and passion with civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, and nonprofits ranging from community development groups to arts coalitions, women's networks, and healthcare agencies. She is a frequent speaker at conferences on preparing for a culturally diverse future at universities, corporations, and international organizations. A former media liaison for Jewish Federations, Deborah is a resource for television, radio, and print media.
GOING DIVERSE: As a Diversity Trainer, Deborah's clients have included government agencies from the federal to the municipal level, refugee service organizations, and healthcare institutions. Deborah received the 2013 Champion of Diversity Award from diversitybusiness.com. As Founder/Editor of American Diversity Report, she gives diverse writers the opportunity to bring new perspectives to the field of Diversity & Inclusion. Her own writing about cultural diversity spans decades of published articles appearing in The American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, The Bermudian Magazine and The Bermuda Journal of Maritime Archaeology. As a Religious Diversity Expert, Deborah has received national recognition for her writing and her hands-on projects. She earned a National Catholic Press Association Award and is a Blogger with The
Huffington Post. Her articles in The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, The Journal of Ecumenical Studies and The Christian Century are based on assignments with the American Jewish Committee, National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and on her creation of the Women’s Council on Diversity and DuPage Interfaith Resource Network (A cutting-edge model included in Harvard’s American Pluralism Project and captured in her book, Religious Diversity in our Schools.)
GOING SOUTHERN: Deborah's latest book combines history, humor, and storytelling for New
Southerners: expats & US transplants. In Going Southern: The No-Mess Guide to Success in the South.She shares her acculturation work and her personal journey relocating to the South almost 20 years ago. As a regional Civic Leader, Deborah has won awards from TN Economic Task Force on Women and Girls Inc,/Chattanooga. Her community work includes: community correspondent for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, diversity trainer for the East Ridge TN Leadership Class, board member for numerous nonprofit and professional organizations, and membership on Volkswagen’s Diversity Council.