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Stage 1: Preparation


The first stage in our model emphasises the need for thoughtful preparation during that period when a project has been agreed but not yet begun, or has been proposed but not yet formalised. This is a common experience, especially in larger, international projects where basic decisions about funding, project objectives and partners may have been taken at the level of the funding organisation or lead partner but the main participants have not had an opportunity to meet or to agree a detailed plan of action. It is during this phase that all participants need to seek knowledge about their partners, about the possible cultural obstacles to working together and about the attitudes and competences that might help them to overcome those obstacles.


  • Develop a vision – conceptualise the project and articulate objectives
  • Research the context – cultural, institutional and professional
  • Audit intercultural skills and experience – including language skills
  • “Break the ice” -make contact and initiate relationship-building
  • Review channels of communication – including choice of language


Information gathering – identify sources of cultural data
New thinking – foster strong sense of curiosity, openness to new ideas, and willingness to challenge assumptions
Goal orientation – identify local goals that are fixed and not open to negotiation
Language learning invest in learning words and phrases in other languages
Language adjustment – adapt use of language to the proficiency level of the recipient(s) so as to maximise comprehensibility

Active listening – check and clarify rather than assume understanding of others
Stylistic flexibility – build repertoire of means to suit different purposes, contexts and audiences
Communication management – establish communication contacts, choose working language(s)
Welcoming strangersinitiate contact and show interest in people from unfamiliar cultural backgrounds
Sensitivity to context – understand power and role relations and how decisions are made in unfamiliar cultures
Spirit of adventure – be ready to move into unfamiliar environments and deal with ambiguous situations
Acceptance – be positive about goals, approaches and assumptions that are different from one’s own
Flexibilitybe able to ‘flex’ behaviour and judgements in recognition of difference