Intercultural Services: A Worldwide Buyer's Guide and Sourcebook
by Gary Wederspahn (Staff: Ecuador1967-73, Guatemala 197376 , Country Director Guatemala and Costa Rica 1973-78)
Gulf Publishing Company, $37.95
Reviewed by Laurette Bennhold-Samaan (Staff: PC/W 1995 present)
BUSINESS GLOBALIZATION AND cultural diversity in the workplace have created both significant challenges and opportunities for many organizations. And, the range of services, programs, products, materials, and tools that are available to support both the private and public sector to deal with these changes can be overwhelming. Intercultural Services: A Worldwide Buyer's Guide and Sourcebook by Gary Wederspahn helps purchasers of intercultural services understand what is available.
The subject matter is sufficiently in-depth to intellectually engage the reader yet simple and straightforward enough to not require previous knowledge in the field. The topics are presented in a logical sequence with the first few chapters discussing the need for intercultural services followed by ones dealing with techniques, tools and resources for meeting the cross-cultural challenges and leveraging opportunities in the international environment.
Topics in the book include: a discussion on trainer ethics; how to interpret marketing materials; how to establish and manage effective relationships with service providers; cautions for evaluating intercultural learning; ways in which culture affects the outcomes of relationships between organizations and the people in them; the new role of the global manager as a driver and facilitator of a company's globalization process; and ensuring successful expatriate assignments.
A unique aspect of the book the end of each chapter includes:
- a set of focus questions to facilitate reflection on the significance and implications of the topics.
- practical recommendations on how to use the content of the chapter.
- lists of references for further self-directed learning and for locating resources.
Without exception, the list of references is the most extensive and comprehensive published in the intercultural field in the last few years. These references found in print, on-line and on CD-ROM enable the reader to explore topics further in non-technical articles and books, links to sources for additional information, and surveys and scholarly works to validate the content of the book. All of the resources Wederspahn lists have been published within the last 10 years. Listed in a bibliography at the end of the book are classic works published prior to 1990.
A few caveats
In the description of the history of the intercultural field, the author inadvertently states that it was not until the establishment of the Peace Corps in 1962 that systematic cross-cultural training was designed. The Peace Corps was established in 1961. In addition, in discussing domestic diversity training, the author claims that it has its roots in the US legal environment. Others would argue that domestic diversity has had its roots in the civil rights movement. I do agree that domestic diversity training has been oriented toward Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action legislation, sexual harassment and racial prejudice.
Convincing argument for intercultural services
In his last chapter, Wederspahn provides the most compelling rationale for using intercultural services from both a business-oriented and humanistic perspective. He outlines numerous concrete examples, research findings and "best practices." Using his 30 years of experience as a purchaser, user, manager, evaluator, designer, provider and seller of intercultural services, his great depth and breadth strengthen the convincing argument for providing intercultural services.
Laurette Bennhold-Samaan is the brilliant first cross-cultural specialist with the Peace Corps, and the co-author with Craig Storti (Moroccoa 1970-72) of Culture Matters: The Peace Corps Cross-Cultural Workshop. Prior to working at the Peace Corps, she served as a Senior Associate for Expatriation and Repatriation Programs for the World Group.