The Cross-Cultural Forum
“The Cross-Cultural Forum” is an exciting and stimulating exercise that helps create a
generalized picture of a particular culture without the danger of stereotyping the culture by
one facilitator or one cultural representative.
It provides members of one culture with an opportunity to meet a number of representatives
from another culture in small discussion groups. It will allow participants to informally
exchange information and ideas, create an understanding, and check assumptions through
guided questions and answers on such issues as
the workplace
business communication
hot issues
The Cross-Cultural Forum provides members of one culture with an opportunity to meet and
understand representatives from another culture. It will allow participants to informally
exchange information and ideas and check assumptions through questions and answers on a
number of timely issues:
The Forum consists of three 40-minute sessions and a 15-minute coffee break midway
through so that participants can mingle between the rotations. Each discussion group will
meet with three different guests.
A debriefing session for guests and participants follows the rotation session.
This activity is suitable for any organization in which two distinct cultures must interact.
To demonstrate how this activity works, we will use the example of German and American
interactions. The Germans are the participants and the Americans are the representatives.
This activity is suitable for organizations where two distinct cultures must interact. It is for
groups of any size. To demonstrate this activity, we place it in the United States. A group of
sixteen German visitors are participating in a weeklong cross-cultural program. Throughout
this exercise, we refer to the German members as the participants and the Americans as the
representatives. We have facilitated it with groups as small as 12 people and with groups of
more than 100 people. The challenge with bigger groups is to find enough interested
representatives and extra facilitators to take care of the logistics.
Set aside a half-day for the session. In our example, three discussion groups of four German
participants each will meet with three American representatives in three 40-minute sessions
or rotations. Plan a 15-minute coffee break after the first two rotations. A debriefing session
of about an hour for representatives and participants will follow the final rotation. For best
results, we propose to work with a maximum ratio of five participants to one representative
per discussion group. Assign facilitators to circulate at the beginning of each rotation in order
to troubleshoot.
Letter of invitation to participants (see sample)
Name tags for staff, participants, and representatives
One copy of Handout 1, “Question Preparation Sheet,” for each participant
Handout 2, “Rotation Guide for Participants/Representatives”
Sample Letter 1
Ample space. Generally, you will need to evaluate your space requirements carefully, as
each group will generate a fairly large volume of noise while speaking. Try not to have
more than three groups in one room. Each group should be numbered so that
representatives and participants can easily find their group. There should be enough
distance to afford the groups some privacy and to keep the noise level down. For each
group, place five chairs in a close circle with space to enter or leave the circles. Do not sit
groups around tables, as it will create a communication barrier.

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