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Create intercultural dialogue through mentorship on World Day for Cultural Diversity

Updated: Jun 7

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that intercultural dialogue is “urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.” Through World Day for Cultural Diversity, the UNESCO aims to raise awareness and “forge effective cooperation and sustain peace, strengthening intercultural dialogue must be a priority.”

Most would agree that intercultural exchange has a net positive effect. But when looking at the data about conflict and cultural diversity, we find that intercultural exchange is not a luxury – it’s urgent. 89% of all world conflicts occur in areas with low intercultural dialogue (Source), and 75% of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension (Source).

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 World Day for Cultural Diversity. Since, this day has served as an important reminder for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole about the importances of celebrating diversity and encouraging intercultural exchange.

DEI and Intercultural Exchange

Intercultural exchange as the core of any diversity, equity, and inclusion programs (DEI). DEI – and variations on the acronym like DEIB – represents a set of principles and practices aimed at creating environments where all individuals are respected, valued, and have equal opportunities regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or other characteristics.

Diversity refers to the variety of identities, backgrounds, and perspectives present within a group or organization. Communities and businesses are stronger when they celebrate people regardless of their identity.

Equity involves ensuring fairness and justice in processes, policies, and systems to address historical and systemic inequalities. Though similar to equality, equity is slightly different. While equality refers to equal rights and treatment given to all, equity recognizes that all individuals have unique needs, and may require unique opportunities and resources in order to thrive.

Inclusion entails fostering a culture where every individual feels welcomed, heard, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. Organizations that are inclusive create spaces where employees of diverse backgrounds don’t just feel accepted, but valued and empowered.

Intercultural Exchange Through Mentorship

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that “can best be achieved by drawing upon the creative potential of the world’s diverse cultures and engaging in continuous dialogue to ensure that all members of society benefit from sustainable development” (Source).

One of the most efficient ways to create sustainable development for global intercultural exchange is through networking and mentorship, which can benefit individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.

Kinds of mentorships for intercultural exchange

Mentorship is a unique relationship in which both participants benefit from mutual self-improvement, though the relationship can serve many purposes and take on several different models. Intercultural exchange can and should be a part of any mentorship, when possible, though can also serve as the foundation for mentorship, too.

Vertical Mentorship is a style of relationship in which someone who is older and more experienced mentors someone who is generally less experienced and/or younger. In any kind of vertical mentorship, the older mentor can share their years of industry insights, experiences, and wisdom with their mentee. But in a vertical mentorship focused on intercultural exchange, participants have the opportunity to share how their unique backgrounds and experiences have informed their technical knowledge.

For example, a senior public health administrator who is also a woman of color might not only share generic information to help a more junior leader in the same industry. She also has the opportunity to share experiences about how we can work to make the public health sector more equitable for populations that have had restricted access to health care due to systemic barriers.

Peer Mentorship allows people of more similar ages and experiences to guide each other. Peer mentorships can be especially useful to promote intercultural exchange within organizations. When colleagues deepen their understandings of each other, they not only gain broader perspectives of the world, become better communicators, and work better in teams.

Reverse Mentorship is a relationship model that is often underutilized, but has incredible potential for individuals to expand their own cultural understanding and perspectives. In reverse mentorships, the mentor is generally younger or less experienced than the mentee, though the mentor, because of their particular lived experiences or background, can offer essential insights so that the mentee can have a better understanding of other communities. This kind of mentorship is particularly powerful with leaders who want to overcome implicit biases – which we all have – and to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their businesses.

Group Mentorship has incredible potential for organizations to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion and increase intercultural exchange. In this form of mentorship, one or more mentors works with a group of mentees to help achieve common goals. In these settings, because so many different people come to the table – be it physical or virtual – conversations can tackle big ideas and generate powerful solutions to tackle urgent problems.

Intercultural exchange for individuals

Differences in the global economy, combined with cultural differences, limits opportunities for many individuals both personally and professionally. Mentorship can help provide individuals with the growth they need to overcome particular challenges they face, at no cost. Unlike coaches and instructors, mentors offer guidance, industry insights, and even personal advice at times – for free.

Mentorship can help facilitate career growth, particularly for those who have barriers to access due to limited economic resources, or restrictions to educational opportunities available to them because of restrictive policies where they are located. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, you can be denied formal education because of your gender, religion, or race. Mentorship, however, can help provide critical, life-long opportunities through knowledge transfer, skill development, networking, and leadership development.

Intercultural exchange for organizations

DEI initiatives are essential for driving innovation, productivity, and success, while also promoting a just and equitable society. Companies, educational institutions, and organizations are adopting DEI strategies to cultivate diversity, foster inclusive cultures, and advance community equity.

Today, including DEI goals as part of your business plan is essential. In fact, 73% of U.S. employers have diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace ( Source). Yet, the majority of mentorship programs do not adequately serve employees from marginalized communities ( Source).

DEI is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage for organizations in today's diverse and interconnected world. By cultivating diverse talent, fostering inclusive cultures, and advancing equity, organizations can drive innovation, attract and retain top talent, better understand their customers, mitigate risks, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

Here are some other benefits to fostering intercultural exchange and diversity, equity, and inclusion through mentorship.

  • Increase profitability

  • Drive innovation 

  • Attract and retain top talent

  • Improve reputation

  • Mitigate risk

  • Improve workplace culture

  • Improve employee performance

  • Gain customer understanding 

  • Legal Compliance

  • Ethical Responsibility

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Requirements

  • Affirmative Action Requirements

Join the global community at Upnotch™

Upnotch™ is a free mentorship platform created to make mentorship accessible to everyone. 

Traditionally, mentorship has been difficult to access for certain communities. For example, only 16% of women receive sponsorship/mentorship they need, compared to 23% of men, and only 22% of women receive useful feedback compared to 31% of men, according to the Women in the Workplace 2023 report from McKinsey (Source). Access to mentorship always varies according to racial and ethnic background.

Through mentorship, we can close gaps and open opportunities for all individuals and communities. 

Upnotch™ is a global community of leaders and aspiring leaders of all backgrounds who are eager to connect.

Join today to find a mentor to help you achieve your next goals, or develop a personal board of advisors of many mentors to provide as many perspectives as possible and truly rocket launch your career.

Or, give back by offering your industry insights and expertise as a mentor, and help create intercultural exchange but offering your unique outlook on complex issues and topics.

The true beauty of intercultural exchange through mentorship is that a single relationship can have ripple effects through organizations, industries, communities, and even globally. 

Create change and intercultural exchange with Upnotch™ today, for free!


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