Northeastern University, National Peace Corps Association Form Cultural Agility Leadership Lab, CALL
First-ever collaboration sends Cigna employees to Indonesia as international volunteers
BOSTON, MA (April 13, 2015) – With the goal of assisting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support their host national communities while helping private sector companies and their employees navigate new cultures and international workplaces with greater sensitivity and finesse, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) have teamed up to develop the Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL).
Founded and directed by Dr. Paula M. Caligiuri, author and a Distinguished Professor in International Business and Strategy at Northeastern, CALL is the first-ever collaboration between two top pioneers in the field: Northeastern, a leading university specializing in student experiential learning, and the NPCA, an unparalleled leader in international volunteerism working in the private sector and alongside the federally-funded Peace Corps.
This month, CALL is dispatching its first cohort of employees from Cigna’s information technology department in Bloomfield, CT to work in Bali, Indonesia at two local nonprofit organizations. They will work there for one week, returning May 1.
“I am thrilled and honored to be working with Dr. Paula Caligiuri, Northeastern University, and the Peace Corps community to pilot the CALL program with eight high potential leaders at Cigna,” said John Staines, Cigna’s the Human Resources Officer for Cigna’s Global Information Technology organization. “Building cultural agility through volunteerism makes all the sense in the world, achieving our goals of developing global leaders while supporting the communities we work in.”
The CALL program is the implementation partner for companies to send employees from a variety of functional areas – marketing, technology, strategic and financial planning, supply chain, information technology, and other areas of expertise – abroad to work for up to a month with NGOs in other countries.
Not only is there an exchange of information, but employees return with a higher level of understanding about different cultures, languages, work environments, and the changing business climate worldwide. Employees gain a greater sense of humility, social responsibility, and with a greater tolerance for ambiguity. Retention rates increase. A feeling of engagement returns, core competencies build, and employees often feel more loyal to their employers and companies. On the other side, CALL provides a cost-effective, efficient, well-conceived way for companies to offer employees international work experiences that many could not supply on their own. Finally, NGOs receiving the skilled assistance of American corporate experts will have access to resources and talent that will help enable them to achieve their goals. Dr. Caligiuri sees it as a “win-win-win.”
By partnering with the NPCA, CALL has access to some 220,000 returned Peace Corps volunteers who have served in 140 countries where CALL volunteers are headed so they join them as cultural coaches on site. “We’re excited. This is an opportunity to engage the private sector with the Peace Corps community for greater collective impact,” said Glenn Blumhorst, president and CEO of the NPCA. “Corporations will benefit by sending employees into service-oriented positions in the marketplace to give them a greater world view, while helping development NGOs achieve their goals.”
The NPCA’s cultural coaches add value to the experience, he said, because they have lived in these countries and want to help corporate volunteers understand the culture in a more nuanced way. The partnership also extends the experience for returned Peace Corps volunteers beyond their two-year stints. “Our mission is to champion a lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals. These individuals are always involved in something to make the world a better place,” Blumhorst said.
Having the International Business Program at Northeastern University involved means that CALL is being studied and analyzed to ensure that work experience findings are backed by solid research. A prolific author, researcher, and media commentator, Dr. Caligiuri comes to this new venture as an author and co-author of several articles and books, including Managing the Global Workforce (2010) and Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals (2012) in addition to numerous academic publications.