Returned Peace Corps Volunteers come home “culturally competent.” They understand the nuances of living and working in their former host countries – and they are eager to share what they have learned and remain engaged with the Peace Corps experience.
Private sector companies need their employees to be able to navigate new cultures and international workplaces with greater sensitivity and finesse, while employees are looking for ways to feel engaged and energized, and to further develop their skills.
And NGOs in developing countries need technical expertise and advice in areas such as marketing, technology, strategic and financial planning, supply chains, and information technology.
Add it all together and what do you get?
CALL: the newly created Cultural Agility Leadership Lab.
Cultural Agility Leadership Lab
Launched last month the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) and Northeastern Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business 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.
Earlier this month the a first cohort of employees from Cigna’s information technology department in Bloomfield, Conn. returned from one week in Bali, Indonesia, where they worked with two local nonprofit organizations and received cultural coaching from two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
Here’s what Gary, who worked with East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP), had to say:
"After a long flight home and some additional time to relax and reflect, I wanted to drop you a quick note to express appreciation to … the National Peace Corps Association, and the CALL program for what has been an incredible experience in Indonesia. If anyone told me that within such a short period of time, I could truly feel a part of a foreign culture, I would have said that was impossible. From the pre-trip workshop, to the pre-read preparation materials, to the planning, to the on-the-ground facilitation by our NPCA partners, all of this resulted in me being able to realize the most benefit from our time working with the EBPP NGO. I can honestly say that although I considered myself culturally agile prior to this trip, the experience really opened my eyes to a greater extent than I thought possible. Although there were many lessons learned, the two biggest takeaways and learning for me where: (1) an increased appreciation of people and their contributions regardless of background, and (2) great innovations can come from the most unexpected places. Thank you and all the contributors once again, for a great and unforgettable experience."
“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, 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.”
In the future, private sector employees will volunteer abroad with NGOS through CALL for up to a month. The NGOs will receive skilled assistance from American corporate experts. Employees return with a higher level of understanding about different cultures, languages, work environments, and the changing business climate worldwide, as well as a greater sense of humility, social responsibility, and a greater tolerance for ambiguity.
Dr. Caligiuri sees it as a “win-win-win.” NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst agrees. “We’re excited. This is an opportunity to engage the private sector with the Peace Corps community for greater collective impact. 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 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.