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Building Togetherness: How We Can Create Positive Social Change Globally

Today, the global social, economic, and political landscape is often defined by one word: divisive. Increasing nationalism and fundamentalism, the diaspora of refugees, and literal walls are just a few examples of the global division among countries. This division has reached a critical point where a new global imperative needs to emerge—an imperative of togetherness.

I had the honor of hosting a panel and attending the second Horasis Global Meeting this past May, in which diplomats, economists, business executives, and leaders gathered to build this imperative. The second Horasis Global Meeting was held in Cascais, Portugal on May 27th-30th, 2017 with the theme of “Building Togetherness.” President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, reasserted the global conference’s theme in his opening address, stating, “We need to build a new togetherness, to raise our belief in our inventiveness and our ability to overcome oppression.”

The opening ceremony with the President of Portugal. Photo credit.

In this intensive three-day conference, these global leaders defined an overarching initiative to achieving togetherness. By highlighting integral areas that can spur change, exploring unconventional methods to improve the plight of struggling people, and embracing the mindset and skillset that makes change possible, we discussed ways to  create positive social change and, together ultimately, make the world a better place.

Most of the opportunities for change were found to be in areas that occur every day.  Resolution was everywhere waiting for action.

Each day of the three-day conference highlighted multiple opportunities  to build togetherness. Some of the opportunities were economic and business areas such as technology, management, and trade.  But many areas addressed happiness, philanthropy, rhetoric, inclusiveness, education, work, society, and culture – all areas that are appropriate at the local level and often have low cost.

The Hotel Cascais Miragem was the venue of the Horasis Global Meeting 2017. Photo credit.

The panel that I chaired focused on the role that culture plays in building a global imperative. Cultural differences are one of the many root causes of conflict, but these differences stem not from incompatibility but often from lack of familiarity.

Cultural differences often cause conflict due to lack of familiarity. Click To Tweet

Being unfamiliar with anything can result in fear, uncertainty and anger. But with something as ingrained as one’s culture, fear and anger leads to discrimination, disrespect and sometimes violence.

Featured panelists who spoke on the role that culture plays in building togetherness included:

  • Nitin Datta, Managing Partner, Chanks Business Services, United Kingdom
  • Colin Habberton, Founder and Managing Director, Relativ Group, South Africa
  • Lord Michael Hastings, Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom
  • Henri Hie, Professor, Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The panel discussion focused on how a mutual understanding of different cultures can reinforce positive change. One panelist, Colin Habberton, shared a saying from South Africa that, when translated, means, “I am because we are.” Habberton stated that this perspective stems from a mindset of empathy and togetherness; a mutual embrace and understanding of different cultures is what makes us who we are as human beings.

Another panelist spoke on how there are simple ways to make a cultural impact in the very places that we interact with most. He cited his experience with the company of Air France and pinpointed airports as prime opportunities for cultural understanding. Airports are often the first experience with a different culture. He proposed that by making airports more culturally positive with more inclusive signage, more varied restaurants, and more accommodations, it would help reinforce positive culture all around the globe.

There are numerous unconventional ways to create positive social change together.

Revamping the airport experience to make a positive impact on culture is just one of the many methods that the conference attendees proposed in building togetherness across the globe. The conference focused on a people-centered approach to creating positive social change in numerous unconventional ways.

One such method was presented in a panel on international trade. In the discussion on trade with China, the focus shifted from profit, growth, and products, to the need for understanding what was important to the trading partner.  The panel honed in on the importance of listening and cultural understanding so that one could come to the table with a set of mutual interests rather than unilateral positions.

A panel on Building Togetherness at the Horasis Global Meeting 2017. Photo credit.

A discussion around interests allows for the discovery of options for resolution of issues.  Issues are transactional and only allow for “yes” or “no” outcomes.  When you factor in cultural differences the discussion often ends us with resistance or argument over non-consequential issues and often broken relationships.  The idea is to come to an agreement that all sides can support.

When in dialogue, come to an agreement that all sides can support. Click To Tweet

Creating positive social change together starts with you.

Ultimately, the greatest takeaway that I gathered from the conference is that there is a global movement committed to creating positive social change. Conference attendees were energized in brainstorming and discussing ways to make the world a better place for all to live. In spite of the global tragedies, disasters, and horrors occurring in the recent year, attendees became optimistic about the future, having heard good ideas and examples of positive implementation and knowing that they were part of a community building that future together.

The Horasis Global Meeting 2017 gathered senior business leaders across the globe. Photo credit.

Stepping off the plane, it became clear that creating positive social change and building together begins with the mindset and skillset that allows you to do so.

To make the world better, one must be open to differences. One must embrace the ethics of reciprocity – treating others as they would like to be treated. You must have a mindset of courage – to sail beyond the harbor; the ability to have productive dialogue; the willingness to collaborate and the skill to enact change. Without the mindset and skillset, achieving togetherness and positive social change is impossible.

Without the mindset and skillset, achieving togetherness and creating change is impossible. Click To Tweet

After the culture panel concluded, an attendee came up to me and said, “finally” – finally there was a university that teaches the mindset and skill set to be able to create sustainable change. At Claremont Lincoln University, the mission to teach leaders engagement skills that enable them to create positive social change is at the heart of our programs and what we do.

Now, over to you.

What are some opportunities for you to build togetherness in your community? Think small!  Things everyone can do everyday with everyone – Acts of Kindness, moments of empathy, sources of help.  What are some opportunities you’ve identified where positive social change is needed? Tell us in the comments!

CLU President Dr. Eileen Aranda

CLU President Dr. Eileen Aranda

Dr. Eileen Aranda is President of Claremont Lincoln University. Dr. Aranda spent many years as a management consultant focused on facilitation of the strategic management process, development and implementation of organization change efforts, assessment and mediation of internal organization problems and management team development. She holds an MBA and Ph.D. with an emphasis in strategic management and organizational development from University of Washington and is co-author of Teams: Structure, Process, Culture, and Politics (Prentice Hall, 1998).

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CLU President Dr. Eileen Aranda

CLU President Dr. Eileen Aranda

Dr. Eileen Aranda is President of Claremont Lincoln University. Dr. Aranda spent many years as a management consultant focused on facilitation of the strategic management process, development and implementation of organization change efforts, assessment and mediation of internal organization problems and management team development. She holds an MBA and Ph.D. with an emphasis in strategic management and organizational development from University of Washington and is co-author of Teams: Structure, Process, Culture, and Politics (Prentice Hall, 1998).

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