Tenth Anniversary of the IMI Intercultural Competence Criteria

As the year 2022 comes to a close, we mark the tenth anniversary of the IMI Intercultural Competence Criteria. The IMI Intercultural Competence Specialization Minimum Standards and Criteria for IMI Inter-Cultural Qualifying Assessment (ICQAP) Program Certification were launched in April 2012, following a two year drafting and consultation period. They were the work product of IMI’s Intercultural Taskforce that was co-chaired by Prof. Harold Abramson (US) and Joanna Kalowski (AU), and included experts from CH, DE, NZ, RU, SG, SE, UK and US and participants from over 25 countries. The first IMI ICQAP program was approved the same year.

“Designed to ensure mediators working across cultures have the requisite knowledge, skills, sensitivities and approaches, the criteria are offered as a basis for the development of cross- and inter-cultural mediator training programs. It is worth noting that the criteria do not recommend any particular mediation model, and still less so, that one model is more cross- or inter-culturally viable. That is left to the value judgment in the country in which the training is offered, and it is implicit in the criteria that those models may vary widely. The question for mediation service providers and for mediators active in different cultures is do our models differ, and have cultural factors been taken into account in their design and implementation?”

Joanna Kalowski, in “3rd Key-Education: Train Mediators to be Culture-wise, not Culture-blind

The Criteria have led to the development of an IMI Intercultural Competence Specialisation, which attests to substantive knowledge, skills and competencies in mediating cross-border or intercultural conflicts. The goal of the Criteria and programs was to help identify and apply theories about culture in order to help mediators consider appropriate issues and process design considerations when setting up and facilitating intercultural mediations.  The certification is offered through three Qualifying Assessment Programs (QAPs) and has also shaped trainings on cross-cultural mediation that have now been incorporated into many mediation certification programs.

IMI Intercultural Competency Specialisation Description  How and where to qualify (ICQAPs)
IMI Intercultural Competency Specialists have demonstrated their ability to identify, communicate and mediate across different cultures, and are sensitive to needs of those involved in a cross-cultural mediation. The Specialisation sets and recognizes a gold standard of intercultural competence. A mediator who has the Intercultural Competency Specialisation is an IMI Intercultural Mediator. A mediator who is both Certified and Specialised is known as an IMI Certified Intercultural Mediator. The IMI Intercultural Competency Specialisation is available to any experienced mediator who is qualified by an Intercultural Qualifying Assessment Program (ICQAP). IMI has certified thee ICQAP programs:
BRDGES Academy
ACB voor het familiebedrijf /ACB Foundation
Toolkit Company 

One of the key developments of the IMI Intercultural Task Force’s work was the identification of six Cultural Focus Areas (CFAs) that were described as factors that may be relevant when preparing for cross-cultural mediations, interacting with participants from different cultures, bridging differences, and establishing common grounds between such participants. Several examples of CFAs were included, although the Task Force did not view its list as comprehensive. It encouraged the ICQAPs to consider these CFAs, adapt them, and develop others based on the range(s) of theory(ies) of culture or method(s) of mediation they teach. As more experience is gained with the CFAs, these six CFAs may be refined and new examples may be added.   

To celebrate this 10-year milestone, we would love to hear from you!

What has been your perception or experience with intercultural mediation or any delivered programs? What are your views of the CFAs? Have the Criteria influenced your mediation practice or training? How are you using them? Do you have any feedback or lessons learned to share with us?

The New Year will be an opportunity to re-convene IMI’s Intercultural Task Force, review the current Criteria (and CFAs), implement any recommended improvements and open the discussions on pertinent topics to a broader audience. We hope the work of this reconvened Task Force will contribute to bridging greater understanding and developing a higher level of practical skills for mediators and other professionals worldwide. Anyone wishing to participate in the Task Force or to provide feedback on the current Criteria is welcome to do so, by writing to [email protected].
We end this tribute to IMI’s Criteria and the dedicated professionals who worked to develop them with another quote from Joanna Kalowski, co-chair of the Intercultural Task Force:

“Are mediators culture-blind, or are the processes we use? Or both? To ensure mediation gains traction worldwide, we have to stop implicitly dictating that certain models are the Holy Grail and accept that in, as well as between, different cultures, mediation will look, feel and need to be practised differently.  Above all, mediators need to be trained how to mediate flexibly, sensitively and in ways that are culture-wise.”

The Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age”
3rd Key-Education: Train Mediators to be Culture-wise, not Culture-blind

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