Paula Pedersen and Joan Sargent have pieced together something quite remarkable. Something that has become incredibly valuable to the staff at Amberwing – Center for Youth & Family Well-Being and in turn, to the community.

That something is called Intercultural Leadership Development (ILD). Initiated two years ago at Amberwing and taught by Pedersen and Sargent, ILD is an ongoing, lifelong training process that:

  1. Helps Amberwing staff through the process of identifying deeply held values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that affect the health and well-being of culturally diverse individuals;
  2. Provides awareness and knowledge of the use of ‘self-as-leader’ as an invaluable resource in understanding and implementing intercultural initiatives, and;
  3. Celebrates differences and similarities among and between people from all cultural communities.

“We learned to take the Amberwing culture established by our Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) model of care, immerse it with diversity, and ask ourselves, ‘how can we do our job non-judgmentally?’ This training is helping us to do just that,” says Amberwing Manager and Psychologist, Rick Gertsema. “We are so grateful to the Miller-Dwan Foundation for making it possible for our staff to go through this process.”

From personal relationships to the way they deliver messages to kids in the Amberwing programs, and how to better communicate with the community, the ILD training process has been invigorating and life-changing, affecting each staff member both in and out of work.

Like DBT, ILD training is for everyone, and anyone can benefit. Those who have participated in the training consider it a life changing experience, and truly transformative.

The ILD can help to create a foundation of trust along with the tools to navigate cross cultural encounters in an interculturally effective manner. In these current times of increased polarization, a focus on both our similarities as well as those differences that can often lead to mis-understanding and conflict, are critical.

Joan Sargent, MSW, is an independent coach/consultant focusing on diversity, inclusion, change management, leadership development and conflict mediation.  For over thirty years, Joan has served as a catalyst for personal and professional growth by creating, managing and strategically implementing innovative programs and services designed to increase the intercultural capacity of individuals and organizations.

Paula J. Pedersen, Ed.D, is faculty at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, recently serving as the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow for Intercultural Initiatives. She also works as an interculturalist and consultant to educational and leadership groups seeking self-awareness and strategies toward intercultural effectiveness.