A cultural system is an “available system of significance – beliefs, rites, meaningful objects – in terms of which life is oriented and outward behavior guided”*. This is a frame of mind that determines the way one conceives the world. In other words, culture is:
– a system of propositions concerning human beings, society, or the world;
– held to be true by members of a group or society;
– transmitted from one generation to the next;
– by means of social processes denoted by such terms as ‘education’ and ‘enculturation’ .**
The meaning that cultural beliefs have for an individual depends on the psychological level at which it is assimilated:
– mere acquaintance (I heard about it)
– understanding the meaning (traditional and – or contemporary)
– believing it is true (I believe)
– behaving differently because I ‘now’ believe (living accordingly)
– has strong affective properties (I’m attached to it) – I feel good when . . .
Based on this definition of culture, we can understand that normative conflict belongs to the structural condition of modern societies. Collective orientations are continuously being redefined by the negotiation of cultural, social and political differences. In our societies, intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation is more necessary than ever.
Through intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation people from different cultural backgrounds and systems of beliefs interact, communicate, negotiate and enrich each other. In this process, individuals exchange concepts and perceptions and build a shared vision of society and the world. Beyond just peaceful coexistence, interculturality is a dynamic process that helps individuals and communities to learn about and understand other cultures. Furthermore, it enables individuals to move away from isolationist and mistrustful attitudes and it encourages them to embrace diversity as a core value of peaceful and sustainable societies.
* Geertz, Clifford (1971). Islam Observed. Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
** Melford SPIRO, “Collective Representations and Mental Representations in Religious Symbol Systems”, chapter 7, pp. 162-163, in Culture and Human Nature. Theoretical Papers of Melford E. Spiro, B. Kilborne and L.L. Langness, eds. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1987
In past decades, numerous projects and programs around the world have addressed issues related to cultures in contact with each other. However, in this fast changing world, where social media and the Internet are continuously reshaping our perceptions and scientific developments are allowing faster travel and communication, innovation in the field of intercultural exchanges appears to be essential.
Intercultural innovation refers to new strategies, approaches, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet needs of fast changing diverse societies. Innovation can take many shapes, such as the new usage of social media; the creation of inspiring pieces of arts; the development of a nouvelle pedagogical approach; conducting innovative trainings, etc.
Both the UNAOC and the BMW Group are strongly committed to creativity and innovation. Indeed, the Dialogue Café initiative or the Rapid Response Media Mechanism are only two examples of the UNAOC’s commitment in increasing intercultural understanding through novel methods. Correspondingly, the BMW Group is a leading innovative company in the use of new approaches to corporate responsibility.
For that reason, the Award acknowledges brave initiatives that dare to think outside the box, rethinking intercultural work and making an important use of new methods to promote intercultural understanding and cooperation. The Award represents a unique platform for civil society organizations committed to the promotion of cultural diversity and understanding.