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FIGURE 3-1 Forms of collaboration.
SOURCE: Riall Nolan

 

where an institution is the strongest in a particular field, and partners with the strongest counterpart in a given country, (2) Complementary partnerships, where the institution is strong in one area, perhaps less strong in another, and the partner institution brings what is lacking, or (3) Technical assistance, which is a helping relationship. Each type has different cultural norms and expectations. There are also great differences between a project (short-term), program (longer term), and a partnership. The partnership is the most cross-cultural and it is also the hardest to develop and sustain.

Multiple intersecting and often internally contradictory cultures make it difficult to create and sustain good partnerships. They render true collaborative work difficult even within a single institution, to say nothing of collaborative work with institutions 10,000 miles away. In the end, collaboration occurs between people and not between institutions.

It is important to understand how individuals operate in cultural terms and how well they know how to operate across cultures. Faculty development becomes very important in this context. A few of the cultural factors that tend to shape success or failure include attitudes toward protocol, politeness, approaches to information sharing, how relationships of trust and confidence are developed, and notions of what constitutes good leadership. Some of this can be handled with interpreters and translators, but not all.

According to Dr. Nolan, the good news is that research indicates that many of the individual characteristics that favor cross-cultural aptitude are found in most researchers. These include openness to others and to new information, tolerance for ambiguity, flexibility, curiosity, the ability to ask good questions, and the ability to quickly discern pattern.



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