Building Synergies in Multicultural Teams

8 December 2023 - kathmandu

We, at Impact Hub’s network run with a common motto ‘Locally Rooted, Globally Connected’ and it has sprouted several dialogues, initiatives and innovative projects in our network! Mathis, one of our international volunteer worked with us for few months in summer 2023 and as he bid farewell to his working period in Nepal, he wanted to share his personal research learnings and experience of working with multicultural teams and dynamics over past years! We organized a What’s hub session on ‘Building Synergies in Multicultural Teams’ on November 22 at Impact Hub Kathmandu led by Mathis himself! Let’s hear what he has to share about this project and What’s Hub experience!

Having lived, studied and worked in Nepal for the last few years – this summer as an intern at Impact Hub Kathmandu – I was intrigued by the idea of researching Nepal’s social sector and multicultural teams. Starting with the research I already had the goal in mind to present the results in a What’s Hub event, making sure that I could use my findings to give input to others and create impact from my research.

My research project was part of my bachelor studies in Social Work and specifically focused on success parameters for foreign professionals working in Nepal’s social sector. To gain an understanding of the topic my research involved a lot of reading about intercultural work but also about Nepal and the ambivalent effects of foreigners conducting work here. To get practical insights from actual experts, I conducted 5 interviews with both German and Nepali professionals who all had many years of experience in Nepal’s social sector and working in a multicultural team.

Ultimately I gathered many success parameters concerning different categories:

  1. A)     Success parameters regarding the work of foreign professionals
  2. B)     Success parameters for local (Nepali) staff in interacting with foreign professionals
  3. C)     Success parameters regarding policies and legal frameworks
  4. D)     Alternative solutions to improve the efficiency of multicultural teams

Despite having experienced both the joys and challenges of working in multicultural teams myself, the research opened my eyes to many factors I had not considered enough or had not given any thought at all. Presenting these results afterwards was very helpful and rewarding for me and I think the event was also very fruitful for everyone to reflect and be aware of their work, attitude and communication. Preparing my presentation I integrated space for open discussion and feedback to create an open exchange. I am very grateful for the open and honest conversations between the Impact Hub team and German guests joining the event. Talking about how foreigners are being treated in Nepal and how we can transform thoughts of the superiority of foreigners and the devaluation of local staff into meaningful cooperation proved to be very enlightening.

 Because the success parameters I researched and presented are rather theoretical I decided to conclude the event with a set of practical tools and methods for the work in multicultural teams. Among these is Dollar Street which provides valuable insights on how people live around the world to reduce country stereotypes as well as the cultural dimensions statistics by Hofstede which showcase easily accessible information on how culture affects our work-related behaviour in different countries. Talking about success parameters and practical tools it is important to add that any intercultural work has to be seen in the specific context. Depending on the type of profession, duration of stay of foreigners and the local context solutions can vary widely. This was especially evident in the discussion of Capacity Building and Digital solutions which can create great benefits in certain situations but also have their limitations.

I am optimistic that our open exchange enabled everyone to get a better understanding of the topic so that the required analysis of how to create synergies in a specific context will be more effective and ultimately create a higher impact for the beneficiaries of any project.