Insights From the SIETAR Europa Congress in Valencia (by Bruna Toubia)

When I was eight years old, my grandma used to tell me, “If you are a naughty girl, one day you’ll go to a conference called SIETAR, this one will take place in Valencia, a beautiful city, and there they will offer plenty of very interesting workshops and you’ll be frustrated because you will manage to go only to a few workshops.”

This reference to Thiagi’s funny anecdotes could summarize the spirit of the SIETAR conference in Valencia in May. But since I had not been a particularly naughty girl, I just enjoyed the conference and brought back much inspiration for my everyday work – be it in content or in form. On top of that, what a good opportunity to meet again some old friends, colleagues and other participants and to share with them highlights of the different workshops! All of it in the historical and yet bustling city of Valencia.

The purpose of this year’s congress was to refresh the cultural paradigm by sharing stories, theories and best practices. It started with “On the Road with Migrants,” a board game based on real-life stories, designed by Caritas France and presented by Catherine Roignan. The game is all about experiential learning in order to raise awareness of the ordeals of migrants before arriving to their final (?) destination. It was a real lesson of courage, respect and humility for all participants in the game. Playing the role of the migrant, you would get regular info flashes to understand their political, economic and social background. This exercise is not only a mind-opener for all participants, but also allows for heart-opening and heartfelt moments.

Another highlight was the workshop led by Alexander Scheitza and Christine Wirths on “Dealing with challenging situations in intercultural training programmes”, i.e. dealing mainly with resistance. This was a very good incentive to jointly reflect on how to understand the different communication channels (explicit, implicit or non-verbal) and to identify the targets and motives of such resistance in the training environment. It was also a reminder of strategies and tools on how to make sure that in spite of all possible unfavorable external circumstances we, as trainers, always provide a safe environment for our participants.

Kim Eun Young inspired us with the story and the talent management of Samsung: A strategy led by a charismatic leader who started by “discerning the time” and encouraged his staff to “change everything except your wife and children.”

I also went to the workshop facilitated by Marcelo Baudino on Latin America. I know little about Latin America and wanted to have insights on how to introduce a whole continent or region to participants not familiar with it. I was very pleasantly surprised by the activities he used. The main activity was to separate us in little groups and each group had a snapshot of one country (like telling about a particular political event, a disaster, etc.) and to reflect on the values that could have derived from these events.
At the end of the congress, I felt energized with so many new ideas that I could have run a marathon!

Bruna Toubia specializes in cross-cultural training, management of global teams and career and life counseling. She is an experienced facilitator of transitions, changes and empowerment.

Livingston Thompson (former president SIETAR Europa), Saskia Lackner (Vice President SIETAR Austria) – winner of the Swiss Quiz, Dr. Christa Uehlinger (President SIETAR CH), Barbara Corravubius Venegas (president SIETAR Austria)

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