What is cinfo? (by Anne-Claude Lambelet)

Located in Bienne, cinfo (www.cinfo.ch) is the center for information, counseling, and education for professionals planning to start a career or already active in the sector of international humanitarian aid, development cooperation, promotion of human rights and peace-building.

We support our organizations and our individual customers by providing them with relevant information, tailor-made services in career development, personnel recruitment, competency development and networking, thanks to our expertise, experience, and knowledge.

Who are your customers?

They include the Federal Department of External Affairs, the Secretary of Commerce (SECO), the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), multilateral organisations, international development banks, financial institutions, various UN organisations, the ICRC, as well as international and national NGOs, universities and other academic institutions offering further education for people interested in development and humanitarian aid.

Professionals having the necessary skills and the availability to work in this sector, often deployed in contexts with heightened security risks, are hard to find today. cinfo is increasingly asked by the Government, NGOs, and international organizations to find specific profiles. There are interesting career opportunities in the sector, whether in multilateral organizations or NGOs, including for persons whose main professional experience is in the private sector.

In what fields do you train people?

Leading people and managing projects in the non-profit sector is not done in the same way as in business corporations. The “products” of agencies engaged in humanitarian aid and development cooperation could be something like monitoring and improving conditions in detention places, restoring water supply systems or health care structures after an armed conflict or a natural disaster. The success of such interventions is not as easy to measure as the market share of instant coffee, smartphones or airline services. Likewise, the “customers” are “recipients or beneficiaries” of humanitarian aid and development cooperation. They do not pay for the services they receive and they often cannot choose their service providers! Finally, most of the money in the non-profit sector is not made: it comes from donor states and individuals.

At cinfo we concentrate on delivering short training programs and workshops on Leadership and Management in the non-profit sector, as well as Security & Stress Awareness and Preparation. Intercultural communication skills, trust building and dealing with conflicts in multicultural settings are of course core competencies in the non-profit sector: before joining cinfo, I was training people in the ICRC, which is active in 80 different countries around the globe and has a workforce of more than 125 different nationalities!

What are you working on right now?

I am developing a self-learning program “Managing across cultures”, where people all around the world can download pre-recorded lectures on the topic from a platform. Then they can book an individual coaching session by Skype to discuss the lecture and learn further. We aim at reaching people at a distance and at a time they need the training. Besides, people have less time to attend workshops now. This “learning at my pace” scheme, which is driven by demand from customers, should be ready by March 2017.

So you also offer individual coaching?

Individual coaching is a powerful way to develop competencies. Besides training, we also provide individual career orientation services and counseling for the people active in this highly demanding and quite volatile sector. We also accompany newcomers at a distance, for example, UN Youth Volunteers, to find their roles in the countries they have been deployed to.

Is there any advice you could give to intercultural trainers?

I would certainly invite them to get beyond national or ethnic labels. Oversimplifying statements such as “the Dutch are direct communicators, Japanese do not show their emotions openly” or questions like “how to do business with the Indians?” are not only misleading. They are highly disrespectful. Instead of making intercultural communication possible, they have just the opposite effect: they put people in boxes. It is high time we get rid of these outdated categories.

What is the main driver in your work?

As a trainer and coach, I like to see the light in peoples’ eyes whenever they have an “Aha! moment”. I also believe that learning is the best (and probably the only) way to staying alive! Our brains (at least the prefrontal cortex) were mainly built for that. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “live as if you were to die today; learn as if you were to live forever”.

Anne-Claude Lambelet is a French citizen and an ATCK (Adult Third-Culture Kid). She has been an active player in the global mobility service sector in Switzerland since the early 1980s. She is an Intercultural Competence Expert and a Career Development Coach. She holds a degree in Cultural Competence from the University of New South Wales and is the Vice-President of SIETAR Switzerland.

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