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2013 Practicum on Cross-Cultural Collaboration Launches

Dr. Cogburn teaching to CIDP students (photo)On 14 January 2013, IDPP/COTELCO Executive Director and CIDP faculty member Dr. Derrick Cogburn held the first session of the Cross-Cultural Collaboration in Global Virtual Teams: Disability, Development, and Diplomacy practicum seminar course. This interdisciplinary course, held every Monday of the Spring 2013 semester via online real-time sessions, explores the rapidly expanding practice of geographically distributed collaboration in international organizations through virtual teams.

A combination of theory and practice, the practicum serves as one of the capstone options for Master’s students at American University’s School of International Service (SIS), including students in the Comparative and International Disability Policy (CIDP) program. Participants include students physically present at SIS and geographically-distributed CIDP and Syracuse University students in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S.

Students will learn how to build and evaluate global virtual teams and cross-cultural communication and collaboration strategies to help leading organizations accomplish their strategic goals. A main focus of the seminar is the application of social practices and accessible technologies in the context of global virtual teams (GVTs).

The cross-cultural collaboration project is a key component of the seminar. Students are split into teams of 3-5 members to work with major international and regional organizations on developing, implementing, and evaluating a cross-cultural collaboration project. This year, one team will work with the World Bank in helping to develop a knowledge platform for the Global Forum on Law, Justice, and Development (GFLJD) and its nearly 140 members around the world.  Another team will work with the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) to enhance the ability of its research teams across the ASEAN region to collect empirical data for an index evaluating the level of electoral processes' accessibility in ASEAN countries.

The projects require participants to work with their globally-distributed teammates using collaboration tools such as webconferencing, room-to-room and desktop video and audio conferencing, content management systems, social networking, and other virtual collaboration technologies.

“Our project with AGENDA will allow us to explore how technologies and its applications are changing the way AGENDA works, and how the organization is building an effectively distributed workforce across ASEAN,” says CIDP Master's candidate Ms. Azeera Arrifin.

Arrifin's team consists of fellow CIDP Master's candidate Mr. David Alenga and two other SIS Master's students. The World Bank team consists of three CIDP Master's students, two other SIS Master's students, and a doctoral student from Syracuse University.

Students will build upon the substantive and methodological knowledge they have acquired in their MA program by attending weekly lectures, participating in discussions on case studies, and working in GVTs on cross-cultural collaboration projects.

As a mid-term assignment, students will develop a briefing memo targeted at a senior decisionmaker within their organization to enable them to make a "go or no-go" decision on their project. Students will invite the organizational representatives to their "briefing" virtually. At the end of the course, the groups will present their work at the SIS Practicum Symposium, and invite their client to a final presentation of the project in the GVT seminar. They will end the course with a reflection paper in which they discuss the challenges and successes of working in a cross-cultural global virtual team.

For more information regarding the CIDP Master’s curriculum, please visit our curriculum page.