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What is it?

The intercultural approach (InCA) is a way of thinking, working and acting. It is a frame through which you see the world and its interactions by taking into consideration different cultural identities, backgrounds, feelings and experiences. The intercultural approach values these different cultural layers as source of effectiveness, innovation and results. The use of the intercultural approach and its tools need to be tailored for a deep

Intercultural Labs / teaser

What can it be used for?
  • increasing the effectiveness and the results of EU external policies and interventions through intercultural sensitive partnerships with countries and implementing organizations.
  • supporting the SDGs/Agenda 2030 achievement/implementation through 5Ps as operational road map (People, Prosperity, Peace, Planet, Partnership)
The intercultural approach can be used in:
  • developing a cultural diversity awareness to better address the context complexity of the EU external interventions;
  • devising intercultural reflections and working methods and tools that are relevant to analyse, design and manage EU external interventions to achieve more, different and better results;
  • enhancing the EU leadership towards a renewed dialogue with Partner Countries and/ or implementing partners;
  • Straightening an institutional capacity to deal with the cultural dimension of external interventions.
When can it be used?

The approach can be used anytime or any place where there is space, time and willingness to re-think ways of working by taking into consideration the cultural dimension as key-element to increase the effectiveness and results related to the external EU interventions.

Who can use it?
  • EU staff at Headquarters and EU Delegations with external stakeholders and countries partners.
What are its strengths?

At the HQ:

  • increase the cultural awareness related to sensitive topics (gender, human rights, green culture, …);
  • enhance the mutual understanding between colleagues at the HQ and those in the EUD facing more evident cultural issues;
  • improve a common view on the country partners' context for better programming, monitoring and evaluation.

Within an EU Delegation:

  • support stronger internal cohesion and increased motivation to achieve more efficient internal communication flow and engagement, leading to improved business process management;
  • improve understanding between European and local staff, with a positive impact on the management of interventions (timeline, constrains, deadlines);
  • focus the attention of EUD staff on the relevance of cultural aspects of the interventions management for adopting an intercultural working method to better achieve the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • extend political and operational capacity development of the Delegation as a whole.

With external stakeholders:

  • develop improved mutual comprehension and trust-based collaboration for a more successful dialogue on sensitive topics;
  • improve policy dialogue as well as other aid modalities such as joint programming and budget support in specific thematic sectors.
What are its limitations?
  • InCA is mainly tested with Delegations which present similar organisational pre-conditions such as openness and readiness of the EU Delegation management (HoD, HoC, HoSs) to improve the working modalities by adopting an intercultural strategy. Further piloting is in progress.
  • InCA methodologies and tools need to be co-designed with the EU Delegation staff and INTPA with an initial support of external experts in order to learn the key-concepts and tools and contextualize them to different contexts and dynamics. It requires a significant engagement on the part of the EC.
  • EC Staff must be willing to learn the approach and exercise themselves with it for a while before mastering and adopting it as methodological support.


The core concepts of the intercultural approach include:

  • awareness of the meaning of culture and how culture is evidenced at work (values, bias, stereotyping, etc.);
  • understanding the cultural frame of reference which informs and affects professional work in analysing, designing and managing interventions as well as professional relations;
  • clarification of roles and responsibilities within professional dynamics;
  • cultural analysing the 'DNA' of an organisational system (structures-culture-dynamics);
  • use of possible cultural life positions (see the ok-ness map here below);
  • ethic grid.

The framework for learning the intercultural approach encompasses 4 steps: 1. experience, 2. analysis, 3. reflection and 4. action plan.

Figure: Example of an intercultural approach tool: OKness map

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Data/information. The intercultural approach is a systemic means of tackling the complexity of the contexts and organisations with which the EU works. It needs to be adapted collaboratively with the EU Del management to have a significant impact.

Time. The Intercultural approach is essentially a learning journey (see Figure below) comprising two phases:

  • Phase 1 aims at learning the main elements and concepts of intercultural approach.
  • Phase 2 is for creating an effective partnership with external shareholders.

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Skills. The intercultural approach requires an external facilitator who leads the EU Delegation to acquire its methodologies and tools and adapt them for its use. The EU Delegation can benefit from remote coaching support until the staff become thoroughly familiar with the intercultural approach.

Facilities and materials. The intercultural approach requires Delegation management commitment and an external facilitator through a multi-phase, high-impact, hands-on learning journey. This is not a one-off 'tick the box' training nor a team-building activity. The approach instead involves tailor-made learning moments implemented over several months, focusing initially on the Delegation's internal work modalities (phase I), before moving on to co-create specific applications in answer to other challenges, including relations with local external stakeholders.

Financial costs and sources. Intercultural approach workshops are currently funded under the MKS programme. Other sources of support are being explored within INTPA.

Tips and tricks

The InCA programme is a new opportunity for exploring the cultural dimension of the EU cooperation and its several layers of engagement with Partner Countries. A higher intercultural sensibility-based partnership can significantly improve the effectiveness and the results of the EU external interventions.


General introduction:

Intercultural Labs / teaser

An example: EU Delegation to LAOS 2017 (Intercultural approach to arise cultural awareness for developing intercultural modalities of working within the EU Del)

2018: Intercultural approach for development cooperation and partnership- The experience with the local Government: Intercultural Approach for Development Cooperation and Partnership

If you are interested, please contact DG INTPA D4: