Connecting Cultures receives UNESCO support to ensure peace and intercultural dialogue
Connecting Cultures, one of the world’s leading civil society initiatives, has recently been awarded a grant from UNESCO, within the framework of The Power of Peace Network (PPN), after a recent call for proposals, which had attracted over 1100 submissions from around the world.
Established in 2004, and working in close partnership with the Ministry of Education National Commission for Education, Science and Culture in Oman, Connecting Cultures takes groups of young people from the western and Arab world on intensive, five-day journeys into the deserts and mountains of Oman.
In an environment where mobile phones do not work, the young people are able to engage in undisturbed face to face dialogue, identifying shared values, exploring cultural differences and discussing the issues of peace. Connecting Cultures targets young people aged 17-24 who are potential future leaders and opinion formers in society. Connecting Cultures courses, delivered by Outward Bound Oman/Tahaddi (a not-for-profit educational initiative), provide a powerful element, seldom found in more traditional, conference-based workshops and Internet-based programmes.
The wilderness experience is far removed from the cultural influences of daily life and strips participants of the normal social basis for personal identity. In the absence of masks, peer pressure and doors to hide behind, participants must confront themselves. In recent years Connecting Cultures journeys have taken place in the Sharqiya Sands, Al Abyad dunes and Jebel Akhdar.
Despite an estimated media reach of 28 million people in 2008, Connecting Cultures was challenged by PPN to harness cutting edge social media technology to ensure that the issues, debated in the deserts of Oman, reach out to an even larger global audience. Mark Evans, founder of Connecting Cultures, chose a UK-based company, IPADIO, to re-develop the Connecting Cultures website, using the very latest communication technology.
According to Mark Smith, CEO of IPADIO, the company was founded on a simple premise that anyone, anywhere could make a phone call and stream that call out from a website. “This simple founding principle is why we are so excited to have helped create the new Connecting Cultures website. Not only can we display our skills at integration of video, audio, text and social media, but we also present content live from the actual wilderness experience itself via satellite phones. By literally giving voice to these leaders of the future we hope we can amplify the message of intercultural dialogue.”
The next Connecting Cultures journey in Oman tooks place in January 2011. The public could follow the progress of the journey on the website at www.connectingcultures.co.uk, but also, using the in-built technology, could become involved in online global debates that ran throughout the year.
Information about Connecting Cultures could also be found on the PPN online platform at www.thepowerofpeacenetwork.com.