Global Understanding Project

Cross-cultural misunderstanding has caused numerous problems throughout the ages. The ancient Greeks, for example, referred to foreigners using the term barbaros since their speech sounded like an unintelligible murmuring of “bar bar bar.” This is the root of the word barbarian, a word used to characterize those who seem strange, savage, and uncivilized. Such ethnocentrism has helped to fuel war, interfered with peace, and impeded work on issues of shared importance. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, in which people, ideas, capital, and information flow faster and faster across national boundaries, a basic understanding and appreciation of cultural difference is critical to helping us solve many of the world challenges before us.

The Institute for World Challenges program on Global Understanding seeks to address this problem in two ways. First, the program holds lectures and events, sponsors programs and exchanges, and develops curricula that help students become global citizens who can dynamically engage in today’s world in a more informed and open manner. And, second, the program undertakes specific projects that advance crosscultural understanding in zones of past, present, and possible future global tension or even conflict. Our current projects include the U.S.-MidEast Dialogue ProjectGlobal Dialogue Initiative, U.S.-Iran Dialogue Project, and Turkish-Armenian Dialogue Project,  as well as two related speaker series, “Local Roots, Global Reach” and “21st Century Challenges.”