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Intercultural dialogue with the aim of bringing different cultures, religions and ethnic groups together: the winners of the Intercultural Innovation Award are committed to finding innovative solutions for dismantling cultural tensions and conflicts worldwide. At the invitation of the BMW Group, they came to Munich recently to attend workshops and training courses to work on scaling their projects and expanding their networks.

The finalists of the Intercultural Innovation Award (IIA) have all experienced injustice and intolerance, and have decided to do something about it, each of them in their own, creative, yet pragmatic and wise way.

“These are really extraordinary social and cultural projects, with rather impressive people behind them. It is them who we wanted to support with our award”, said Bill McAndrews, head of BMW Group Communications Strategy and Corporate Communications. Ten initiatives had received the IIA at the start of the year from the BMW Group and the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

In mid-April, the awardees travelled to Munich - and quickly realised that the BMW Group is serious about them. “We think of ourselves not so much as a sponsor, but a partner who makes its network available to the awardees. They are particularly looking forward to our advisory support, which will help them to advance their projects and manage their organisations like small companies," reveals Milena Pighi, responsible for corporate social responsibility at the BMW Group.

BMW managers and experienced trainers were therefore present at the workshops. Shahar Raz from Israel received “a lot of very helpful feedback for my appearances in public”. Many questions were also answered, such as: What does it mean to work with companies? What do they expect from me? Shahar had many things to take away with her: “I will be able to present myself much more professionally in future”, she said. In a course on Public Relations, the awardees also learned how to make their organisations more visible and arouse the interest of sponsors. In another, they found out how to prepare for a pitch. Ahlem Nasraoui from Tunisia was particularly interested in ways and methods of growing her project and overcoming weaknesses more easily. With this knowledge, she can now imagine taking her project to other countries as well.

The BMW Group sees itself also as an initiator of a large, cross-cultural community. Therefore, all awardees automatically become members of the Intercultural Leaders network, which brings together civic organisations and young managers, including BMW employees, to share their ideas and offer cross-cultural support.

That’s just what Deb Gilbertson from New Zealand has in mind. The former lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington is also an IIA awardee and has long been convinced that "we need managers who can think, lead and make decisions across cultures and countries". Gilbertson has been internationally active for years with her Global Enterprise Experience initiative. Almost 9,500 students from over 635 universities in more than 113 countries have taken her Global Leader training course. She is convinced that students as well as the awardees of the Intercultural Innovation Award “will make the world better very soon”.