As part of the project “Introducing and Engaging Diversity Globally“, supported with a inter-city grant from the Intercultural Cities Programme, the Centre for Sociological Studies of the University of Melitopol implemented the first wave of the bilingual survey on intercultural competence. The survey was carried out in member cities of the ICC Network in Ukraine and Australia during July 2020, with the aim to explore the degree of intercultural competence and inquire about cultural attitudes, skills, and knowledge of more than 500 respondents aged between 16 and 69.
One of the most notable findings of the survey analysis is location appears to have an impact on how intercultural competence is understood. More precisely, people in different cities, regions, and countries perceive the concept somewhat differently, or attest a different meaning to the term. For example, interviewees in southern Ukraine (e.g. Melitopol, Odessa), view intercultural competence as primarily an effective communication in the established intercultural space, while residents of central Ukraine (e.g. Vinnitsa) see it as the ability to think and act, taking into account the differences in values between different cultures, as well as a set of knowledge, skills and abilities that enable one to properly and effectively manage relationships with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Residents of northern Ukraine (e.g. Sumy) see intercultural competence as a set of abilities necessary for effective interaction with people who are different in linguistic and cultural terms, while in eastern Ukraine (Pavlograd) it is viewed as the ability to interact with different cultural communities in the urban space. Finally, in western Ukraine (Lutsk) it is mainly regarded as the ability to be open to different points of view and new experiences.
Representatives from the Australian cities of Adelaide, Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat and Melbourne see intercultural competence as a set of knowledge, skills and experiences that allow to properly and effectively manage relationships with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, which closely coincides with the view of respondents from central Ukraine.
The survey also provided interesting insights regarding the importance of public space for intercultural competence building. Respondents in both the Australian and Ukrainian cities recognized that participation in public events, interaction in public spaces and celebrations with people from different cultures have the most significant impact on the development of intercultural competence.
When asked about the importance of intercultural competence for their city or organization, the same percentage of respondents (up to 97%) in Australia and Ukraine, agreed that it is "very important" or "important" (see Chart 1). It is noteworthy that a variation in the respondents' self-assessment of their own intercultural competence was observed between the two countries. The percentage of Australian respondents who strongly agree that they are interculturally competent is much higher with 62%, compared to 17.5% of the Ukrainians (see Graph 2).
Finally, 92% of the respondents in the Ukrainian cities and 100% of the respondents in the Australian cities confirmed that they would like to improve their intercultural competence in order to apply them well in their work and everyday life. Administrators and civil servants, NGO representatives and heads of organizations/units, minority representatives, journalists and youth are interested to acquire an adequate level of intercultural competence to cope with complex changes, avoid potential intercultural conflicts, racism and xenophobia. This underlines the timeliness and importance of the ongoing project.