Meet up, listen up, eat up: Advice for building international partnerships

June 25, 2012 | A rapt audience heard practical advice, humorous anecdotes, cautionary tales, and other insights from three seasoned experts during the brown-bag seminar Experiences in Building International Partnerships, hosted by the UCAR Asian Circle on June 19 at CG1.

Raj Pandya, Karyn Sawyer, and Bill Kuo
In an organization with many international ties, Raj Pandya (left), Karyn Sawyer, and Bill Kuo have some unique stories to tell after decades of experience in a variety of international settings. (Photo by Monika Wnuk, UCAR.)

Bill Kuo (COSMIC & MMM), Raj Pandya (Spark), and Karen Sawyer (JOSS) shared tips on working internationally, from barriers and challenges to what it takes to be successful in dealing with cultural, time zone, and other differences.

All three speakers stressed the value of face-to-face interaction, long-term relationship building, and developing empathy for a place and context by experiencing it directly. Even in the age of teleconferencing, they agreed, there is no substitute for this type of ground work with individuals and institutions. It's also important to bring junior staff to assure that the next generation of partnerships is nurtured.

The speakers also emphasized the need for close working relationships with UCAR Finance and Administration staff for help with contract negotiations, budgeting practices, and travel regulations. The tempo and pace of negotiations can vary between cultures, they noted, which makes it essential to include Contracts & Sponsored Agreements staff in all phases of the discussions and to be aware of and prepared for varying contract and budgeting practices. 

Should one bring gifts? Yes, but only for a handful of key leaders, and make them impersonal or easily shared. Another possibility: bring gifts to be given to a local school. What about dinner? Your hosts will probably want to treat you—and will expect you to reciprocate when they visit here.

And whenever you're unsure, ask.

The UCAR Asian Circle’s mission is to discuss issues, represent Asian staff, and plan cultural activities for staff as a whole. It's one of four committees focused on diversity. The others are WORLS (Women Organizing Research and Leading Science), Disabilities in the Workplace, and the Diversity Committee. There's more about diversity groups at NCAR & UCAR, their activities, and ways to participate on the Diversity Committee website.

Thanks to Cindy Worster (NCAR Directorate) for reporting assistance.