IDI workshop, November 12, 2021.

IDI workshop, November 12, 2021.

One of three featured workshops Friday night at the 2021 Moderators’ Conference focused on the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a tool being used by the national church and mid councils to increase individual and group cultural understanding and effectiveness.

Leading the workshop was the Rev. Molly Casteel, Assistant Stated Clerk in the Office of the General Assembly and Manager for Equity and Representation. As a Qualified IDI Administrator, Casteel has a deep knowledge of the IDI process.

She spoke about the science informing that process, how IDIs assess capacities and help grow intercultural understanding for people from different cultures and backgrounds, and how Presbyterians have experienced the tool so far.

Casteel gathered with the workshop attendees on Zoom.

To begin the presentation, Casteel asked, “Is the IDI new to you?” Most attendees indicated it was.

The Intercultural Development Inventory website calls the IDI “the premier cross-cultural assessment of intercultural competence that is used by thousands of individuals and organizations to build intercultural competence to achieve international and domestic diversity and inclusion goals and outcomes.”

Casteel’s presentation showed how the IDI process — which begins with a 50-question questionnaire establishing an individual’s cultural perspective — starts with participants understanding their own culture better.

She described how culture is a starting point of group identity. Cultures, having shared expectations that structure how people behave, can include racial groups, geography and gender orientation.

An individualized intercultural development plan (IDP) based on the IDI questionnaire results is provided to each participant after the assessment in a one-on-one debrief session with the qualified administrator. The plan lays out steps for becoming more culturally aware — of your own culture and others. Participants can meet individually with IDI-qualified administrators to better process their assessment results and discuss their individual plans for growing awareness.   

Casteel said that working through the IDI plan can help an individual become more culturally engaged inside larger groups.

At several points she encouraged attendees and other Presbyterian mid council leaders to contact herself or the Rev. Jihyun Oh, Director of Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly, to find out more about using the IDI in their councils.

“Engaging intercultural capacities builds community,” Casteel noted. “And intercultural competencies are increasingly becoming an asset.”

Casteel said that mid council teams that are assessed as more interculturally competent on the IDI continuum would likely be more adept at diverse hiring. She went on to describe other positive outcomes related to higher intercultural competences.

While discussing how national church agencies and entities are using the IDI, Casteel focused on her experiences using the tool inside the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).

OGA staff began individual IDI journeys following an equity and inclusion audit of national church agencies in 2020.

“Other PC(USA) agencies and entities are also using the IDI now,” Casteel said, “and using the tool to gain new perspectives on their work.”

Some mid councils are also using the IDI, and one PC(USA) congregation recently participated in the IDI process as a test case to gauge ways the tool can be used by congregations in the future. “Several presbyteries are training their staff to become qualified IDI administrators,” Casteel said.

Workshop participant Trina Portillo asked about the cost to presbyteries of using the IDI. Casteel described some of the cost-sharing options developed to make IDI more available in the church. She said that per capita funds allow her to provide IDI consulting services to PC(USA) entities representing “our shared mission.”

The PC(USA) uses the organizational version of the IDI. The assessment also comes in an educational institution version. The assessment questions can be taken in a range of languages, but the results and development plan are currently offered only in English, “which is a significant issue right now,” Casteel said.

During a wider discussion of cross-cultural understanding, Casteel distinguished between diversity, inclusion, and intercultural competence — terms that are sometimes used interchangeably but mean different things.

Interculturally competent groups have deeper engagement and more fruitful encounters with one another. Deeper intercultural competence helps a person understand greater complexity in their own cultures, helping them recognize things that are meaningful to themselves and others.

Workshop participant Joshua Jong asked how the backgrounds of individuals are factored into the IDI assessment and plans.

Casteel answered by describing how the assessment measures subjective cultural capacities and that cultural identities inform a person’s individual plan. Jong said he looked forward to learning more after he took the IDI assessment.

Portillo said that she liked how the IDI emphasized interculturism, which bridges cultural groups, as opposed to multiculturalism.

Casteel said the individual development plan helps an individual focus on areas of growth and develop more capacity to engage across difference, as opposed to “locking you into an understanding of yourself that is unchanging.”

She pointed out that even individuals in the IDI’s highest capacity orientation of “Adaptation” have work to do as they become familiar with new cultures and individuals. The orientation describes how a person approaches cultural encounters and the complexity that is appreciated in those interactions.

Casteel said that like most groups who take the IDI, many Presbyterians are assessed as having “minimizing” mindsets regarding cultural differences and similarities, and that minimizing can make it difficult for people from non-dominant cultural backgrounds to feel understood. The group who minimizes differences as its approach to culture will have a “right way” to do things and to be and will expect all to assimilate.

“Minimization is a very comfortable place for the dominant culture folks,” Casteel said. “Folks from non-dominant cultures can sometimes adopt minimization as a coping mechanism to be able to fit in with the dominant culture.”

Workshop participants pointed out that seemingly inclusive statements or signage such as “All Are Welcome” and “We Are One Family” can minimize differences, and even emphasize a monocultural harmony over intercultural conversation and growth.

The IDI, and other resources that can be used alongside it (Portillo shared a chat link to the Presbyterian Intercultural Network), can help people move away from approaches to difference such as denial and polarization that mean they miss one another, and in the process work more meaningfully with other individuals and groups.