Global Competence Who Needs It? We All Do. – Part 1

Part 1: Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council

The connectivity of our world is beyond anything we could have imagined, even twenty years ago. We are inextricably linked through global systems of communication, trade, travel, immigration, labor forces, supply chains and significantly through our environment. Yet we still live in a world made up of individual countries, 195 sovereign states according to the UN, and often many cultures within each country.   All of us participate in and are affected daily by this global connectivity. That is one of many reasons why global competence is needed in business, education, and non-profit work, and, on a different level, by every citizen.

This is the first of three posts on global competence, its definition, its need in the global non-profit world, in education and in business.   The first post explores how a global non-profit, the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, (GCWAC), seeks to raise the global IQ of our region. As a international business owner/consultant/project manager, I’ve had experience with global non-profits, global educational foundations, and businesses throughout the world.

Post M.A. in international relations and an MPA in urban management, I worked as a city administrator. In that position I developed the concept to establish a community-based Ohio education foundation which took a comprehensive look at a different country each year through the lens of the arts, trade, humanities, sports, education, diplomacy and business.   After I left the city, I established a company, which consulted for this non-profit on trade development work, education, fundraising, and humanities grants programming. This allowed me to work from an Ohio base with high level diplomats, trade officials, journalists, authors and scholars, from multiple countries scattered all over the globe—Peru, Brazil, Ireland, Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia and Botswana to name a few. It required development of local global links for these endeavors and made me realize how the growth in regional global ties has exploded in the past thirty years. The foundation continues its work. I’ve also worked as a volunteer on World Community Service Projects with the Rotary Club of Cincinnati doing everything from drilling a well in Ethiopia to shipping medical equipment to Nepal and other countries. I work with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition based in D.C. which supports a smart power philosophy of foreign policy and the Foreign Policy Leadership Council in Cincinnati. Currently I’m a Senior Advisor to the All We Are Foundation which installs solar power in Ugandan schools. In addition to tenacity, entrepreneurship, and flexibility, I needed curiosity and adaptability and a willingness to tolerate ambiguity.

My definition of a person with global competence is someone who feels comfortable in their own skin as they interact with the world and other countries and cultures. That kind of self-confidence is built on a wide knowledge of world history and global issues and perhaps even knowing a second or third language.   Even a rudimentary language competence is helpful when you are working abroad or with others who do not speak English. It also includes exposure to other cultures through exchange programs, travel, overseas service, education or even within your own city or state. That’s where the story of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council begins.

Global Competence and the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC)

In our region, creating programs for citizens of all ages, and cultures to enhance our region’s global competence is the work of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC).   Linked with schools and universities, businesses and other non-profits, and nearly a hundred other councils throughout the country, including five in Ohio, GCWAC’s global education mission continues to grow in the number of people served and the number of programs conducted.

This year in May, Michelle Harpeneau, Executive Director of GCWAC and Katie Krafka, Director of Global Education, completed a month-long, online course through Harvard University’s Think Tank on Global Education. Both delved deeply into the topic of global competence, its many definitions, resources to support it and programs available to carry out GCWAC’s education mission.

According to the two, the Harvard course, defined global competence as “providing students the tools to develop positive attitudes toward cultural diversity; giving students the ability to speak and understand a different; language; and offering them a deep knowledge of world history, geography and global topics, especially in areas that affect all of us on earth—health, climate and economics.”

Ms. Krafka defines global competency as “equipping students with knowledge and skills to understand the ‘flat world’, to successfully live in it and bring it life.” The concept of the ‘flat world” from Thomas Friedman’s international bestseller, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is his way of viewing the world as a level playing field, while laying out the needed shifts for countries to remain competitive.

Ms Harpenau adds that global skills mean “changing mindsets, preparing oneself to navigate globalization and becoming college and job ready.” Her definition includes being able to “converse in at least one other language, living in or exposure to a different country, and having a background and knowledge of the rest of the world. That is now a basic requirement for many jobs in the U.S., especially in this globalized world.” Both agree that this process has to start at an early age when it is easier to “plant the seeds of curiosity about people and places different than what we know.” GCWAC programming sees global competency as a life-long learning process for people of all ages and cultures who live in the Tri-State region. The people GCWAC brings in from other countries are here to learn and grow their global competence as well.

GCWAC’s Global Competence Mission

There are many programs in local communities to continue the process of teaching global competence. People who do not travel the world, for work or pleasure, can find an impressive bank of local resources, interact with people from other countries and their cultures in our region, and learn about important global issues of the day.

All of us share one planet. It may well be that it is the people with the highest levels of global competence who will determine if our planet and its people continue to thrive.

The following Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council programs work to raise our region’s global IQ.

All Ages:

  • International visitors to the region-meetings on specific topics through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)
  • Global Gaggle – Opportunities for local community leaders and members to meet and engage with international visitors
  • Overnight stays or meals in your home for visiting overseas guests
  • Speakers of note on international topics of import
  • Global Cincinnati website-one-stop resource for detailed information on over 100 local/global organizations, businesses and an up-to-date calendar of local/global events with all GCWAC programs/resources/and events


  • Great Decision Series/Foreign Policy Association – study the critical issues of the day with interested citizens in community groups
  • ONE World Gala, an internationally themed trivia competition, which supports Global Education – March 19, 2016
  • World Quest for Businesses – test your global knowledge in a fun and informative setting

High School Students:

  • Model Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) –students become government ministers and negotiate, debate, and resolve issues on behalf of their assigned country
  • Academic World Quest local competition answering questions on ten global topics with winner competing with teams across the country in Washington D.C. and competing at ONE World Gala with local Cincinnati adult teams
  • International Education Summit – noted local global business, non-profit and education professionals discuss and international topic and inform students seeking international careers and opportunities

K-8 Programs

  • Global Classrooms –bringing foreign students to the classrooms for presentations, map skills activities, history, statistics, dress, food, currency, music, important figures and current events. (All we did was reformat the paragraph, no content changed.)


  • Coming in 2016 – Teacher Training that focuses on incorporating global education into your classroom along with resource to take back to the classroom.

For more information, go to

Article, Deborah E. Schultz, Trans-Borders Solutions, Advisory Board Member, Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council

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