Global awareness exchange refers to programs and projects that aim to increase understanding and contact among peoples of different countries through the exchange of information, people, and ideas. Global awareness exchanges are based on the philosophy that better understanding among citizens of different countries will promote such altruistic goals as world peace, cultural sensitivity, human rights, and global teamwork. This entry examines types of global awareness exchange and the benefits and risks associated with such exchanges.
Global awareness exchange activities can take many forms, such as reciprocal exchanges of students, researchers, businesspeople, activists, and others, in which participants from one country travel to the other; internationalized grassroots campaigns on issues pertinent to the global economy, such as workers’ rights, fair trade, and immigration; and Internet and videoconferences among peoples from different countries. Common types of programs that focus on or include a component of global awareness exchange are study abroad programs sponsored by an educational institution such as a college or high school; fellowship programs for research and study abroad funded by foundations such as Fulbright; fellowship and exchange programs sponsored by private, altruistic organizations such as the Rotarians; international exchanges of people belonging to a given religious denomination or church; and grassroots advocacy campaigns such as those carried out by the nonprofit “Global Exchange.” A global awareness exchange can last from a few days to several months.
Global awareness exchange programs are directly related to the constantly evolving movement to internationalize educational systems and to the growing importance of cross-national contacts in fields such as business, law, education, and medicine. The main benefits of global awareness exchanges are a better understanding and empathy for foreign cultures, increased international contacts, and increased knowledge on how to solve common problems.
Yet the benefits of such exchanges for countries in development are often considered within the context of the risks. Such risks include the “brain drain,” whereby educated citizens depart but never return to their country of origin; growing inequality between those with and those without access to the Internet and other technological advances; and the adoption of inapplicable models discovered in a foreign country but impractical or unavailable in the country of origin. Furthermore, yet to be resolved are the ethical implications of spending scarce educational funds on projects and programs focusing on global awareness while millions of people worldwide do not have access to even minimal formal education. Despite these possible risks and ethical dilemmas, however, most governments, educational institutions, activists, and businesspeople worldwide consider global awareness exchange necessary and beneficial.
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- Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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