Unit 1.2. Diversity, intercultural learning and cultural competence

Unit Introduction

This unit will offer you the content, activities and resources on diversity, intercultural learning and
cultural competence in the context of youth work.

Unit Objectives:

  1. To support participants to make informed on youth work.
  2. To help participants in understanding the needs of disadvantaged youth.

Unit Content:

The learning activities in this module is aimed at youth workers to get professional competences on diversity, intercultural learning and cultural issues and they address youth workers working in settings where there is diversity, intercultural learning and cultural competences. 

Learning Activities:

● 2 Content sessions with suggested videos
● 2 Exercises


These terms such as, diversity, intercultural learning and culture are difficult to define because these definitions are based on always internally heterogeneous and contain individuals who adhere to a range of diverse beliefs and practices. Furthermore, the core cultural beliefs and practices that are most typically associated with any given group are also constantly changing and evolving over time.

However, distinctions may be drawn between the material, social and subjective aspects of culture, that is, between the material artefacts that are commonly used by the members of a cultural group (e.g., the tools, foods, clothing, etc.), the social institutions of the group (e.g., the language, the communicative conventions, folklore, religion, etc.), and the beliefs, values, discourses and practices that are used as a frame of reference for thinking about and relating to the world.

Examining diversity as a youth worker:

Working with young people uses a variety of locations. However, you will also recognize that the diversity of sett-ings is not simply about the building or other facility within which the work takes place. The difference between ‘settings’ might be represented in terms of a number of features that we can use to describe them:

  • the location of the work
  • the organization that is responsible for the work
  • the type of work that takes place there and its aim
  • whether provision is part time or full time
  • the role of the people doing the work
  • employment arrangements – whether work is paid or unpaid, etc.
  • whether the setting receives funding and/or charges fees
  • whether the setting needs to report to anyone else about what it does.

Exercise 1


Titel What’s going on in this picture M1 U1.2. Ex1
Objective To enable the participants to examine an image, looking for details, practicing inference skills to draw a conclusion for diversity
Module, Unit Module 1; Unit 1.2
Description/ Instruction

The aim of this activity is for you to analyze pictures in order draw a conclusion
for diversity.
Click the link below and look closely at this image, stripped of its caption, and
then think on three questions below loudly and write down your thoughts in
the Forum section.

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you make you say t?
  • What more can you find?
  • How can you affiliate the picture to the definition of diversity?

After you think about the questions, discuss in the forum.

Additional information for trainers
Time needed

30 minutes (15 minutes for analyzing the picture and 15 minutes for writing in

the forum)



Culture (Intercultural learning and Cultural competence)

Culture is a composite formed from all three of these aspects, consisting of a network of material, social and subjective resources. The full set of cultural resources is distributed across the entire group, but each individual member of the group only uses a subset of the full set of cultural resources that is potentially available to them (Barrett et al., 2014; Council of Europe, 2016a).

Defining culture in this way means that any kind of social group can have its own distinctive culture: national groups, ethnic groups, faith groups, linguistic groups, occupational groups, generational groups, family groups, etc. The definition also implies that all individuals belong to multiple groups, and therefore have multiple cultural affiliations and identities (e.g., national, religious, linguistic,
generational, familial, etc.).

Although all people belong to multiple cultures, each person participates in a different constellation of cultures, and the way in which they relate to any one culture depends, at least in part, on the perspectives that are shaped by other cultures to which they also belong. In other words, cultural affiliations intersect, and each individual has a unique cultural positioning.
However, in today’s context is challenging for young people, for Europe, and for intercultural learning. The way many different young people in many different circumstances live does not always provide the appropriate framework for the rich yet difficult processes of intercultural learning. When we talk about the link between intercultural learning and youth work, we talk about young people dealing with their complex and diverse backgrounds, and this means having to confront things that can appear contradictory.
In order to overcome these obstacles, youth workers need to undertake many responsibilities. One of them is to build a respectful cooperation with young people. Youth workers should acquire or maintain an open-minded attitude towards people of different backgrounds. A skill that is indispensable is intercultural competence. It is the ability to deal constructively with people who have a different cultural background and to cooperate successfully and responsibly with them. It is important that youth workers and other people who are working in the youth field are aware that the identity of a person is determined not only by the origin of a country but also by many other characteristics (e.g., gender, education, occupation, age, place of origin and residence, nationality/ies of the parents, political orientation, sexual orientation, etc.).

Having the skills of intercultural competence means to be sensitive to other perceptions and value systems, to have an awareness of one's own cultural context – and to reflect this critically. When working with disadvantaged youngsters, it is important to be culturally sensitive. This is important in order to perceive the expectations to be able to act properly as well as to carry out joint projects effectively.
In order to develop an awareness of intercultural issues and to adopt effective communication skills, Iceberg Model is one suggested method. Iceberg Model is a tool that allows you to shift your perspective and see beyond the immediate events that everyone notices. It helps you to uncover the root causes of why those events happen. That’s possible by looking at deeper levels of abstraction within the system that are not immediately obvious. (https://untools.co/iceberg-model)
We recommend you watch the video below for a better understanding of the Iceberg Model.
Video in English

The link between iceberg model and youth work 

The iceberg model focuses youth workers’ attention on the hidden aspects of culture, and it can be considered as a reminder that in intercultural encounters, similarities we might find at first sight turn out to be based on completely different assumptions about reality. Among young people, cultural differences may sometimes not be so obvious to perceive. Learning intercultural issues means to become firstly aware of the lower part of one’s own iceberg, and to be able to talk about it with others in order to understand each other better and find common grounds.

Exercise 2


Titel Iceberg Culture M1 U1.2 Ex2
Objective To enable participants to reflect cultural issues working with disadvantaged young people
Module, Unit Module 1; Unit 1.2
Description/ Instruction

Think about your youth work practices and select 3 different cultural issue you were involved in working with disadvantaged groups where you can illustrate the iceberg model. Think about the questions on vents, patterns, structures and mental models and move a discussion to the forum.

Events: What’s happened?
Patterns: What’s been happening? Have we lived this before?
Structures: What are the forces at play contributing to these patterns?
Mental Models: What about our thinking allows this situation to persist?

Additional information for trainers
Time needed 1 hour


Quiz time

Finish the module with a short quiz