K.U.Leuven - Departement toegepaste economische wetenschappen
DTEW Research Report 9930 pages:1-31
The search conference is a method for dealing with complex multiparty issues in a constructive way. Although its primary objective is not framed as 'conflict handling', it can be useful as a mediation tool in situations that require an overall perspective and the participation of many different parties. This paper examines the cultural assumptions that underlie this method, referring especially to the reactions and behaviors of non-Western participants. Although our analysis of cultural assumptions will be broader, the empirical part will focus on Chinese participants. The first part of the paper discusses the search conference method from a cultural perspective. It describes the process as it is intended by the authors who developed the method, and elaborates its underlying assumptions. The second part of the paper consists of an empirical study of the reactions and behaviors of Chinese participants in two search conference simulations. Both observational and interview material will be used, as well as linguistic methods for the meaning of the concepts. The discussion focuses both on the assumptions regarding participating in the discussion, social norms and obligations, as on the different cultural meanings of concepts such as facilitating, consensus, collaboration and responsibility. Suggestions are made how the search conference may be made more culturally sensitive.