The origins, usage, & effectiveness of the talking stick as a facilitation tool in multicultural community building

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Paula Green


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Talking Stick as a facilitation tool in multicultural groups at the School for International Training (SIT). By interviewing four Native American facilitators and six Non-Native facilitators, the origins and present usage of this method was revealed. Through comparing and contrasting the differences in the understanding and usage of the Talking Stick by these facilitators, I hoped to determine the properties that make the Talking Stick an effective facilitation tool in multicultural groups. My findings, however, did not produce a list of common factors of effectiveness within these two groups. Instead, I discovered that the transference of the Talking Stick, from one high-context, collectivistic culture that values listening and respect, to a more low-context, individualistic culture which does not, necessitates changes in the usage of the tool. In addition, a fifteen-question on-line survey was sent over the SIT-Alumnet (an on-line alumni listserv) to provide data regarding how respondents experienced the Talking Stick. Among other things, this survey presented information regarding the benefits and challenges of the Talking Stick, as well as measuring its effectiveness as an "equalizer of communication." Although the international respondents to this survey were scant, a hint at the difficulties multicultural groups experience is suggested in the findings. Finally, this research articulates some of the limitations and factors facilitators of multicultural groups need to be aware of when using the Talking Stick.

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