Episode 30
Burning Man Live | Episode 30 | 03|23|2021

Bonus Episode: Culturally Attuned with the US Institute of Peace

Guests: United States Institute of Peace, Dominic Kiraly, Director, Online & HQ Learning

It’s true. Really. The United States has an Institute of Peace. It’s also true that they partnered with Burning Man Project to create a new podcast called Culturally Attuned, about how we can all work effectively across our world’s cultural divides.

That podcast complements USIP’s online, self-paced course on Cultural Synergy. Stuart talks with the Executive Director of the Institute about cultivating the skills to do good work in a diverse world.

They share an episode featuring Kim Cook, Burning Man Project’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

The title of that episode is: Stay in the circle: Patient listening can connect across cultures.

Burning Man Project’s partnerships

Culturally Attuned on the USIP website

USIP’s Cultural Synergy course

Our guests

Dominic Kiraly is the director of online and headquarters training at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He leads the Institute’s online education and training initiatives and pioneered USIP’s Global Campus, which has trained over 80,000 professionals worldwide.

Kiraly has partnered with some of the world’s top institutions and international experts to develop over 100 different training courses on a wide array of topics, delivery formats, and languages. Kiraly is also the executive producer of the new USIP podcast series, Culturally Attuned.

He co-founded the Institute for Technology and Social Change (TechChange). Previously, Kiraly worked for the United Nations-affiliated University for Peace in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kiraly earned a master’s in business administration in international economic development from Eastern University and a master’s in international law and human rights from UPEACE in Costa Rica. He also completed coursework towards a doctorate in international politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Domenic Kiraly’s bio


STUART: So, Hey, everybody. Stuart here, from Burning Man Live, and we have a bit of a special treat for you today. We have an example of a very special podcast series that was a joint production of Burning Man Project and the US Institute of Peace.

I’m here with the USIP producer, Dominic Kiraly. Hey, Dominic.

DOMINIC: Hey, how’s it going? Great to be here.

STUART: Thank you. And, good, I guess. First we have to start with, because I know a lot of my listeners are wondering, “What? The United States has an Institute of Peace?” What is the USIP?

DOMINIC: Believe it or not, we do have a United States Institute of Peace. We are non-partisan, we’re independent and we’re funded by Congress. Well, if you’re an American listening to this, we’re funded by your tax dollars. And we work to try to prevent and mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world. So yes, there is an Institute for the purposes of promoting peace and helping to try to prevent war and conflict around the world.

STUART: I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that at least a little bit of my tax dollar is going to do something valuable in the world. Thank you.

So tell us about this collaboration between Burning Man Project and USIP. How did that get started? It seems maybe a little unlikely.

DOMINIC: I will admit we are unlikely partners, Burning Man and the United States Institute of Peace. And like many good stories, this story begins on playa, where our former President Nancy Lindborg came to Burners Without Borders camp, met Christopher Breedlove, and then co-founder Harley K Dubois and Kim Cook later came to our headquarters in Washington, DC, and started a conversation to see if there is something to explore in terms of a partnership.

Nancy Lindborg brought me into the conversation. Number one is because I lead our distance learning initiatives at the institution. And number two is because Nancy knew that going to Burning Man was on my bucket list. It’s something I had wanted to do for a very long time. So I was delighted to get connected into with Kim Cook and Christopher Breedlove.

And then we started really diving deep into what a collaboration might look like. And there were two topics that really rose to the top in terms of joint need. Number one was emotional intelligence. And number two was trying to help people to communicate and to work more effectively and cross cultural environments. And so here we are.

STUART: All right. “Culturally Attuned.” It’s about how to function cross-culturally without stepping on toes and getting bloody noses. Overall, what are you trying to achieve with this? What’s the overarching goal? Or I should say in education talk, what are the learning objectives for this program?

DOMINIC: Burning Man and USIP, we both work in cross-cultural environments. Burners Without Borders in particular has a number of volunteers all around the world, going into different contexts and trying to be helpful, trying to do something good. USIP similarly, we have staff and partners going into someone else’s hometown, someone else’s country, and also trying to do good things. So knowing that, we try to build something that helps prepare people to go into someone else’s community and to be more humble, to try to be more respectful, to build rapport, build relationships, build trust. These are the core pillars of working and communicating more effectively in a cross-cultural environment.

So we built a podcast and the course around these pillars, instead of just a bunch of do’s and don’ts, but rather looking for those things, which are transferable across different cultures.

STUART: Fantastic. Okay. Well, the one that we’re going to listen to is, I believe it’s episode two in this series, “Stay in the Circle” with Burning Man’s own Kim Cook, our Director of Strategic Initiatives. What do you think is the gold in this episode here? What’s this one all about?

DOMINIC: I think one of the things that’s really special about this episode in particular is recognizing that mistakes are inevitable. You’re going into an unfamiliar environment in many ways where the norms and the rules, and what’s expected and not expected, are in many times unknown, even if you read the guide books.

And so she talks about the inevitability of missteps and how to recover, but also at the same time, how, as I said before, to show respect and build rapport and hopefully build relationships and trust over time.

STUART: All right. Well, thanks Dominic for helping queue this up. Folks, if you like what you hear, you can download the entire series. I’ll make sure that we stick a link in our show notes always at live.burningman.org. I say, let’s go with Culturally Attuned.