They are calling it global fluency.
In a recent article from Brad McDearmon of the Brookings Institute, he discusses the city of Columbus, OH and their recent training by the Global Fluency Institute. The purpose of this training is to help cities become more “culturally competent and globally fluent, allowing them to successfully interact with diverse populations and navigate foreign cultures.” The article is titled, “Creating a globally fluent region in Columbus, Ohio,” and it is worth your time.
If we peel back the business-speak, that means that Columbus officials are being taught how to understand their newfound international connectedness. In other words, Columbus is starting to realize the untapped potential it now has due to its international communities and the globally connected nature of ethnic enclaves. In fact, it realizes this need so much that it has enlisted the help of the Brookings Institute and JPMorgan Chase. These two organizations have created the Global Cities Initiative as a means to help local economies develop global fluency.
Today, cities are more connected than ever to other parts of the world, and that means big things for their local economy. That is, it means big things if they realize the significance of this shift. And that is what this initiative is all about, helping local business leaders and city officials understand the changing dynamic around them.
According to the article, a portion of this training is geared toward developing a sense of global connectedness with international markets. However, it is not simply about business overseas. The article continues by pointing out that the program has evolved, shifting toward developing a consciousness of the international communities in their own cities. McDearmon writes, “In addition to training Abbott Nutrition to more successfully engage in foreign markets, GFI helped the Columbus Foundation respond to an increasingly diverse local population, Reynoldsburg Schools better engage immigrants and refugees, and the City of Dublin prepare city leaders and staff (e.g., parks, police, city manager) to interact with growing ethnic communities.”
An article like this is important for a number of reasons:
First off, Columbus is a mid-sized city. This is not an article about one of our urban behemoths like New York or Los Angeles. Instead, the article underscores the international makeup of our smaller cities, and Columbus is an excellent example. I have spent time in Columbus doing people group research, and the city has a thriving international population and a number of active ethnic enclaves. In business, each of these enclaves is a market segment. But from the perspective of the Great Commission, each of these enclaves needs a cultural manifestation of the gospel. That means church planting but doing so in a way that results in something culturally different from your church.
Second, I believe this article highlights a sense of urgency on the part of municipalities and local business leaders. Columbus realized the need to find these different groups in their own city and discover their global connectedness through these networks. Should the church not have the same urgency? The North American church needs to be globally fluent. Gone are the days when it was enough to simply pick out a few missionary families and send them overseas to engage in cross-cultural ministry. Instead, local churches in our cities (even mid-sized cities) need to learn how to plant across cultures and then use those same networks to reach around the world.