H.E.L.P Cooperative – Cultural mediator’s training course year 2004


H.E.L.P Cooperative
Cultural mediator’s training course year 2004

Organised by: H.E.L.P. Soc. Cooperativa Sociale - Onlus
Provincial Plan 2001, Legislative decree 286/98
“Actions for integrating immigrant populations”


  1. From the activity of cultural mediation to the professional profile of a Cultural Mediator
  2. The training objectives
  3. Parameters / objectives
  4. From the individual path to the individual assessment chart
  5. List of Professional Figures


1. From the activity of cultural mediation to the professional profile
of a Cultural Mediator

Historically speaking, cultural mediation started “from the bottom”; spontaneously and without any sort of controls, long before we considered a professional figure able to perform these complex functions (Cultural Mediator). At the beginning of the nineties, certain important initiatives were started in our Country and a great deal of experience was gained in cultural mediation, organised by the various regional, provincial and council authorities, associations and volunteer organisations. Important results have also been reached in the field of professional training. Thanks to the commitment of the associations and financing by local authorities, numerous cultural mediators can now be found in schools, provincial employment offices, police stations, legal offices, prisons and health organisations. A definition given to cultural mediation, born from working practice and commonly accepted is:

“When difficult situations of comprehension are foreseen in a communications process between people from different cultures, Cultural Mediation allows dispelling any misunderstandings and doubts between the applicant and the others involved, defining for both parties a system of codes, language and cultural values to be adopted to overcome the distances and potential conflicts”.

Generally speaking, cultural mediation is applied on three levels:

  1. Linguistic/communication (bilateral interpretation, prevention and management of relational gaps and obstacles, preventing prejudices, etc.).
  2. Orientation/information (translating the information that is needed to help an immigrant approach a public service, making it accessible and, at the same time, informing the operators of the specific nature and cultural differences of the user);
  3. Psychosocial and social-cultural (role of social change, stimulation to organise the service and enrich it).

The Cultural Mediator has the primary function of making communications easier between people belonging to different anthropological cultures. As the Mediator is also an immigrant, he or she can speak the language of the host country well, and works to improve comprehension between the various players, translating the explicit and implicit features of the different communications methods and preventing potentially conflictual situations.

For years now, Cultural Mediators have been working in various fields (health, schools, justice, territory) and have the following features in common:

  • They belong to a different culture to the country they are living in;
  • They have good knowledge of their own anthropological culture and that of the host country;
  • They have experienced and elaborated migration, both individually and as a family, until they have managed to regularise their own personal position;
  • They have excellent relational abilities;
  • They have medium-high level education (diploma or degree).

The majority of the operators have attended professional training courses, normally after a certain period working in that field.

The Project organised by H.E.L.P. that the Professional Training Course is part of, aims at satisfying a dual need:


  • Pinpoint the professional figure of the Cultural Mediator, the most important functions and features; this is already underway and is formulated by filling in a questionnaire prepared by Italia Lavoro;
  • Pinpoint the basic training path, i.e. the minimum package to deal with the complicated operational functions that each Cultural Mediator comes across every day.


As there are no formal tools, certain fundamental criteria have been defined to help select the applications. These criteria correspond to the set of basic features that the CM should have, i.e. the fundamental requisites to begin professional work as a Cultural Mediator.

In the same way, the training activity has been defined aimed at identifying the need for information and ability required to begin work as a CM and after examining different experiences at national level and interviewing tens of operators, the following training areas have been defined:

  1. Basic elements of cultural anthropology (culture, negotiating conflicts, stereotypes and prejudices, etc.)
  2. Advanced elements of interpersonal communications;
  3. Basic notions about international European and Italian legislation, concentrating on the current immigration legislation in force; knowledge about the services that are available for the person and the citizenship rights that are guaranteed by current legislation and international treaties;
  4. Notions of the history of the migration phenomenon (the various types of migration projects, expectations, integration, etc.).
  5. Knowledge of the social-cultural area, i.e. organisation and regulations for the sector (labour laws; Leg. Decree 626/94; social security; etc.)

Along with the theoretic work, special training stages have also been organised (working with the public or private organisations that work within the immigration field or relative services).


2. The training objectives

Return to the summary

The adult training courses aim at defining the training objectives based on the potential of the persons involved, considering the objective and subjective limits (time, work, family commitments, etc.).
The identification of the training path will lead to assess the results not so much concerning abstract “efficiency and effectiveness” criteria, rather criteria of “overcoming and strengthening” that are closer to the problems involved with the cultural differences.

Cultural difference involves three aspects that have a considerable effect on the training process:

  1. The objective root of cultural difference (anthropological-linguistic area of the land of origin, origins motivation, personal circumstances);
  2. Subjective interpretation of cultural difference (the reaction of the person to his or her limits and experience, which changes from person to person and presents different conditions);
  3. Objective interpretation of the context (action/reaction of the local society, institutions, etc.) in terms of prejudice, barriers, obstacles with respect to traditional anthropological parameters: age, sex, skin colour, religious vocation, etc.

The “specific weight” of the three factors varies from person to person. The leading objective for training is therefore to overcome the limits that define the immigrant’s original conditions. The “pure” training objective, which regards the specific contents (knowledge, ability, competence, etc.), becomes a tool of the primary objective: for example, learning how to use Word software by Arab speaking persons becomes the start along a path to overcome certain limits (objective and subjective), independently from the amount of information the student manages to store in his or her memory.

Further to this due methodological introduction, the case analysis that has been carried out by the team of teachers on the three aspects has led to 7 parameters, which form likewise training objectives.

In fact, the 7 parameters are other “steps” along the path to overcome the limitations that the person had at the beginning.


3. Parameters / objectives

An immigrant’s daily life is formed of endless battles to be fought to obtain those results, which, for the others, are taken for granted. It is important to understand this fact, and this is why the training programme has to consider the departure condition, which is physical and tangible, before considering the intellectual and mental condition.

  1. Socialise and communicate with “other” cultures
      The initial isolation, which is often reinforced by experience within the original family and ethnic group, leads to fragmentary sociality, which for the immigrant makes the daily confrontation with strangers difficult to deal with.
  2. Reinforce self-confidence
      When observing their differences, many immigrants gradually lose self-confidence; the training institutions, which were established around “normal” and “average” concepts, further confirm this attitude, because they place the accent on the lack of ability rather than on the effective potential. Participation in the course has meant that all the students had to gamble on their own individual capacities.
  3. Constant application to learning
    The training course of 400 hours (268 hours theory/field practice and 132 hours stage) is intense and daily, both during the theory lessons and the practice and training (telephone interviews, lecture notes, study material on magnetic and optic medium, check tests, etc.). The ability to reconfirm every day the undertaking given at the beginning of the course, overcoming the unavoidable discouragement generated by the amount of notions and information that has to be learned, was a very important assessment factor.
    Specific tasks were assigned and spread over a certain period, giving the majority of students the chance of acquiring good levels of integrative ability, which were rather weak at the beginning of the course.
    It is of vital importance for a Cultural Mediator to have an exact definition of his or her position within the relative system. There are risks of incorrect interpretation, which bring everything down to mere linguistic translations, or which tend to transfer the difficulties that belong to the organisations onto the Cultural Mediator. This job, which is also carried out by negotiating with all those that are part of the daily panorama, has the aim of:
    • Reducing excessive expectations and redefining undue concern, with respect to the various levels of difficulty of the single positions (school, health, prisons, etc.);
    • Test the effective ability to relate and negotiate
  1. Ability for teamwork


      Sociality and relational ability of each single person was also tested by forming work groups, each one assigned specific objectives. This meant that the students had to learn to take steps (for themselves and the others), interiorising and learning how to manage the mediation rules in the interests of all.
  2. Respect timetables and assigned objectives
  3. Acquire working autonomy
      The next step (which not all the students reach at the same time) involves testing autonomy (the ability to make choices and decisions that are coherent with the assigned objectives). Autonomy is an important factor for introduction to work, as very rarely the Cultural Mediators are integrated in work groups or inter-disciplinary teams.
  4. Understand one’s individual function within the service flow


4. From the individual path to the individual assessment chart

The training course has been formalised in individual charts that are broken down by:

  • The first column gives the training objectives;
  • The second column (entrance assessment) gives the level of the students in the initial phases of the training, as summarised by the course coordinators;
  • The third column (final assessment) gives marks to show the final result.

The assessment scale has three levels: 1 = low, 2 = average, 3 = high. At the bottom of columns 2 and 3 the averages are summarised (sum of the single marks divided by 7 parameters), to get an overall assessment in terms of departure level and incremental level.

Below is a typical chart, with general parameters given, to show the calculation method and the information and assessment features that have been adopted.

Socialise and communicate with “other” cultures 2 3
Reinforce self-confidence 1 2
Constant application to learning 2 3
Capacity for teamwork 1 3
Respect timetables and assigned objectives 1 3
Acquire working autonomy 2 2
Understand the individual function in the service flow 1 2
1.42 2.57


5. List of Professional Figures
Project Manager: Paolo Caracciolo

Course coordinator: Elisabetta Selvazzo

Tutors: Bendis Gjonej and Katerina Cepiku

Teachers: Al Saadi Latif, Angelini Claudio, Becchetti Enzo Alfredo, Belic Zana, Berbeglia Paola, Cecchini Fernando, El Ayoubi Mostafa, Farfan Maria Marta, Garavini Susanna, Geraci Salvatore, Ghirelli Massimo, Giustiniani Anna, Gjonej Andi, Gjonej Bendis, Guariniello Luigi, Kichelmacher Marzia, Kirkova Bistra, Melchionda Ugo, Montefusco Cristina, Ramos de Sena Monteiro Maria Cecilia, Romanelli Antonella, Scali Melania, Selvazzo Elisabetta, Trillò Maria Edoarda, Valeri Maria Rosaria.