Communication, Communication for Development, Culture, Intercultural Communication, Intercultural Dialogue, Shanoy Coombs

I won! Intercultural Dialogue competition about listening & understanding differences

Shanoy Coombs Intercultural Dialogue Video cover

Shanoy Coombs Winner 2nd place Intercultural Competition


It was May 2020 and in the midst of COVID-19 quarantine, the Black Lives Matter protests were on in earnest. Admittedly, I was affected. I couldn’t verbalise how exactly but in many ways my mood took a serious dive and every protest, every video made me sad, outraged, achy in an often inexplicable way. I fought back trying to counter every person who I’d heard say “why are THEY protesting”? or “who is being racist”? I wanted to share my own stories of micro aggresive racial terms that were slung my way or more blatant comments such as the caucasian employee at a well known theme park, who,  on hearing I was from Jamaica, asked if I travelled there via banana boat-a reference to mode of transport during slavery!!! (Looking back I should have noted his name tag and made an uproar about this).

In so many ways I wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words. I didn’t want a back and forth tirade that would end in an argument. I just wanted a well reasoned space where people would spare the time to listen. I decided on a blog post and actually made it 3/4 of the way in and discovered my message was not what I intended. I had too much to say and didn’t want to ramble on too much. I paused and looked back at the looming deadline for both an academic assessment on Intercultural Communication and the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue’s video competition and decided to make a submission.  I had previously been introduced to the video competition via an Academic advisor whose email indicated that “this is a prestigious competition which accepts entries globally and a great opportunity to utilise your knowledge in Intercultural Communication in Practice”. 

Pouring all my emotions in, I wrote a script for a 2 minute video in line with the competition’s request:

Focus on listening, as listening is how intercultural dialogue starts-discuss the connection between listening and intercultural dialogue”

Intercultural dialogue broadly means “an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups belonging to different cultures that leads to a deeper understanding of the other’s global perception.”-Council of Europe

For every word I wanted to share about just how divisive racism was, how much hurt, pain and anxiety it caused, I sought to capture that in a 120 minute video. The challenge being to focus on what was required for the competition but to give everyone who watched a quick reference point about how the act of listening could truly be a starting point for being meaningfully engaged in many painful conversations including those about racism, to actively listen.

I did not have all the answers, neither did I have any comprehensive solutions, but I hoped that if enough persons could begin to see listening as an integral step in understanding, then I hoped my video would have made a difference.

I described the video accordingly

“It’s easy to listen to others who are like you but not always those who think and act differently. Yet for Intercultural Dialogue to be effective, we have to listen to those who are different from us.

This video highlights the many benefits of listening as a part of  dealing with differences and the conflict resolution process. The video specifically highlights the native voices of persons from different cultural backgrounds and each person shares one main benefit of listening as a part of the Intercultural Dialogue process….

Then, I hit submit.

Shanoy Coombs Intercultural Competition

Weeks later, I got the great news that from a field of entries across the world and a judging panel including:

  1. An award winning Walt Disney producer
  2. Multiple global cinematographers
  3. Multiple global Professors and
  4. Journalists

I won! (second place), a great win as the competition gave me the platform to share an important messaging about listening. I am grateful for the many persons who contributed to what started off as an academic activity and evolved into this submission around the importance of listening to each other in an effort to better understand each other. I specifically wish to thank 2019/2020 Chevening Scholars studying in universities across the United Kingdom as well as students at the University of Sheffield and other friends in Sheffield, UK who volunteered of their time and talents to bring this concept to life. I also wish to thank Academic Advisor, Jane Woodin at the University of Sheffield for introducing me to the competition and the team at the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue for their work in utilising Intercultural Communication as a powerful tool in conflict resolution processes.

Just before I share the video, I also want to share the accompanying judges feedback to provide further context.

These include:

Great video! I like the use of diverse voices, faces, languages, and contexts. The framing at the beginning and end was thoughtful and effective. The video audio could be clearer to be really strong (some was too quiet to hear, while others felt loud in comparison). That said, great points about listening and its importance for intercultural dialogue!
This video has a clear and concise message about the importance of listening in intercultural dialogue. It nicely manages to summarize many different aspects of listening and it creates a very international atmosphere through the different languages and ethnicities of people talking. It is less personal than some of the other videos, maybe a tad didactic, but its message comes across powerfully.

 The video is visually interesting and included various people and languages that clearly demonstrates the importance of listening in intercultural dialogue. 

I think you got the concept across pretty well. Music set the mood and I like that you used subtitles for English as well as all the other languages. Editing was timely and cut nicely. The only thing I would work on is the audio levels.  Some were a little low to hear and should be leveled/mixed across the video.. 
The individual statements from various people in various countries and what they felt Listening meant was excellent. They spoke in their native language and we were able to understand through the use of English subtitles. They provided a lot of diversity of what listening meant to them, which gave the viewer a lot of things to think about. I liked the ending statement “Listening Never Stops.” Production values good – attempt to match the sound levels of all the participants so they are on the same level. My one concern is that the opening of explaining what Intercultural Dialog was too long and too academic. Work on making it 5 -7 seconds shorter and making it more conversational. Excellent job. I enjoyed watching this. 
The importance of listening shared from many parts of the world. A lovely short film in a simple but ambitious format. Would be even better with some more work on sound in post production.
And if there is any key takeaway for you after you have watched this video, I’d appreciate it if you share same in the comments below and pass it along to someone who could benefit from the message of listening as a major first step in understanding.

Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication strategist in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  She specialises in Intercultural Communication, International Development and Communication for Development (C4D) Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy on Youtube, on twitter via @InspiraShan, and learn more about her work via the projects page.


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