Global citizenship competencies: Preparing students to succeed
Global citizenship competencies: Preparing students to succeed
Global citizenship competencies: Preparing students to succeed
Yolanda London


By Yolanda Londoño, Managing Director at Harvard Group International


“…the concept of global citizenship first emerged among the Greek Cynics in the
4th Century BCE, who coined the term “cosmopolitan” – meaning citizen of the world.”


It was just over a month ago that I was “formally” introduced to CIS leaders from the Americas and senior staff from the Netherlands. My good friend and fellow “colombiano”, Ed Bustos, invited me to help welcome the team to Rollins College and Central Florida for the CIS Latin America Institute on International Admission & Guidance. l enjoyed sharing my views on global citizenship (see me in presentation mode in the picture below), loved the energy in the room at the start of the conference, and am very grateful for the positive response and new friendships that resulted from that brief one-hour encounter. Through this blog post, I am delighted to continue this conversation—with a larger audience of CIS members—on the powerful role educational institutions can play in preparing global citizens.

Yolanda Londono speaking CIS Latin America Institute 2019

My perspective taps into personal experiences as a student at international schools in Mexico City (Lomas High School) and Bogota (Colegio Nueva Granada), as a sibling of a student in Buenos Aires (Lincoln School), and as a mom of three children in Quito (Alliance Academy and Academia Cotopaxi). As I reflect on my interactions with school administrators, teachers, counselors, fellow students, fellow parents and alumni, I see traces of their influence weaving throughout my life.

The term “global citizenship” has been a popular and often-used term for over a decade. When I joined Tupperware Brands in 2006 as VP Global Social Responsibility, I was told by the company’s Chairman & CEO, Rick Goings, that he expected me to lead the global citizenship agenda for the company. I was ecstatic and loved every minute of my tenure as Tupperware Brands’ global emissary of goodwill and social impact.

At that time, the movement for collective impact began capturing the attention of the academic and civic communities, fostered the concept of social entrepreneurship and launched new careers in the fields of planet and human sustainability. Multinational companies created new opportunities for alignment with global organizations like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN Women and others, and brought about public/private partnerships to address tough global development issues. Fellow Corporate Social Responsibility colleagues and I were the few lucky ones charged with “connecting the dots.”

Fast forward to today when millennials arrive at the workplace expecting to find purpose and engagement with social causes, demand time to give back and question brand loyalty at every point of purchase. And, where employers know they need a set of new skills to navigate a changing marketplace. Job descriptions, titles, responsibilities have changed.

World map of people


Because the communities where we live, work and play are now multicultural microcosms of the world, and we need tools like empathy, acceptance, inclusion, trust and self-confidence to live in harmony.

Because commerce, industry, government and the social impact sectors need creative thinkers, multicultural marketers, intuitive diplomats, strategic innovators, multilingual communicators, and social entrepreneurs with deep understanding of and first-hand experience with the caustic impact of economic inequality, racial, gender and ethnic discrimination.

Because inspirational leaders who are concerned about the world around them—near and far—are the ones who can tackle vital challenges like environmental sustainability, equity, fairness, peace and justice.

When global competencies mentioned above are introduced, nurtured and celebrated early in our lives, we are sensitized to the kaleidoscope of cultural, religious and political beliefs around us, and more likely to challenge negative stereotypes and acts of hate motivated by fear. The fear of being overpowered, outnumbered, outsmarted, and made in any way, to feel irrelevant or powerless.


Join us for a Global Citizenship and Intercultural Learning Foundation Workshop

11–13 October 2022 | Virtual

You'll dive deeper and engage more fully with our research, and the CIS Model and Continua for Global Citizenship and Intercultural Learning over three days.

We'll keep our events page up to date with new dates and registration information for this workshop. 


I know because I have worked closely with CEOs in diverse industries, HR professionals, NGO executives, entrepreneurs and elected officials around the globe, and the common challenge they face is recruiting talent with these competencies. Cultural acumen, flexibility, an awareness of social norms, appreciation for diversity of opinion and the ability to perform in and create inclusive teams are at a premium.

This awareness led me join Harvard Group International earlier this year. HGI is an executive search and consulting firm and my interest is in helping shape its social impact practice, collaborate with colleagues to integrate inclusion as a tool to help companies align purpose with productivity, profit and performance and build high performing and engaged teams. Professionals with emotional intelligence, empathy and a global perspective are in high demand.

While doing research for this post, I made two very interesting discoveries that may contribute to your own important work with young people.

OECD What is global competence

                                          Image credit: OECD

The first is a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) entitled “Preparing Our Youth for an Inclusive and Sustainable World, the OECD PISA global competence framework”. It states that schools are uniquely positioned to help students develop global competencies and proposes a formal assessment “to support evidence-based decisions on how to improve curricula, teaching, assessments and schools’ responses to cultural diversity in order to prepare young people to become global citizens”.

Forgive me if you are familiar with this concept, but for me it is a new element in the road to “normalizing” global citizenship as a set of skills taught and measured by formal education systems.

The report’s introduction states that “quality education for all”, the United Nations’ SDG Goal #4, is not limited to traditional academic learning, but is inclusive of learning how to live together in a sustainable manner.

It sets out the questions below for assessing global competencies and to address educational policy questions:

  • To what degree are students able to critically examine contemporary issues of local, global and intercultural significance?
  • To what degree are students able to understand and appreciate multiple cultural perspectives (including their own) and manage differences and conflicts?
  • To what degree are students prepared to interact respectfully across cultural differences?
  • To what degree do students care about the world and take action to make a positive difference in other peoples’ lives and to safeguard the environment?
  • What inequalities exist in access to education for global competence between and within countries?
  • What approaches to multicultural, intercultural and global education are most commonly used in school systems around the world?
  • How are teachers being prepared to develop students’ global competence

The report then identifies four “buckets” of competencies:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Cognitive skills
  3. Social skills and attitudes
  4. Values

These areas then lead to four target dimensions of global competencies:

  1. The capacity to examine issues and situations of local, global and cultural significance; (e.g. poverty, economic interdependence, migration, inequality, environmental risks, conflicts, cultural differences and stereotypes);
  2. The capacity to understand and appreciate different perspectives and world views;
  3. The ability to establish positive interactions with people of different national, ethnic, religious, social or cultural backgrounds or gender; and
  4. The capacity and disposition to take constructive action toward sustainable development and collective well-being.

I am amazed and hopeful. More details here, OECD Global Competencies Assessment.

The second discovery was Valeria Luiselli. Valeria is a Class of 2019 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow and she eloquently lists the emotions that many globe trotters experience as we move through life: dislocation, belonging, migration and always being a foreigner…her multicultural experiences took me back to long-forgotten corners of the world and uplifted my hope and optimistic expectation for a world where global citizens can create meaningful social change. Check out her story, Valeria Luiselli interview.

Today, more than ever, I believe in the power of knowing who we are, where we come from, how we got here and where we want to go. Identity and self-confidence are strong allies shaped by experiences in our schools and communities, but only if we are fortunate enough to have found caring adults in our journey.

The CIS community is a powerful force for good around the globe, and your commitment to developing global citizens is a powerful tool for building a better world.

Thank you for inviting me into your midst, and I look forward to following your success!

With global citizenship at the core of everything we do at CIS, our work on the critical topic of preparing global citizens for the workplace is extensive. Ann Straub, CIS International Advisor, recently ran four packed workshops at the EARCOS conference in Malaysia on the topics of Global Citizenship in Schools, Leading Schools Interculturally, and Stereotype, Prejudice and Discrimination. Another of our team, Chris Durbin, CIS Associate Director of School Support & Evaluation, is part of the OECD Working Group developing global competencies as part of the Education 2030 objectives. And while Yolanda was kindly writing this post for us (thank you, Yolanda!), Katryna Snow, our CIS Associate Director of Higher Education Services happened to be attending the International Symposium on Employability and the Learner Profile organized by Business at OECD and sponsored by Microsoft and the Center for Curriculum Redesign. She told us:

Participants included various industry representatives, educational organizations, and academics and administrators from universities who are focused on shifting the educational system to better serve the needs of students in today’s increasingly interconnected world. There was much discussion about the role of accreditation in shaping educational reform, the role of various assessments in a student’s journey from secondary school to university to the job market, and what industry can do to help inspire educational institutions to better prepare students with the skills they need for today’s workplace. Many of the themes dovetail with the work being done in the CIS Summits, and it was nice to connect with a larger group of organizations and industry to see where there is synergy between our efforts. Several working groups, including university admission reform and accreditation, were established after the OECD symposium, and CIS will continue to be involved in the topics that impact our members and where we feel we can provide insight and direction.

Katryna Snow, CIS Associate Director of Higher Education Services

As we continue to explore how schools, higher education institutions and employers can support students to develop the relevant competencies for their lives ahead, we will keep you updated, here on the CIS Perspectives blog. And if you have any ideas to and examples of effective practices to share on this blog, please do get in touch


Global citizenship competencies: Preparing students to succeed
  • Global citizenship
  • Intercultural learning & leadership
Global citizenship competencies: Preparing students to succeed