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The Influence Of Culture On Negotiations In South Africa: An Attempt To Promote International Collaborative Dialogue And Research

In August 2007, two faculty persons traveled to South Africa to establish collaboration in the development of AIDS Online International (AOI), developed by Dr. Jenkins for college students in AIDS education, prevention, and behavioral research. This article describes the project and how culture influenced the negotiating practices and styles of the participants.

Introduction and Course Overview

Worldwide, AIDS is the leading cause of death among people 15 to 59 year olds (1,2). In 2007, 40% of the 2.5 million new HIV infections were among young adults ages 15-24 (3,4). It is believed that the rate of HIV infection is 10 times higher among college students than the rate among the general heterosexual population (5). Because the rate of the new HIV infections among teens and college-aged students is a global crisis, an international AIDS education course and prevention model is needed to help increase awareness and decrease the rate of HIV infections among young adults. Thus, AIDS online is a “research-driven” course designed 1) to study the impact of AIDS distance education on the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral practices of college students and 2) to serve as an international model for HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and behavioral research in college and university settings.

In addition, AIDS Online is a general education elective designed to provide students with a new and innovative alternative to studying not only the social aspects of HIV/AIDS, but also the science of the disease. The course engages students in an independent online study of HIV/AIDS and uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the basic principles of the chemical and immunological aspects of HIV disease.

Project Goals and Objectives

The AIDS Online International (AOI) project has the following goals and objectives:

  • To design, develop and implement an international HIV/AIDS distance education course that can be used as an international model for HIV/AIDS education and prevention initiatives in university settings.
  • To strengthen the awareness of college-age students (worldwide) about the global spread of AIDS and the science of HIV infection while also creating an international model for HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and behavioral research.

The idea is for there to be one universal online course on AIDS offered to students at universities around the world. Each student would receive credit at his/her university while interacting with their peers internationally via an international website. There will be an international instructor and a co-instructor for each participating site (university). Research collaborators (who do not have to be instructors) help to assess course design, content, implementation strategies, research assessment tools, and the cultural sensitivity of the information provided. The course should reflect an international perspective of the AIDS epidemic.

Assessment and statistical data is gathered from students enrolled in the course through a series of anonymous online surveys/questionnaires that assess the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral practices of course participants. AIDS Online is now a 3 credit hour elective that is presently in its fourth semester, as taught by Dr. Jenkins, at the Perdue North Central Campus in Westville, Indiana. Preliminary analysis of the data suggests that students who take this AIDS online course are more likely to discuss the topic of HIV prevention with their peers, see themselves at risk for HIV infection, and reduce “risky” behavior. In addition, students’ knowledge about HIV prevention, HIV testing and treatment increased by 30 to 50%.

The Effects of Culture on International Collaborative dialogue

The international development of AOI in South Africa involved collaborative dialogue with constituents from various universities within Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa. As indicated by Salacuse (6), not only do negotiation practices differ from culture to culture but also culture can influence the negotiating style of the participants. To better prepare others that may serve as a consultant in international collaborative dialogue, the intent of this article is to highly suggest that the negotiator be aware of , beforehand, important areas where cultural differences may arise during the negotiating process. In 1991, Salacuse identified the following ten factors in the negotiation process that seem to be influenced by a person’s culture: goal, attitudes, personal styles, communications, time sensitivity, emotionalism, agreement form, agreement building, team organization, and risk taking.

The authors were able to markedly observe at least five of these factors during the negotiation process involving the AIDS Online Project. The factors are listed below showing the range of cultural responses taken from a matrix that was also developed by Salacuse (6) which shows the possible variations that each factor may take (pg. 223):

Goal Contract…….Relationship
Attitudes Win/lose……….Win/win
Agreement Form Specific……….General
Agreement Building Bottom up….Top down
Team Organization One Leader….Consensus

In some places through out the country, the goal of the negotiation appeared to be the signing of a memorandum of understanding, yet in other instances there was sincere attempts to establish a continuous relationship. The same extremes existed regarding attitudes. Some institutions seem to have brought to the table a negotiating style of win/ lose or dominating while others were more willing to integrate ideas so that all sides could share in a win/win negotiation. The attitude response of the participants in the negotiation seem to have also driven the agreement building and agreement form. The win/lose negotiation style was coupled with top down agreement building and the need for a more specific agreement form. In one instance a memorandum of understanding was drawn up single handedly by one of the departments in an institution after a meeting and presented as a term of conditions to all parties involved. In this same instance, the negotiation factor of team building appeared to have as its’ response the establishment of one department as the leader rather than using consensus to arrive at the institutional response to the visiting project team.

This attempt at international collaborative dialogue around a common interest and research topic illustrated the concept that conflict may be magnified in international team building in addition to clashes involving cultural differences that affect communication, values, and expectations (8). Drawing from their own experiences in this endeavor, the authors suggest that individuals willing to engage in this form of international collaboration further focus on the four elements as described by Bagshaw, Lepp, & Zorn (8): valuing diversity and developing cooperative goals, engaging in self reflection and reflexivity, practicing collaborative dialogue, and taking time and building trust. Furthermore, the focus on team work, collaboration, and managing the inevitable conflicts that arise must be deliberate and thoughtful; otherwise, both the process and outcomes will be “fraught with struggle and damage” (pg. 433).


1. UNAIDS. (2006). Questions & Answers I: Facts about the AIDS epidemic and its impact,

2. The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. (2006). 2006 Progress Report,

3. UNAIDS. (2006). 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update

4. UNAIDS. (2007). Slides and Graphics: Global Summary of the AIDS Epidemic,

5. Stine, Gerald J. (2008). AIDS Update 2008. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, p. 292

6. Salacuse, J.W. (1998). Ten ways that culture affects negotiating style: Some survey results. Negotiation Journal, July 1998, pp. 221-240.

7. Salacuse, J.W. (1991). Making global deals: Negotiating in the international marketplace. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

8. (Bagshaw, Lepp, & Zorn, 2007). International Research Collaboration: Building Teams and Managing Conflicts. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, (24) (4) pp.443-446.


Judy Rashid

Dr. Judy  Rashid has been involved in education for over 40 years as a former teacher, school principal, and university administrator.  After serving NC A&T State University for 25 years, she retired as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs / Dean of Students.  Presently she serves as Adjunct Faculty… MORE >


Sharron K. Jenkins

Dr. Sharron K. Jenkins is a Biophysical Chemist and Asst. Professor at Perdue North Central and the creator of AIDS Online International. MORE >

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