Guest learning and adaptation in the field: a Navajo case study

In many development projects, individuals from one organisation are assigned and relocated to another organisation. For these guests to be effective in the provision of technical assistance requires them to learn about and adapt to the local milieu. Using a Navajo case study, this paper analyses how practices called acts allow guests to make effective contributions through learning and adaptation. It is shown that two categories of acts, calibrating and progressing, are crucial in this regard. Calibrating allows guests to assess the appropriateness of assumptions, and progressing allows them to elicit information and explanations to help develop an understanding of the context. These sets of acts contribute to cross-cultural communicative competence and, thereby, to the success of the development project.