Centre for Cultural Understanding was founded in 1998 in Dubai. The centre is a non-profit organisation, and focuses on assisting mostly international workers and expats living and working in Dubai and other areas of the UAE. The SMCCU’s mission is to remove barriers between different nationalities living in the UAE and, in this way, to raise awareness and understanding of local customs, culture, and religion.
The centre hosts private events, especially for groups of companies and international organisations. Furthermore, it seeks to foster collaboration and co-creation of projects through Corporate Partnership Programmes with businesses and organisations that support the work of the SMCCU; examples include chambers of commerce, business councils, and multinational firms such as Emirates, SAP, Nestle and Cisco.
The activities and projects organised by the Centre allow local volunteers and employees to gain experience in interacting with foreigners and their cultures. As Dubai is highly populated with non-Emirati expats and workers, the centre is motivated by the wish to transfer knowledge about local culture and facilitate a cross-cultural dialogue. The volunteers and employees can also gain work experience at the Centre. This improves their future career prospects and might even improve their vocational skills in terms of working with people from other cultures and organising projects. Furthermore, the centre contributes to creating a better work environment for employees that are new to the customs of Emirati culture and to this country’s business values.
The private programmes that are organised for companies improve cultural understanding on the work floor and help both local and foreign workers to understand each other’s work ethics. The Centre even launched a policy advisory desk to assist international companies and their employees to understand regional policies and to assist in the setting up of businesses.
The Centre focuses on working with expats and foreign citizens living in Dubai and the UAE. The activities and projects that are organised assist not only internationals, but other expat families as well. For example, foreign students and pupils living in Dubai are also welcome to participate; in total, the Centre had 58,702 beneficiaries in 2012 and organised 1237 events in that year.