Diversity has been the hallmark of Kari Heistad’s work and her experiences have brought her into contact with world leaders, inner-city youth, non-profit organizations and business people. She specializes in making the issues of cross cultural awareness, diversity and inclusion and organizational development engaging and insightful to her clients. Her programs have been called “insightful, unique, exciting” and “eye-opening”. Her powerful approach makes these issues accessible and the skills gained become powerful tools in the workplace.
Kari’s work as CEO of Culture Coach International (CCI) focuses on building respect across different groups of people. By focusing on building respect, CCI is able to help organizations put culture to work for them instead of against them. Intent upon helping organizations to understand the bottom line impact of cultural and diversity issues, the work of CCI is both practical and strategic in nature. Changing demographics are forcing organizations of all kinds, both nationally and internationally, to recognize the changing face and needs of not only their workforces but also their customers. As institutions seek to capitalize on untapped markets, cultural competency has moved from a luxury to a necessity in today’s marketplace.
Kari leads a team who bring more than 75 years of cross cultural and diversity experience to their work. In her own work, Kari draws upon her travels to 16 different countries and her experiences living and working overseas. In addition to CCI’s US clients, Kari has worked closely with organizations in Greece and Ireland where she presented to a range of clients.
Kari has spoken before 15,000 people through her training programs, speeches before business and cultural groups and also as a speaker for regional and national conferences. She enjoys serving as a resource for members of the media on cultural issues including the Wall Street Journal.
Before founding CCI, Kari served as the Executive Director for the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, where she developed an innovative Model United Nations curriculum endorsed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Over the past 20 years the program has impacted over 450,000 mostly inner-city high school students around the world. Based upon her curriculum development projects, Kari was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study multi-cultural education in New Zealand. She completed her work in the summer of 2002 and wrote an innovative curriculum titled: A Photographic Introduction to New Zealand and the Maori. The free curriculum has been downloaded 4,000 times.
Kari serves as a board member the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. On a national level she has served on the board for Ski For Light (a program that teaches the visually impaired how to cross country ski) and the national Model United Nations Advisory Council for the United Nations Association of the USA. Kari was given a chapter award in 2013 from UNA-USA “..in honor of the irrefutably positive impact she has had on the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. Special recognition has been accredited to Kari’s pioneering spirit best recognized by her commitment to education. For developing the quintessential Model UN curriculum, we of UNA-USA thank you.”
Kari received her Master’s degree in International Administration and Training from the School for International Training, and BS degree from Bates College. She was awarded the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Rising Star award for New England in 2011 and in 2014 Kari completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses scholarship program.
In January 2017, Kari founded the Diversity Dashboard, an online project management system custom designed for diversity leaders to help them track their activities, measure their results and report on the return on investment. She now leads a team of 7 people who are bringing the Dashboard to the marketplace in the summer of 2018. In May 2018, she completed the 9 month business accelerator program WIN Lab, run by Babson College and designed to help women entrepreneurs accelerate their growth. At the conclusion of the program, Kari was awarded the WIN Lab Community Award for her contributions to the WIN Lab cohort in supporting other women entrepreneurs.
Kari’s passion for international exploration started at a young age. In an essay written in the 3rd grade titled, “Who I am”, Kari wrote, “I also enjoy traveling. I find it interesting to compare different kinds of geography, different styles of living and to meet new and different people.” She speaks passably fluent Norwegian and a smattering of Spanish, French and Greek which entertains the locals.