The following personal take comes from a recent ‘Cultural Competency’ workshop participant.
When we let race inform our perception and behaviour we limit ourselves – our opportunities and our ability to see the truth. Countering this phenomenon requires conscious effort – and organizations can foster it.
This message from Jackie Hogue, owner of J. Hogue & Associates, was the prelude to a Strengthening Organizational Cultural Competency workshop she recently facilitated at United Way.
“Biases come up in life, to us all. That’s why it’s important to be reflective…there is so much value in our diversity, and we can get there and be enriched by the differences,” says Jackie.
For an activity called Mainstream Margin participants split into groups and brainstorm words and images that explain how it felt to be marginalized in their life, and what they thought those doing the marginalizing may have felt.
We all have culture, and most of it is not the obvious things like food, art and clothing. Things like expected behaviour, concepts of time, values and beliefs are often hidden and intangible. Increasing awareness and the capacity to engage in an organization requires conscious effort – listening and learning, and understanding that our own perception is not a truth shared by others, and not necessarily even true.
Reflection. Perception. Dialogue. These three things, Jackie tells us, form the basis of transformation in organizations and individuals.
Individuals, and organizations, can make changes to avoid marginalizing people.
Authentic relationships require willingness. A willingness to be challenged; to not be in a place of denial and resistance; to be on a journey of growth, learning, and change; and to recognize our own privilege and perspectives.
“We need to always be reflecting on self, society, and historical context.”
During the day-long workshop, filled with interactive group activities and discussion, Jackie deftly led us through the concepts of reflection, perception and dialogue. Working towards cultural competency – and getting closer to understanding racial differences and how we interact with them – is not easy work, but it’s immensely doable.
Jackie provides a wealth of information to help organizations (the workshop is for anyone, but many participants were non-profit service providers) include cultural competency in their governance, service delivery, community relations, personnel practices and organizational culture.
Once an organization begins to focus on becoming culturally competent the journey begins.
Jackie Hogue, front right, with her Strengthening Organizational Cultural Competency workshop participants.
“It’s an ongoing process. You don’t arrive at it; it’s a process of learning. It’s impossible to know it all. Cultural competency is more about the skills and the practices to engage in a good way and to recognize when and how our bias shows up.”
And knowing we can always learn.