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Embracing Cultural Competency. Brigette Rouson and Monika K. Moss. Principles of Respectful Engagement . Make room in the conversation for everyone Be aware of intent and impact Value differences Try it on Step up, Step back Practice “both, and” thinking Make your discomfort your ally

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Embracing Cultural Competency

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Embracing cultural competency l.jpg

Embracing Cultural Competency

Brigette Rouson and Monika K. Moss

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Principles of Respectful Engagement 

  • Make room in the conversation for everyone

  • Be aware of intent and impact

  • Value differences

  • Try it on

  • Step up, Step back

  • Practice “both, and” thinking

  • Make your discomfort your ally

  • Everyone is right but partially

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  • Unpack the implications of race, privilege and power

  • Increase awareness about using a cultural competency lens in volunteer management especially for recruitment, retention and understanding/influencing organizational culture

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  • My Cultural Location

  • Key Concepts and Terms

  • Power

  • Applying the Learning

  • Take Aways – Debreifing the Learning

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Should I dive into the “cultural competency” pool?

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The Power Shuffle

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Taking an integrated approach to Cultural Competency

  • Social change as the motivating force

  • Explore cultural location, i.e.. geography, history, socio-economic background, religion, etc.

  • Sharing and building power

  • Modeling and facilitating learning

  • Breaking silence

  • Building principled relationships

  • Structuring volunteer engagements with a cultural lens

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Key Concepts of Cultural Competency

  • Culture (Iceberg)

  • Cultural competency (Social justice lens)

  • Racism/internalized oppression

  • Privilege and class

  • Levels of system – personal, interpersonal, institutional, systemic – and intersections

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Cultural Competency

Cultural Competency is a journey in which awareness of self and others from a cultural lens including an understanding of historical realities and levels of privilege, power, and oppression that exist. This awareness is honored and factored into the interaction in appreciation of the person, group, organization or community and their assets in its own cultural context.

The process should enhance the quality of life, create equal access to necessary resources, and partner with the community to foster strategic and progressive social change.

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Building Cultural Competency as a Capacity

  • The 3 C’s

    • Context: understanding historical and cultural realties that relate to the current situation

    • Community: using a process that stays centered in a group of people who face their own unique challenges and possibilities

    • Change: altering conditions in ways that advance equity for people and communities of color.

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What Historical Issues are at play?

Every organization has historical baggage with regards to:

  • Race and ethnicity

  • Education

  • Class and socioeconomic status

  • Language

  • Immigration status and national origin

  • Gender, gender identity and sexual identity

  • Physical ability

  • Age and generation

  • Religion

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Racism, Internalized Oppression

  • Over many generations, internalized oppression shapes the people, policies, practices, and places in the volunteer and service sector. It is two-fold:

  • Internalized racial inferiority – Acceptance and acting out an inferior definition of self given by other s rooted in historical designation of race/ethnicity.

  • Internalized racial superiority – Acceptance and acting out of a superior definition of self rooted in historical designation of race/ethnicity.


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Class & Privilege

  • “Class is relative status according to income, wealth, power and/or position.” Source: www.classmatters.org (Leondar-Wright)

  • Privilege: A collection of benefits based on belonging to a group, or the perception of membership in a group.

    Source: Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building (Potapchuk, Leiderman, Bivens, Major, 2005)

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Sources of Power

  • Positional power that comes from organizational authority or position

  • Referred power that comes from connections to others.

     3. Expert power that comes from wisdom, knowledge, experience, skills, reputation.

    4. Ideological power that comes from an idea, vision, or analysis..

     5. Obstructive power stemming from the ability to coerce or block (i.e., whether implicit, threatened or demonstrated).  

    6. Personal power energy, vision, ability to communicate, influence, emotional intelligence, psychological savvy, etc.

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Sources of Power

7. Co-powering an idea from the Latino community that leaders are responsible to work mindfully towards supporting others’ personal power by modeling, validating, feedback.

 8. Collaborative power that comes from our ability to join our energies in partnership with others in collective effort.

 9. Institutional power economic, legal, and political power directly wielded by institutions. 

10. Cultural power from the perspective of the dominant culture, these are the cultural norms, conditioning, and privilege regarding race/c1ass/gender/age (often invisible).

11. Structural power covertly or implicitly exercised by dominant institutions (such as lending or grantmaking institutions).  

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Applying the Learning

What came to mind in standing for your own identities?

What do you think are ways that the power differences may show up in your work in the field of service and volunteer management?

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Strategies for Addressing Power

  • Orient newcomers sufficiently so there is less insider/outsider dynamic. Often those who come later to the table haven't had the same opportunity to get to know each other and the rest of the group.

  • Increase the numbers of those who have historically experienced less power. Reach out and invite voices that have not been heard previously or groups that have not been at the table. Include them by checking for agreement on outcomes and co-designing the process.

  • Make your process accessible to those whose power you want to increase (or recognize more fully) by changing meeting time and place, or by making sure there are transportation, childcare, and even stipends. Those with power tend to be paid for their participation in community building or are deriving clear financial benefit; those without power usually are not.

  • Acknowledge the differential and ask everyone; those with more power and those with less, to determine how it the differential can be addressed.

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Solidarity Work

Level of Intervention



Internalized Privilege + Superiority

Internalized Oppression

Claiming one’s Identity

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Take Aways: Debriefing the Learning

  • What’s available now to you that wasn’t available before this workshop?

  • What one thing you’d like to try as a result of this workshop?

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Why Embark on this Journey? – Everyone Has A Story To Tell and A Contribution to Make

  • To expand your personal and organization’s range and ability to embrace others

  • To understand and become a “good” and “useful” ally to people with identities that you don’t share

  • To create a more just society

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Our Contact Info

  • Monika Moss, M.F.A., C

  • [email protected]

  • 216-320-9733

  • Brigette Rouson, J.D., M.A.

  • [email protected]

  • 202-460-2025

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