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Alternative Social Service Organizations: Informal, Feminist, & Ethnic. Cultural Competency in Traditional Organizations. Informal Organizations. Involve the process of social exchange. Much giving and receiving is reciprocal.

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alternative social service organizations informal feminist ethnic

Alternative Social Service Organizations: Informal, Feminist, & Ethnic

Cultural Competency in Traditional Organizations

informal organizations
Informal Organizations
  • Involve the process of social exchange.
  • Much giving and receiving is reciprocal.
  • Informal helpers can include shamans, folk healers, and other community leaders.
  • Exchange of goods and services is an alternative to using money. Low income communities rely heavily on informal networks to exchange help.
  • Informal networks can be documented and used in the process of community-building, recruitment of clients and volunteers, and in the delivery of services.
  • Most people prefer seeking informal help over help from formal organizations.
  • The nature of the help provided changes when informal helpers are paid to deliver services.
informal organizations become formal organizations
Informal Organizations become Formal Organizations
  • When the organization incorporates to obtain nonprofit status.
  • When it attempts to obtain funds from government, corporate, or foundation sources.
  • When staff are hired to deliver services.
  • When decision-makers have formal roles and power derived from the decision-maker’s role in the organization hierarchy.
  • When the organization appoints or elects a board of directors.
Iglehart & Becerra identify the following characteristics associated with “ideal” ethnic social service agencies
  • Serves primarily ethnic clients.
  • Staffed primarily by people of the same ethnicity as most of the clients.
  • Has a majority of ethnic individuals on the board of directors.
  • Has support from the ethnic community.
  • Integrates ethnic content into service interventions and programs.
  • Promotes ethnic identity and participation.
advantages of ethnic organizations
Advantages of Ethnic Organizations
  • Potential clients are more comfortable receiving the service from members of their own culture.
  • There is less chance of access barriers and stigma that could prevent the client from receiving the service.
  • The services are more effective because the staff incorporate cultural understanding into assessments, interventions, and the identification of outcomes.
  • Staff and clients speak the same “language” or use the same terminology to describe needs and services.
disadvantages of ethnic agencies
Disadvantages of Ethnic Agencies
  • They often serve small communities; potential clients may be afraid that community members will know about their problems.
  • Clients may encounter stigma from members of their own ethnic group.
  • It may be difficult to obtain funding for services; funding may be available for services not wanted or needed by the ethnic group.
  • Consensus style decision-making may be impeded by the need to make centralized decisions or the designation of a leader that can negotiate with funders.
  • Some groups in the community may be excluded due to traditional cultural norms, for example, the exclusion of women from decision-making in the Southeast Asian community.
  • As the organization moves from an informal to formal organization, professional staff may be required (due to the complexity of needs or due to funder requirements). There may be few members of the ethnic group who have obtained professional degrees and who wish to work for ethnic organizations.
feminist organizations
Feminist Organizations
  • Begin as informal or social movement organizations.
  • Rely on ideology and politics to motivate staff and volunteers
  • Ideally operate on a partnership model – establishing equalitarian relationships among all organization participants.
  • Minimize what are considered to be harmful effects of hierarchy using sanctions and authority to make people work.
  • Focus on consensus style decision-making and cooperation.
  • Rely on inter-personal relationships to get people to work.
  • One of the primary organization goals is social change. Confrontation with the political establishment may be needed to meet goals.
  • Staff and volunteer burnout if other rewards are not sufficient to motivate staff.
  • Divisions due to demographic differences such as ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation (as sometimes gender!).
  • Social distance necessary to manage effectively is difficult to achieve. Director may need to discipline or fire staff.
  • Organization must try to meet the demands of funders and regulatory bodies. A designated leader is needed and the work must be completed.
examples of cultural issues
Examples of cultural issues
  • Members of the deaf community have their own language (sign), organizations, and cultural norms, view themselves as separate from the dominant culture.
  • Native (American) Indians may view the following concepts differently from members of the dominant culture: time (past, present, future), space (economic vs. spiritual), and relationship to nature (harmony with vs. control of nature). (Ndubisi, 1991).
To truly describe how organizations function in culturally specific ways, we must broaden our definition of culture.
  • Many demographic groups may have their own specific culture.
  • Culture can include norms, language, slang, symbols, music, behaviors, the meaning of certain behavior, and patterns of interaction or exchange.
  • These behaviors and practices are distinct from those of the dominant culture.
  • Consequently, the term culture can refer to any subpopulation group that identifies itself as different from the dominant culture: persons with disabilities, gay men & lesbians, the Amish, goths, nudists, etc.
we can define cultural competency in the following way
We can define cultural competency in the following way:
  • Social workers are culturally competent if they obtain knowledge about a variety of cultural groups, understand, the concept of cultural identity, be open to different perspectives, and be able to communicate across these differences (Gutierrez & Alvarez, 2000).
  • “The ability of organizations and systems to function effectively in cross-cultural situations” (British Columbia Ministry for Children & Families, 2003, p. 1).
  • “Cultural competency is an engaging, life-long journey of expanding your horizons, thinking critically about power and oppression, and behaving appropriately (American College Health Association, 2003, p. 1).
kahn 1991 argues that organizations become culturally competent when
Kahn (1991) argues that organizations become culturally competent when:
  • They have organization structures that foster equity in in resource sharing, program development, and administration.
  • Recruit people from differing ethnic backgrounds.
  • Provide on-going training and education about race and cultural issues (for clients and staff).
  • Plan cultural and social activities that are culturally appropriate and inclusive of all organization participants.
Cultural Competency Action List(American College Health Association) The culturally competent person is:
  • Aware of own cultural heritage and values.
  • Aware of how his/her own biases affect cultural perceptions.
  • Comfortable with cultural difference.
  • Sensitive to circumstances that may require you to seek a cultural guide.
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of social power structure and how non-dominate cultural groups are treated.
  • Acquire knowledge and information about the particular group she/he is working with.
  • Recognize institutional barriers that prevent members of disadvantaged groups from using organization resources.
  • Send and receive verbal and nonverbal messages accurately and appropriately.
  • Intervene appropriately and advocate on behalf of individuals from different cultures.
national mental health association recommends that organizations should
National Mental Health Association recommends that organizations should.
  • Have a cultural competency plan
  • Form advisory boards with diverse members.
  • Provide applications and other materials in different languages and Braille; pre-test material to make sure it’s usable.
  • Provide translation services (including sign language).
  • Provide culturally acceptable treatments.
  • Providing cultural competency training.
  • Make sure service providers have specialized assessment and treatment skills needed to treat diverse clients (ethnicity and sexual orientation).
organization typology for supporting diversity perlmutter bailey netting 2001
Organization typology for supporting diversity (Perlmutter, Bailey, & Netting, 2001)
  • Level 1 – token equal employment opportunity. Women and persons of color are hired, but have no power or authority.
  • Level 2 – Affirmative Action organizations. Hires women and persons of color. Prohibits sexist and racist behavior. – Has a “glass ceiling” that limits promotion among members of these groups.
  • Level 3 – self-renewing organization. Systematically assesses its own values, behaviors, and symbols. Uses findings to design management strategies that increase productivity. Finds ways to incorporate different perspectives into the organization culture.
  • Level 4 – multicultural organization. Supports a culture of diversity through hiring and promotion. Prohibits all discrimination, sets new standards for social behavior within the organization. Seeks alliances with organizations of similar values and behaviors.
we use ethnographic interviews to find out about someone s culture ethnographic interviews are
We use ethnographic interviews to find out about someone’s culture.Ethnographic interviews are:
  • Usually unstructured. May be similar to a casual conversation.
  • Focus on a person’s personal history, experiences, values, and behaviors as they pertain to membership in a specific culture.
  • Are a form of qualitative research.
  • Can include oral histories or narratives.
  • Can take place in a group format.
  • Require that the researcher gains the trust of the people he/she interviews.
  • Don’t usually require the use of a standard questionnaire, but research may prepare a set of open-ended questions in advance.

Lee, E. (2003). Bridges to wellness. Retrieved on February 24, 2003 from

National Mental Health Association. (2003). Cultural competency in mental health systems. Retrieved on February 24, 2003 from

North, C. (2003). The ethnographic interview. Retrieved on February 24, 2003 from

Permultter, F., Bailey, D., & Netting, E. (2001). Managing human resources in the human services. New York: Oxford University Press. (Chapter 6, Supporting diversity).