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Cultural Competence


Cultural competence is the ability to interact with people of different cultures in positive and proactive ways. It ensures that the needs of all community members are addressed, regardless of any cultural differences.

It’s also a vital component of a healthy work environment. This system, which allows cross-cultural groups to work professionally in various situations, is determined by a set of policies, behaviors, and attitudes.

Culture Defined

“Cultural” is a broad term that encompasses different components of humanity; it is more than just race or origin:

  • human behaviors
  • language
  • actions
  • religious beliefs
  • values
  • social groups
  • ethic perceptions
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • income level
  • education and profession

What Determines Cultural Competency?

There are 5 essential elements that contribute to an institution’s ability to become more culturally competent:

  1. Treasuring diversity.
  2. Having the tools for cultural self-assessment.
  3. Being conscious of the environment that’s created when cultures interact.
  4. Having long-standing cultural knowledge.
  5. Developing adaptations to service delivery showing an understanding of cultural diversity.

The key to cultural competence is having respect of different and/or diverse population groups. Whether there are individuals who are working on their own – or those who are working within an organization – where there are multicultural situations, there should be cultural competence.

Why is Cultural Competence Important?

Positive change in society is produced by having leaders and practitioners who have a broad understanding of the cultural context of their target community. They must also have the commitment and training to work within this context, which can be achieved by partnering with knowledgeable people from the community, educational institutions, or at work by those who have the same desire to effect positive change.

Understanding the needs of individuals in businesses or in the community leads to a variety of positive impacts:

  • Employees feel better understood.
  • City funds can be put toward organizations and programs that will impact the specific needs of the community.
  • Respect for other cultures develops.
  • Stores can tailor-make inventory for specific customers.
  • Diversity brings in a broader talent base to fill the needs of businesses in the area.
  • Racial tension is reduced drastically.

From regular businesses to hospitals, any establishment that’s culturally competent will have similar components. Here’s what they may look like:

  • They have policies and resources that make ongoing development of cultural competence and inclusion possible.
  • They regularly assess member experiences working with diverse communities.
  • They collaborate with other community groups and analyze what’s working and what needs to be adjusted in the future.
  • They have training materials, public service announcements, printed resources, and other materials that represent cultural diversity.
  • They evaluate the incorporation of cultural competence.

Is Cultural Competence Evolving?

As the world grows and technology develops, connections with other countries and the influx of immigrants will continue to expand at rapid rates. Working with different cultures day in and day out will continue to drive the importance of cultural competence for any company or community that is looking to flourish and succeed in today’s industry.

With this being a newly-accepted concept, there’s plenty of room for communities and businesses to perfect the concept of cultural competence, what it looks like, and how it can be achieved. This will ultimately lead to consistent change and evolution.

Related: Cycle of Addiction