What do they mean?
Definitions of Cultural Competency:
According to Lum (1999), cultural
competency is “the set of knowledge and
skills that a social worker must develop in
order to be effective with multicultural clients.
The culturally competent practitioner helps
the consumer bring together values and
beliefs from the consumer’s own culture and
those of the dominant culture” (p. 3).
According to Rivera & Erlich (1995), the
culturally competent organizer must be able to:
Be familiar with the customs and traditions of constituency group members.
Have knowledge of language style and subgroup slang
Be aware of community leadership styles and development.
Understand how members of the group have been oppressed (or excluded from
decision-making) and be able to identify sources of institutional discrimination
Have knowledge of past organizing strategies as well as the strengths and
limitations of these strategies.
Facilitate empowerment through collective decision-making.
Assist people in developing a critical consciousness about sources of
Know patterns of community and organizational decision-making.
Use participatory methods of social research and evaluation
Be aware of one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
Examples of culturally competent actions for multisystems or
Hang pictures and posters that use cultural symbols from a culture
other than your own in your workplace.
Learn to greet people in a language other than your own.
Use ethnographic interviewing to learn about a culture other than your
Participate in cultural or multicultural events.
Engage in practice with humility, acknowledging that you do not know
everything about someone else’s background or culture. Become an
active learner – engage in mutual learning.
In working with oppressed or ethnic communities, be aware of the
primary decision-makers. Consult with them as necessary, but also
engage in activities to bring others into the decision-making process.
Encourage the use of cultural symbols and music in the organizing
Rivera & Erlich argue that an
organizer should only work in communities or within ethnic
populations of the same cultural background as the organizer .
Do you agree?
What are the strengths and
weaknesses of this argument?
o Solomon (1976) defines empowerment as:
“the process whereby persons who belong to a stigmatized social category
throughout their lives can be assisted to develop and increase skills in the
exercise of interpersonal influence and the performance of valued social roles”
o Zimmerman & Rappaport (1988) define empowerment as: “a construct that links
individual strengths and competencies, natural helping systems, and proactive
behaviors to matters of social change. It is thought to be a process by which
individuals gain mastery or control over their own lives and democratic
participation in the life of their community” (p. 726). Zimmerman & Rappaport
believe that participation in organization decision-making not only is a central
component for bringing about social change, it also helps the participants
develop a sense of self-efficacy derived from their ability to bring about social
E Take steps to provide on-going education and training in
advocacy, voting, decision-making, leadership, and other skills to
clients, community constituents, and staff members.
M Find appropriate methods to motivate and mobilize clients,
constituents, and staff members for skill development and political
P Increase the participation of clients, constituents, and staff in
local, state, and national politics.
O Conduct outreach to local constituents, informal networks, and
institutions in order to develop an adequate constituency base and to
strengthen local networks.
W Provide opportunities to staff workers for participation in organization
decision-making in order to improve worker perceptions of personal
self-efficacy and commitment to the workplace.
E Evaluate service outcome, processes and quality on a regular
basis with significant input from clients, constituents, and workers.
R Conduct voter registration drives and provide voter education and
training. Recruitment of new voters and organization participants.
Limitations of Empowerment Practice
Staff members in organization or existing
elites may not want to give up power.
Conflict may occur due to gender, cultural, or
It is difficult to empower mandatory clients.
Decision-making roles may be largely
cosmetic – advisory only rather than
delegated power or community control
The recruitment of volunteers who bring new skill to the organization.
The acquisition of leadership skills by these new constituents.
Clients and constituents find ways to resolve personal problems and develop an
improved sense of self-efficacy.
Strong linkages to community networks and institutions are developed.
A stronger organization response to client needs is achieved.
Constituents provide a strong base of support for the organization.
Improvements in service effectiveness, quality, and client access are made.
Improvements are made in the quality of the life of the community
The organization and its constituents acquire political power.
Resources needed for cultural competent and
Commitments and leadership by administrators and board members.
Training for board members, staff, and constituents.
An adequate funding source that is committed to and promotes
culturally competent and empowering practice.
Tangible rewards and outcomes associated with participation in
Use of appropriate cultural symbols such as music, dance, and