Core Competency: Cultural Competence

Proactively addressing cultural competence and diversity issues can help you engage your target population and make your efforts more likely to succeed. In working with specific groups, it is important to ensure that your services are culturally responsive to their needs and preferences. This includes understanding and respecting the beliefs, values, traditions, and practices of the groups you are trying to reach.  

Cultural competence is an ongoing process, and developing cultural responsiveness takes more time and effort than attending a standalone training program. Key actions to consider include these: 

  • Learn about your target community. To increase familiarity with the groups you plan to work with, start by reviewing relevant research and other information (e.g., academic journals, national survey data or reports) specific to your population. 
  • Engage community members. When you invite community members to define their own needs and to participate as full partners in decision making, you are acknowledging them as the experts in their own lives, families, and communities. This approach builds trust and respect and is well worth the time invested. A community-guided approach will contribute to more effective programming as well as to community ownership and sustainability.  
  • Provide staff training. Staff working with diverse communities need training on how to be culturally responsive to local norms and perspectives. Staff development should include topics such as specific cultural content, norms and beliefs, privilege and power issues, disparities in access to care, and historical trauma experienced by minority groups. Having sensitivity toward differences in communication styles and making concerted efforts to reach out to special populations are both key in building strong relationships and in increasing cultural responsiveness.  
  • Assess policy and environment. Cultural responsiveness also includes evaluating existing policies in your organization that may serve as barriers to specific populations. You may find it helpful to develop your own definitions and terminology related to cultural competence to build a shared understanding within your team of what you are striving for. Behaviors, attitudes, and policies across all levels of an organization are all involved in becoming culturally responsive. 

Core Competencies

  • Your agency, staff, and program are culturally responsive to ethnic and other cultural groups (e.g., LGBT persons, military service members, people of different age groups). 
  • You use available research and information to improve your understanding of specific cultural groups. 
  • You empower your target audience to participate as equal partners in the planning process. 
  • You and your staff recognize that cultural competence is an ongoing process that develops over time, and which includes regular self- and organizational assessment, careful planning, and appropriate policies and procedures. 

How Your SPRC Prevention Specialist Can Help 

Your Prevention Specialist can: 

  • Help you find relevant literature to better understand critical factors and community strengths and to identify strategies to engage your target population in a meaningful way 
  • Support you in empowering your community by engaging audience members in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of your initiative 
  • Support your staff training efforts, including suggesting how to create a safe environment in which these sensitive discussions can take place, and help you access appropriate training and information for specific populations 
  • Provide guidance on how to conduct organizational assessments to evaluate existing policies and organizational environment and identify areas for improvement