Letter from RALIANCE: A Year for Communicating Across Cultures

Black woman on a video call with a diverse team

Hello, friend – and Happy New Year! The year behind us was challenging for everyone, but also drove home that people often face specific challenges or develop different points of view based on their circumstances. For example, the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations, including low-income families and people of color. Police brutality demonstrated the systemic challenges facing Black and Brown communities. And a divisive presidential election drove home how differently many American voters view the country and its future. Amidst these challenges, many community leaders worked tirelessly to bridge cultural divides – and we can all learn from their example as we enter 2021.

As advocates for survivors of sexual violence, we often use the term “cultural competence” to describe the ability to effectively communicate across cultures and engage communities different from your own. In other words, being “culturally competent” means that you recognize and respond to a group’s unique needs and preferences. In our work, we recognize that there’s no single approach that meets the needs of all survivors, and that the community groups and businesses we partner with all need different types of support from RALIANCE as they seek to strengthen their own response to sexual misconduct in their communities and workplace.

In 2020, many leaders worked to strengthen their cultural competence. They responded to the year’s challenges by making themselves more aware of the struggles faced by others and communicating their support and solidarity. For example, RALIANCE celebrated a number of organizations from the private sector who stepped up last year to confront systemic racism in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Public sector leaders have also made a greater effort to serve more diverse communities. For example, President-elect Joe Biden appointed Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as chair of his administration’s COVID-19 Equity Task Force. The position, which will focus on reducing racial inequalities in health care, is the first of its kind and suggests that the Biden administration will be taking a new approach to ensuring vulnerable communities have an expert in the room who is specifically knowledgeable about their needs.

What can we learn from these leaders who championed culturally competent approaches?

First, concrete actions speak louder than words. While words of support and solidarity are always welcome, the corporations we spotlighted in 2020 are among those who distinguished themselves by focusing on actions that would genuinely meet the needs of key communities. They did their homework to understand the needs of Black and Brown communities, and it shows.  

Second, if you can’t be the expert, find one. The Biden administration recognized a gap in their expertise when it came to racial equity in health care, and so they hired a qualified individual who could help the administration lead on this issue.

As for the nonprofit sector, this month we will spotlight two RALIANCE grantees who have committed themselves to culturally competent work. We look forward to sharing how our grants have supported their inspiring projects. Stay tuned this month for more!

RALIANCE provides consulting, assessment, and employee development services to help build more equitable workplace cultures and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. We stand ready to support your organization’s goals – contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

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