by Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch, MFLN Network Literacy
Over the last several weeks, we’ve been working on our cultural competence. Through the 2018 Military Families Learning Network Virtual Conference and the accompanying Storytelling for Cultural Competence experience, we have begun to better understand our own cultural stories, gained insights into the stories of others, and become more aware of our privilege. All of that, however, is just a small step in a cultural competence journey. To make it a bigger step, to make it transformational, we need to move from understanding to action.
We created the Advocacy Action Plan to help us make that move. We wanted to help ourselves and others by providing a framework for developing an action plan and by supporting cultural competence journeys through validation, co-learning and peer support.
When we started work on the plan, we struggled to find other action plans or lists of competencies that we could relate to as individuals. All of the advocacy plans we found were for organizations and most of the competency lists we found were written from an organizational perspective. We wanted a plan that we could make a personal connection with, one that could reflect our personal experience and be adjusted to our own pace. We couldn’t find one, so we set out to create it.
We relied on several resources, but one was especially important. “Strategies for Cultural Competency in Indian Health Care” by Mim Dixon and Pamela E. Iron is a collection of case studies of cultural competence programs in healthcare organization serving Indians and Alaska Natives. The programs described in the book were implemented for organizations created to serve people from a specific culture. Many organizations were located on reservations. Many of the healthcare providers were in the cultural minority. As a result, cultural competence was extremely important to delivering effective care, and people from the culture that healthcare providers were trying to understand were deeply involved in the design and delivery of the cultural competence programs.
The stories of these programs were a rich source for the example competencies we included in the Advocacy Action Plan. They were also the inspiration for the 5 spheres of cultural competence included in the plan: seeking out stories, practicing humility, listening,asking questions and engaging others. Within each of those sphere the plan holds space for us to:
- Reflect on ideas and questions related to that sphere
- Choose the competencies we want to work on
- Find specific ways to practice our competencies
- Explore how the sphere relates to our experiences
- Prepare to practice your competencies
We are not experts in cultural competence. As two white people from the upper Midwest, we do not intend to lead people along this path. Hopefully we can help people along their way by sharing what we have learned about positive psychology and behavior change, telling the story of our own journeys, and practicing vulnerability.
Shay Huff says “Vulnerability is contagious.” We hope that’s true because we believe sharing our stories can change the way we think and act, and by changing the way we think and act, we can deliver more effective support and care to those we serve.
We’d like to invite you to check out the Advocacy Action Plan as a way to move from understanding to action and continue your cultural competence journey. Like any journey, this one will likely be filled with stops and starts, frustrations and revelations, pain and progress. Please take it at your own pace, forgive your mistakes, and keep moving forward.