Know Where You Stand Before You Do Anything

By: Aziza Zemrani   Cynthia Lynch  

Diversity is more than just ethnicity and gender, and cultural competency is more than just being able to say hello in another language. Diversity and cultural competency are also about how we think and our attitudes towards others. Understanding our attitudes about and towards others is particularly important for public sector and nonprofit programs. Intervention programs designed to serve the public are doomed to fail if the program designers fail to culturally identify with the population they are serving. Equally, program evaluators are likely to miss the failures of the program to meet the needs of the population it is intended to serve, if they are also culturally insensitive. Massive, nation-wide diversity training initiatives such as the one Starbucks embarked on in 2018 are necessary but not sufficient to make a significant difference in consciousness raising to foment lasting organizational change. One-size-fits all diversity training initiatives, without prior knowledge of where each trainee fits on the culturally competent spectrum, ends up being understood by many participants as a lecture on “political correctness” rather than a deep learning experience, and results in a collective data dump as they cross the threshold of the training room at the end of the session. This paper uses a case study of a Hawaiian nonprofit organization’s failure to understand and culturally identify with the population they were charged with serving to illustrate the fundamental need to do employee cultural awareness self-assessments prior to program implementation and evaluation.

Cultural Competency
Organizational Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Aziza Zemrani

Assoc. Professor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, United States
United States

Cynthia Lynch

Associate Professor, Master on Public Administration, Hawaii Pacific University, United States
HI, United States

Cynthia E. Lynch is an Associate Professor in Public Administrration. She is currently teaching at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu Hawaii. From 2016-2018, she taught in the MPA program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Prior to joining UTRGV, she taught in the MPA program of Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisana. Dr. Lynch is alos an Ordained Interfaith Minister.