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  • benjaminnewman01

The Culturally Competent Final Project

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

We covered a lot of content in this course already, and it means different things to each of you, what's useful right now versus what you might keep in your toolbox for a later date. For our final project of the course, I’d like you to reflect on everything that we’ve covered during our time together. Then convey how you are and/or will be using this material in your own work and workplace. What do you anticipate will be some of the challenges in doing so? And what will you do if, or when, you’re met with those challenges in a way that doesn’t hinder your ability to move towards what you really want?

Think about what's one thing from this course that you have reflected on that would be helpful to implement with regards to changing Language. This might be conducting a person first language review of all your websites. Break this down about why this item and how you might approach it. Then go to the Policies bucket, and so on.

 

LEADING WITH CULTURALLY COMPETENT LANGUAGE

Both in terms of applying more inclusive language and unlearning language that separates or “others”, the importance of language has been a consistent theme for me in this course. Its impact in the workplace cannot be overstated. While often framed as a specialization such as “Communications” or “Editor” everyone uses language and in the process sends a variety of explicit and implicit messages that greatly impact how we behave and what we share in that space. Where I’ve personally benefited the most from this course is in the area of adding a new and richer understanding of the role language plays in disability justice, decolonization, healthy conflict, bias, and decision making. The resources and tools provided have given me numerous methods to apply and share a more inclusive worldview in the workplace.

The exercises from Module 4 around affinity groups and caucusing were of particular interest to me because I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in one before. I would love to facilitate and/or participate in a Caucus that seeks to understand and unlearn the ways in which White Supremacy Culture is built into the workplace. Tema Okun’s characteristics of White Supremacy Culture provides a wide range of influences, some more difficult to address and apply than others, that I can envision as the source of a monthly caucus group study. One of the more difficult conversations that was generated around this topic was around the impact (or lack thereof) of Affinity Groups and Caucuses in the workplace. If given the chance, I would like to create an Affinity Group dedicated to the dismantling of White Supremacy Culture, but framed through the understanding that we are not looking to create workplace culture warriors who will challenge existing values, but rather build each other up through the understanding that change begins with each one of us doing the work of realizing we have a part to play in making our workplaces a more just and equitable place.


LEADING WITH CULTURALLY COMPETENT POLICIES

In the area of policy, I greatly benefitted from the outline of Biases in Decision Making that Tim shared during “Re-imagining the Hiring Process” in Module 3. The list was exhaustive and frankly, difficult to digest, however, it forced me to place the mirror on myself and ask what biases I am most prone to. Attentional bias and the Mere Exposure Effect resonated with me as two areas in which I am most prone to my bias filtering my impression of a candidate during the hiring process. Prior to this course, I’d only ever seen search firms provide recommendations to search committees around what to look for in a candidate. This was the first time I saw the search process begin by flipping the table on to the search committee at the beginning of the search to create a shared framework prior to interviewing candidates.

At the onset of my next search, I plan to share the Biases in Decision Making as a resource in a facilitated session in which I guide committee members through the outline as a means of building trust with one another and creating a shared framework for the kind of candidate the company wants to find. After spending time understanding the potential biases each person is prone to, I would ask each one to share 1 or 2 biases they personally identify as areas in which they know their bias may come through during the interview process and reviewing candidates. Those biases would be documented and kept private, but shared with each member of the search committee as an accountability tool during deliberations. While the tool is not immune from bad actors using it to their advantage, it provides an important accountability checkpoint within the hiring process.


LEADING WITH CULTURALLY COMPETENT PRACTICES

Of all of the tools provided in Module 2, the one I plan to use to gain an understanding of a company’s existing workplace culture is the Core Behavioral Values exercise. I actually had a former manager use this exercise with the Senior Team and then brought it to middle management. The only problem was that this manager manipulated the exercise to align middle management’s values with the values the Senior Team had generated as a means of demonstrating how the entire company had shared values, but without ever allowing middle management to interact with the Senior Team to understand how they had arrived at those values and how they might align themselves within them. This created a divide between the Senior Team and middle management that sent a silent message to the latter group that we had no power or say in what the company’s values would be.

As a means of encouraging all staff to consider the value of Shared Leadership, I would apply this exercise between department staff at all levels, or with all company staff at all levels, depending on the size of the company. It’s important for everyone in the company to represent their own perspective in a conversation around shared values to the benefit of all. Of course, existing workplace culture might prevent people from sharing openly and honestly, so I would apply the findings from the exercise anonymously to avoid any potential blowback on an individual who shares something that might be considered a challenge or threat to leadership. In this way, I can be the buffer to help create a safe space where shared learning can occur. Following the exercise, I would apply the information I gathered from the dynamics of the conversation to make recommendations to leadership regarding which values would help staff to feel more valued, which values might challenge their thinking, and which values all parties are aligned with.


LEADING WITH CULTURALLY COMPETENT PROGRAMMING & OFFERINGS

The lessons around Decolonization in Module 7 opened up the floodgates for me in regards to programming and offerings by performing arts institutions. If arts orgs genuinely pursue decolonization it is imperative that Eurocentrism is acknowledged as the driving cultural force in programming. One need only look at the seasons of every ballet, opera, and symphonic organization to see the time-honored works of dead white European men from 1650-1950 to see the impact of Eurocentrism. While works by non-white, male composers and creators are starting to increase in the last few years, most organizations have yet to realize their role in shaping the expectations and tastes of their audiences to only hear the works of Europeans, because they are paralyzed by fear of losing their core audience to appease “the woke mob.”

In the same way these organizations have shaped their audiences' tastes for European works, they must equally invest in shaping their tastes for non-European works, but without massive grandstanding to appease the optics of the current time. I’ve seen too many organizations demonstrate their lack of understanding to find this delicate balance or realize that decolonization can only be achieved if it occurs holistically throughout the entire organization. This could be accomplished by hiring an outside consultant to do an audit of White Supremacy Culture and Values within each organization’s department and make recommendations on how to apply a more inclusive approach across each one.

For example, rather than hiring more Black and Brown singers for lower paying Community Engagement gigs, hire them for the main stage and create a platform for them to share their experience interpreting a role that has been historically performed by mostly White performers. Work with the Marketing department to schedule an interview with a singer of color portraying the heroine for the program book, and then collaborate with her to build interview questions that speak to her experience without appearing performative. Title the interview “Portraying The Heroine” to draw the reader towards the interview without taking advantage of the singer’s identity by subjecting them to a perception of identity optics and politics.

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