Cultural Sensitivity & Humility



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Research: Trauma-Informed Organizations

Change Package: Cultural Sensitivity & Humility


Honoring the voices and experiences of marginalized groups

Using feedback and comments of people from marginalized groups and lived experiences to create change. Self-reflection on how one reacts and responds (internally and externally) when people from marginalized groups speak on any issue or share themselves in any manner.

Learning about diverse cultures and experiences

Creating opportunities to educate and expose people to various cultural experiences.

Considering the impact of historical oppression/ historical trauma

Historical trauma is the cumulative emotional harm of an individual or generation caused by a traumatic experience or event.

Identifying the role of privilege

Social privilege is a special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or to the detriment of others; often, the groups that benefit from it are unaware of it.

Staff Experience

  • Develop policies on offensive or violent language or behavior such as racist remarks; identify a staff person responsible and create a schedule to regularly review such policies.

  • Offer regular opportunities for staff and consumers to share and celebrate their cultures.
  • Set a regular schedule to assess the number of consumers whose primary language is not the dominant language spoken at the program and compare these numbers with how frequently interpreters are used. This is to ensure that professional interpreters are provided, rather than solely relying on individuals with a personal relationship with the consumer.

  • Budget for speaker fees/ honorariums to invite community members as guest to lead cultural events, talks, and other activities.
  • Provide resources for staff to organize cultural events and activities with the consumer population, such as potlucks, culture nights, incorporating different types of art and music, or PhotoVoice.
  • Seek out women, people of color, and people of historically underrepresented populations for promotions and leadership roles. This is a regular conversation/agenda item during recruitment and HR meetings.
  • Identify workshops and professional development opportunities designed specifically leaders from marginalized groups, and promote and shared with staff.
  • Offer a financial incentive for staff who speak more than one languange.

  • Offer opportunities to all supervisees to share about their identities and cultural background and how they view this as a strength in providing quality care or engaging in their work.
  • As a method of continued dialogue, after cultural trainings, supervisors follow up with supervisees to process and discuss the training/educational materials.

  • Ensure leadership staff regularly participates in cultural trainings and respectfully participates in community cultural gatherings/activities.
  • Train leadership staff on how to directly address conflict and concerns, and effectively “call-in” (vs “call-out”) when behavior is out of line with TI principles.
  • Make sure that staff in leadership/hiring roles actively work to promote and hire people of color and other people of historically oppressed or marginalized groups.

Consumer Experience

  • Draft a written commitment and formal process to hire:
    • staff members with the same cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds as the people being served.
    • consumers or people with lived experience.
  • Draft a written commitment and formal process to ensure people in leadership or supervisory roles reflect the same cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds as the rest of staff.

  • Ensure positive messages are communicated about marginalized groups or identities.
  • Review communications to ensure “person-first” language is used (e.g., people with schizophrenia, instead of schizophrenics, or people experiencing homelessness, instead of homeless people).

  • Hire staff members with the same cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds as consumers.
  • Create a process to ensure consumers are offered the option to select a provider based on gender preference and that those options are available.
  • Ensure that the intake process acknowledges social determinants of health and various aspects of socioeconomic status:
    • Legal needs
    • Housing status
    • Food security
    • Insurance, benefits, financial status/needs
    • Primary language
    • Sexual orientation and gender identity (including preferred name and pronouns)
    • Cultural strengths (e.g., worldview, role of spirituality, cultural connections)
    • Current level of safety in their living situation
    • Current level of danger from other people (e.g., restraining orders, history of domestic violence, threats from others)
    • Substance use
    • Mental health concerns

  • Ensure various cultures are represented in the displayed artwork and images.
  • Ensure magazines, pamphlets, and other reading materials are targeted to various groups, identities, and cultures.
  • Provide signage that explicitly expresses that all religious backgrounds, gender and non-conforming identities, and sexual orientations are acknowledged and welcomed.
  • Provide signage for free and confidential interpretation services in various languages.
  • Offer gender-neutral restrooms.
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