It is essential for organizations within the AUCD Network to maintain safe spaces. In the Toolkit team information-gathering process, many respondents recommended cultivating safe and effective spaces for cultural conversations to support the needs of all stakeholders. Safe spaces are environments created for people to feel comfortable having authentic dialogue. Team members are encouraged and enabled to engage in passionate, creative collaboration, spirited discussion and execute the organization’s vision. Key components include recognizing that all knowledge and opinions are equally valid, judgements are suspended, the mistakes and emotions of humanity are allowed, and dialogue is consensual (Berkeley Student Cooperative). When cultivating a safe space, team members should be led to acknowledge and, when applicable, respond to the realities, world views, biases, and impact of historical trauma of others and themselves. Furthermore, team members should be encouraged to listen attentively, acknowledge the contributions of others, show willingness for personal growth, and avoid talking negatively about others. Bullying is not to be tolerated (Peters, 2003), and grievance and conflict resolution processes are to be clear and culturally competent. Staff, faculty, individuals and families, trainees, advisors, and volunteers all bring different perspectives, experiences and cultures, gifts and strengths. Creating safe and inclusive environments in the workplace, classroom, and service locations allows space for diverse perspectives to be shared, acknowledged, respected, and valued.
Address diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence in values and attitudes within own organization. Develop definitions and value statement(s) collaboratively with all members of organization, including the “collective intelligence” of other external partners.
Offer on-site support to people with disabilities to ensure their access and participation in all activities and conversations. Provide allies, mentors, cultural brokers, or learning partners who can support participation in meaningful dialogue and reflection.
Practice cultural humility.
Incorporate creative activities addressing issues that are otherwise uncomfortable. Ensure time and opportunity for participants to process the discomfort. Identify and utilize conversation starters and icebreakers to open discussion on this topic.
Obtain training in facilitation and/or group conversation.
Focus on individual and community strengths and resiliencies. Address the disparities and disproportionality within diverse communities. People of color and people with disabilities are often discussed in a pathological way. Factors that contribute to resiliency are critical to explore and bolster as disparities, disproportionality, and inequities are being addressed.
Quote: “I think we should also consider a focus on resiliency instead of (or addition to) health disparities. In a recent conversation with one of our state’s Tribal Review experts, she told me that disparities language can often feel like reifying oppression for Alaska Natives, and very paternal to boot e.g. ‘You Alaska Natives are so unhealthy, you have the highest rates of sexual violence, diabetes, lack of education, poverty, TBI, STDs, homicide, mental health problems, tobacco use, obesity, FASD, domestic violence…You are just so oppressed you need our help!’ My contact said a focus on resiliency and thriving may be more effective, and less oppressive.” –Rebekah Moras, PhD, Research Professional, Center for Human Development (AK)
Encourage and highlight grantee successes related to diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence through blog posts, website articles, workgroup participation, and other means with a focus on replication of best and promising practices. Support multiple diverse and young staff to attend AUCD conference and other meetings, participate in Councils and SIGs, and run for AUCD’s Board of Directors.
Intervene when issues of bias arise. Step in and speak up when seeing or hearing someone being culturally insensitive. This is everyone’s responsibility. Create a climate where people feel comfortable to challenge one another on attitudes not in support of diversity. Create culturally appropriate grievance and conflict resolution processes.
Quote: “There was a training offered for staff on cultural competency. The speaker was a highly respected man in the community and had done this talk in years past. However, when doing this most recent training he went rogue and decided to talk about his own religious beliefs and made several culturally insensitive remarks. The auditorium was silent and no one knew how to respond. At question and answer time no one said anything. We held a public forum following this event and discussed what happened. The main thing we talked about is why didn’t anyone stand up and say anything? Why wasn’t this addressed at this time? We realize now where more training is needed.” – Bethany Sloane, DPT, Assistant Professor, Institute on Development & Disability, Oregon Health & Science University
Leaders at every level should promote diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence as a priority. Leaders motivate others, and model acceptance and inclusion both internally and externally, through their formal authority (position, title, pay grade, administrative or executive authority, etc.) and informal authority (influence, advocacy, relationships and social networks, etc.).
Be aware of nonverbal body language, ensure clarity of information, and provide support for people to engage. Learn the non-verbal communication styles of various cultures. Check in with others to ensure their nonverbal cues are being understood correctly. Allow others the time needed to express themselves. Teach these skills to all staff, volunteers, faculty, and trainees.
Break down barriers preventing personal engagement in the workplace. Identify areas of shared interests and experiences to build connections between individuals while respecting differences and diverse perspectives. Do this within teams and across teams so all staff have an understanding of each other. Increase adventure, team projects, and personal communications to discover and make publicly known the talents, interests and perspectives of all individuals. Tap into the resources each person brings. Seek to understand the cultural perspective of others through case scenarios, stories, vignettes, and opportunities for cultural immersion activities, events, and initiatives.
Implement quality improvement initiatives related to diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence; this indicates a priority for others.
Quote: “When I began working on improving cultural competence within the IDD at OHSU I began reaching out to other LEND programs. I had weekly meetings with PACWest LEND, New Mexico LEND, and Vermont LEND. I will be inviting this year’s LEND trainee to be a part of the diversity task force if this is an area of interest. Also, I have applied to be on the diversity advisory council here at OHSU as a young professional that is very enthusiastic and passionate about this initiative. I have sent out a survey to IDD staff in order to get a baseline on where our needs in the department are and then be able to work from there. I will continue to reassess this using a survey approximately every 3 years.” – Bethany Sloane, DPT, Assistant Professor, Institute on Development & Disability, Oregon Health & Science University
Encourage people to share their perspectives at the time they are ready, as forced communication tends to increase discomfort.
Build an environment where self-disclosure is welcomed and valued, if people choose to self-disclose race, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, or any other cultural considerations. Leaders can self-disclose to set examples.
Recognize that when engaging with others, the culture you bring is a collection of social constructs (process of socialization), attitudes, knowledge, behaviors and values of what cultural group(s) you grew up with and what you experienced throughout life. Recognize and acknowledge the inherent bias you bring, and value the different life experiences and perspectives of others.
Increase teamwork to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and understood, so all have a chance to be a leader in different situations and to present their work and progress to others.
Obtain information from people and grassroots news sources that are trusted in diverse communities to understand the perspectives of people living in those communities.
Quote: “It’s important to stay in touch with what progressive, community-based, and minority-led organizations are talking about and how they’re talking about it. For example, when I worked in education reform, our organization paid close attention to a new advocacy group started by young black adults who had gone through the city's public schools; they wrote and were publicizing what was, basically, a manifesto for improving the system. Some of their points aligned with ours and some didn’t, but it allowed both groups to get to the table and plan actions in a strategic and respectful way. We could also broker conversations between them and the school system, making our organization an even more valuable resource.” –Ben Kaufman, Senior Program Manager, AUCD
Self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-evaluation are essential. Deliberately and intentionally explore unconscious biases and attitudes. Always ask what can be approached and delivered better, both individually and organizationally.
Engage in activities to explore and identify organizational values related to diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence, and how to put those values into action.