Leadership 2020 Newsletter: Leadership and Cultural Awareness

– by Jennifer Charlesworth, Leadership 2020 Hosting Team

Over the past few years, Wedlidi Speck and I have been working together (and with a broad array of wise advisors) to unpack the concepts of cultural awareness, understanding, humility, agility and safety, and to figure out ways to foster conditions that enhance cultural safety for Indigenous staff and clients in the social care sector.

We have convened focus groups, surveyed staff, hosted multi-day cultural safety circles, prototyped different workshops, undertaken academic and inter-jurisdictional research, and developed resources. Members of the cultural safety circles have also undertaken their own learning and have graciously shared what seems to make a difference and what else could be tried.

Through all of this, we have come to a deeper understanding of what cultural safety is and what the journey towards culturally safe workplaces and services entails. Over the next four issues of the Leadership 2020 Newsletter, we will share information, resources, and approaches about four key concepts related to this work.

  1. Cultural Awareness
  2. Cultural Understanding
  3. Cultural Humility
  4. Cultural Agility and Safety

Cultural awareness is an important starting place. This is where we engage in the ‘head-based’ work of learning about both the historical and contemporary experiences of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

This involves learning about the trauma of colonization and the resilience of Indigenous families, communities, and cultures. We can do this through readings, documentaries, visual art, stories, and events. We’ve collected a number of resources to get you started below.

1. Indian Horse and #Next150

Richard Wagamese’s book, Indian Horse, should be required reading for all social care practitioners. It has also been made into a movie that is now being released throughout BC. The film sheds light on the dark history of Canada’s Residential Schools and the indomitable spirit of Indigenous people.

The movie release is also a part of the #Next150 Challenge—a year-long series of events and opportunities that will push your thinking and your understanding of Indigenous issues forward. The #Next150 Challenge is about “setting a different tone in 2018 than what we’ve seen in the first 150 years of our country” and involves many different opportunities to discover new books, music, movies, art and even make connections in your own community.

2. The Danger of a Single Story

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered a TED talk in 2009 entitled The Danger of a Single Story. In it, she reveals the extent to which our lives and cultures are composed of many overlapping stories and how she found her authentic cultural voice. And at the heart of her story is a warning that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

This talk reminds us that the people we serve are more than the labels that have been ascribed to them. What lies below the surface of appearances, case notes, and behaviours is likely far richer and full of possibilities for relational practice. From a cultural perspective, it also reminds us that the people we serve might have diverse cultural backgrounds and may have been separated or from their authentic cultural voice.

3. Truth and Reconciliation Resources

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba has created an extensive selection of resources for students, teachers, and the general public. It includes books (with summaries and links), teaching resources, online toolkits, policy documents and legislation all organized by audience.

4. Social Policy Forum Cultural Safety Resources

The Federation has also shared a collection of resources that Wedlidi and I prepared for the 2018 Social Policy Forum that took place earlier this year. It includes a series of posters that illustrate key cultural safety concepts as well as recommended articles, books, and TED talks related to issues of cultural awareness, implicit bias, microaggressions, and language.