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 Cultural Competence in Domestic Violence Prevention Programs


Karie Arch

Whitney Marshall


WHITNEY: Hey, everyone. This is Whitney.

CARRIE: And this is Carrie.

WHITNEY: And we are both in the non-profit management program. And we both work for a Harbor House of Central Florida, which is a domestic violence agency here in Orange County. Today, we are going to be discussing the importance of cultural competence skills for evaluators.

So to start off, what role does culture play in influencing factors that might affect an evaluation or a study or anything like that?

CARRIE: Well, Whitney, it's important to remember that culture influences all aspects of everyone's life, whether that social, political, educational, socioeconomic. It's really how we view certain issues and then how accessible the services that we're providing to people are and in what language we're doing that.

Furthermore, all aspects of interacting with populations need to be culturally sensitive, especially those being served by nonprofits like Harbor House. And we really need to make sure that all of our programs and all responsive evaluations are culturally sensitive and seen through a culturally sensitive lens.

So that being said, I want to ask you, what is cultural competence and why is it culturally sensitive and important?

WHITNEY: So cultural competency and cultural sensitivity are kind of used interchangeably. But to understand both, we have to kind of examine what is culture. So culture affects all aspects of our lives and our communities, our language, our traditions, or religion, the kind of food and drink that we consume, how we consume media, how we affect the world around us, really, and how that world affects us.

So when we're talking about cultural competency, it's the ability to understand and operate and really communicate in ways that appreciate and value aspects of others' culture. And it's necessary for ensuring that we engage with others in a respectful manner, especially when we're evaluating a program.

So we work in the social services field, specifically domestic violence or DV. And DV affects all people from all different cultures. It does not discriminate. And so it's important that we understand that and understand how different backgrounds affect behavior.

For example, in the DV field, it's commonly understood that domestic violence is the result of one person trying to have power and control over another person and using kind of any means necessary, usually violent means, to achieve that.

So when viewing things through a culturally competent lens, that tells us that our interactions with survivors of domestic violence should be empowerment-based and trauma informed, so that we, as social services providers, are not using those same power and control tactics that survivors' abusers were using against them, to make sure that they are feeling empowered and safe when we're with them, and to also just make sure that they're being provided the proper services necessary.

Cultural competency is also an extension of ethical principles and obligations that we have to clients and populations, in general.

CARRIE: Well, Whitney, to piggyback off of that, I think, when we're talking about cultural competence and it becoming a very crucial skill for evaluators to develop, we have to remember that programs, just like Harper House and a lot of other social service programs, nonprofit programs, are really always, for the most part, located in multicultural environments.

That being said, there's important differences that span across program stakeholders. And that really makes expectations for evaluators to be understanding and to be able to address differences in their work. And that's so important. All evaluators have to have adequate knowledge of social, religious, ethnic, and cultural norms, and really need to understand the values of program stakeholders, especially beneficiaries, the ones that we go out into neighborhoods and into other organizations asking to support us, asking to donate money and other goods to our services.

When we go out, we have to understand what their backgrounds are and what their cultural norms are. And when evaluators come in and when we evaluate our programs, we have to understand that it's an important challenge for evaluators across the board to understand complex contexts in which a program operates.

If evaluators don't understand that, how are they going to review our programs and make recommendations to organizations and the services that they are providing and ensuring that the services they're providing are culturally sensitive?

WHITNEY: Yeah, and that definitely also affects how data is collected and analyzed because cultural competence can skew that either negatively or positively. And we want to make sure that the data that we do collect from that evaluation is appropriate, really.

CARRIE: Mm-hm, absolutely.

WHITNEY: So we've been talking about the importance of cultural competency. But how do we actually demonstrate cultural sensitivity?

CARRIE: Well, I think to be able to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and competence, you have to be open. Regardless of what your background is, what your education level is, you have to be open. And you want to be able to be involved and check in with people around you about what their priority is and to cultural sensitivity and the issues that arise from that.

It's not just a one stop shop. We need to be able to open up and talk about these things on a continual basis, not just when things arise. And it's very important for us to realize that we can't just work around our stereotypes and our biases, although we all have them. Again, we have to be open.

We have to inquire with each other and be knowledgeable and get people involved. And whatever feedback and education we have and what we get, we need to be able to use it and respect it.

WHITNEY: Of course.

CARRIE: That being said, we talk about stereotypes and biases, how do evaluators recognize them?

WHITNEY: So definitely a lot of the things that you just mentioned, but just being able to recognize that we have the capacity to have biases, whether they're unconscious or conscious. I think, a lot of times, in the nonprofit sector or that sort of education background, a lot of people think that they are immune to these things because of the field that they work in. And that's not the case.

So we have to be able to recognize and correct any unconscious or conscious biases that we have because they could have a negative impact on studies. They could skew results. And they could just generally harm others, especially if that program is providing social services.

We also just want to critically examine culture when we're working with it to make sure that we have a comprehensive understanding and especially when we're discussing program evaluation. And we also want to make sure that we're critically examining our personal beliefs and practices and assumptions that we might have that could potentially influence any examination or analyzation skills and how we treat others in our environment because the environment does play a huge role in how we base needs assessments and conduct evaluations.

That being said, how is culture used as an evaluation tool, especially when talking about the environment?

CARRIE: Absolutely. I think when I think about culture being used as an evaluation tool, the best tool that an evaluator could use is probably the PEST analysis, which stands for political, economical, sociocultural, and technological and really can be used as a community needs assessment. And it can be used to understand what impact is being felt in an environment where they're doing the evaluation and what the impact is on the people and what the results are going to be.

We want to make sure that when a evaluator comes in and looks at a program, that they're doing good and that they're not harming and what they're finding from an evaluation is being utilized to help the community where that program is at. Any assessment, especially a PEST analysis, they're important because they allow us to better assess what our communities need and make sure we have the resources and we're recognizing risk factors.

So aside from you know evaluation tools, how can we be culturally responsive, using an evaluation framework?

WHITNEY: So we can do that in a number of ways. But conducting a culturally competent needs assessment can be broken down into nine phases. And these nine phases were created by Henry Fryerson, Stafford Hood, Greonda Hines, and Veronica Thomas in a 2010 study. And those nine steps are to prepare for the evaluation, engage the stakeholders, identify evaluation purposes, frame the right questions, design the evaluation, select and adapt instrumentation, collect and then analyze data, and disseminate and use results.

And in doing that, we're creating a culturally responsive evaluation or CRE, which is a solid way to make sure that the evaluation is accurate and culturally competent.

And all nine stages are going to be influenced by cultural sensitivity, so that we can, again, just ensure that the evaluation itself is going to be valid.

CARRIE: Absolutely. and I think as we conclude our chat here, I think, again, we just want to stress the importance of cultural competence skills for evaluators. I think as two people who work at a large social service organization, we have to be open to evaluators, open to our programs being evaluated, making sure that we are culturally sensitive with what type of programs we're offering and what is needed by the community.

And just like we talked about during our chat, making sure that we're educated, that we're open to continue being educated, being able to change our ways, and just roll with what people need. And I think to finish up just the nine steps, in a nutshell, hit where we need to be and really you don't prepare for the evaluation. We have to engage stakeholders, the questions have to be right, collecting the data, analyzing the data, and making sure that what comes out of evaluations is being used the right way and that we're responsive to cultures.

WHITNEY: Of course.

So thank you for joining us today. That's all we have on cultural competency and evaluation skills. And we appreciate you listening to our podcast.


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