Reason and Rhyme: Cultural Competence

All of my practice is rooted in the theory that Elke and I chose to call cultural competence when we were working on the Bulky Book, where it is laid out in detail.


Why Cultural Competence?

We have social competence, emotional intelligence, communicative competency, even intercultural competence, and so forth. Why do we need yet another set of methods and capabilities, and a demanding one at that?

Five good reasons:

  • Because the processes of globalisation confront every system that is exposed to these processes with the question of its cultural identity.
  • Hence, every systemic culture is faced with the challenge to navigate the straits of change between the rocks of McDonaldisation and the hard places of rigid parochialism.
  • Because globalisation confronts all of us with a universal relational matrix of interdependence, competition, and multipolarity.
  • This means that every systemic culture is called upon to somehow represent interdependence, which produces co-operation, and competition, which results in the exact opposite, in its domestic as well as its external relationships – and all that in appreciation of, and in accordance with, its unique heritage.
  • Because every systemic culture is challenged to respond to these historic wake-up calls in a creative, self-renewing fashion. The learning processes involved in this endeavour we summarise as transformative learning.

What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural Competence is the ability to guide a system (an organisation, a community, and so on) through its transformative change process with cultural awareness.
This implies

Work in the Public Arena,

because the public arena is the market-place of collective consciousness. It is governed by the attitudes and beliefs that are predominant in the systemic culture.

Work in the Here and Now,

because everything a systemic culture needs for it transformative learning is available at any time – just like everything that can stall this process (the ‘sacred cows’).

Work at the edges of public consensus reality,

where it is decided what information is deemed acceptable to be processed in the public arena.

Work at the edges of the change process.

These are the forks in the road of change where it is decided if and how the process is continued. We have managed to define 5 of these process edges – membranes, as it were, which filter, modulate or abort the information flow.

Who needs Cultural Competence?

Everyone who plays a responsible role in a system.
More than anyone, this refers to the leadership of organisations, but also to outside consultants and advisors. In a democratic political system, it addresses us all, as we are the sovereigns of our systems.

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I coach, counsel and train people whose role it implies that they lead others.
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