Free Culture Competency Essay Sample
1. Discuss how socially constructed categories impact public administrators.
There are several perspectives that may be taken on the socially constructed categories and how this theme fits and impacts the contemporary public administration. One perspective is founded on the need to sort people into various categories, based on the difference between them.
Another example of such a strategy is to tie together all the categories, recognizing the fact that there are obvious differences between people, based on a wide range of characterisitcs, after which the subject could be treated as a whole and labelled as „diversity”.
Ever since the ancient times, human beings felt the need of labeling and the classification of everything around themselves, including their own kin, often in accordance to real or assumed biological, physical or genetical differences. Socially constructing categories has been a way to distinguish who is excluded and who is included from a group, prescribing social roles, ascribing particular characteristics or for the assignemnt of power, status and priviledge.
There has always been the need of a hierarchy between individuals, according to Adams, in his „Reading for diversity and social justice”, people have to know their places in a society, therefore, the social categories such as race, gender or class are being used to maintain and establish a certain type of social order. (Adams, 2000, p. 12)
The classifications and their particular significance, meanings or features are being socially constructed through culture, politics and history. Particular significance or meanings habe often been imputed as a justification for colonization, domination, conquest or the exploitation of large groups of ppulation, and even if the specifics have chenged in time, this system of classification and categorization remains just the same. (Adams, 2000, p. 13)
All the socially constructed categories are at the basis of the structural inequalities taking place in our society. In each and every category, there is a group of people considered to be superior, priviledged, dominant or legitimate, while others are considered to be illegitimate, inferior, disadvantaged or subordinate. (Adams, 2000, p. 13)
Socially constructed categories have a great impact on the public administration field, due to the fact that their presence as it is in different cultural traditions, forms of music, types of food and even dancing styles, makes society more interesting. It is an emphasis on the fact that differences are not and should never have been the cause of inequalities, but rather an opportunity to find value, create value and use it for the benefit of the entire population.
2. How is cultural competency different from diversity and social equity?
In order to better highlight and understand the differences between cultural competency, diversity and social equity, they, first of all shall be defined.
Cultural competency is defined as being a set of congruent attitudes, policies and behaviors that are all coming together in a system, professional or agency, enabling that system, professional or agency to be performant in cross-cultural situations. It is a characteristic of good governance, promoting an effective edlivery of services to an inclusive and comprehensive public. (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.8)
The concept of diversity means understanding that every person is unique, recognizing its individual differences, be them along the dimensions of gender, sexual orientation, race, socio-economic status, physical abilities, ethnicity, ideologies, political or religious beliefs. The term of diversity encompasses respect and acceptance, celebrating the enrichment that each and every different individual may bring to the society.
According to George Fredrickson’s (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.9) definition in the public administration field, social equity is the equitable, just and fair management of all the institutions serving the public by contract or directly, and the equitable and fair distribution of public services, implementation of public policy, as well sa the commitment to promote justice, fairness and equity in the formation of public policy. (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.9)
Diversity, cultural competency and social equity are clearly related terms in public administration, even though they refer to various other aspects of serving the traitionally underrepresented groups.
One difference noticed is that diversity is focused on the populaiton’s demographics, nationally, within organiazations and locally, while cultural competency rather refers to organizational environment. Moreover, knowing the demographics of the communities and of the public, highlights the diversity in the needs of the people and may lead to working on their cultural competencies, but dealing with matters of diversity does not necessarily lead to the development of culturally competenet servicies and policies. (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.9) Moreover, diversity differs from cultural competency as it refers to individuals, whereas cultural competency may also refer to institutions or organizations. Diversity is a state or a fact, social equity is an opportunity for equality of chances, whereas cultural competency is an entire process/system enabling the effective work and solutions to or in cross-cultural situations.
While cultural competency may play an important part in bringing equality to the public services sector, it does not bring resolution to the problem of social inequity. According to Norma – Major & Gooden, even if it is a very important factor in builing social equity, the cultural competency is a different concept due to its larger goal of bringing social equity to the public administration. (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.9)
3. Discuss some of the initial and continuing steps you would take in building an agency that is culturally competent.
Incorporating cultural competency into a public services agency is an ongoing effort, requiring the recognition of several activities. First of all, there must be the understanding and agreement to the fact that cultural differences are very important in the delivery of culturally competent programs and services. Secondly, all the memebers of the agency must offer their support and acceptance of that goal, providing continuous internal leadership. Moreover, a culturally competent agency should have the following characteristics: cultural accessibility, cultural appropriateness, and cultural acceptability. (Norman-Major & Gooden, 2012, p.23)
Cultural appropriateness refers to the recognition of the needs of the target population towards the services provided by the agency. Cultural accessibility of a public agency referes to the fact that the public service it delivers opens its doors to services for various cultural groups. Cultural accessibility also addresses the structural barriers that may impede cultural competency, culturally acceptable services being more likely to occur in that light.
Another step in building a public agency that is culturally competent would be to build on the strenghts, habits, perspectives, value systems and behaviors of the minority cultures in order to be able to provide the best services, approaches and strategies, in a culturally appropriate way. In this manner, the public service professionals working in the agency may come up with better solutions to the problems of the minorities as well as understanding the importance of their culture for the society. (Wyatt-Nicholl & Naylor, 2012, p. 63)
Last, but not least, a public administration delivery services agency will require professionals with exceptional skills of „thinking outside” the traditional public administration, incorporating and examining non-traditional approaches and sources in order to truly become culturally competent. The public service delivery professionals have to be flexible, in order to incorporate the multicultural competency skills, find solutions and apply them in our multicultural contemporary era. (Wyatt-Nicholl & Naylor, 2012, p. 66)
Adams, M. (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.
Norman-Major, K., & Gooden, S. (2012). Cultural competency for public administrators. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.
Wyatt-Nicholl, H., & Naylor, L. (2012). Human Resource Management Practices that Facilitate Cultural Competence (1st ed.).