Today’s changing workforce and expanding markets require our ability to bridge across difference and communicate across cultures. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber offers a Building Cultural Competence (BCC) program to build that bridge.
The program not only builds the bridge, but walks teams of leaders across to deliver measurable improvement on an international standard of cultural competence.
According to Amy Thompson, Senior Director of Leadership Programs at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, “It’s skill building for cultural competence, learning the impact of our emotions (EQ) on how we relate to and deal with differences. We help participants understand how their moral foundations impact decision making,” she adds. “There’s a neuroscience of bias and strategies to mitigate bias. Participants map out SMART goals at the end of the program. The focus on action planning is designed to create system change and impact.”
The Chamber is thankful to partner with the lead facilitator Priya Klocek, CEO of Consultant on the Go and several other experts to deliver the program.
So far, 220 leaders have graduated since 2017, and more than 50 organizations are represented. Thompson says the Chamber defines “leader” broadly for this program: anyone who is leading a team, has influence, and can make a difference. Participants have included business executives; healthcare providers; elected officials; clergy members; educators; community activists; journalists; realtors and more.
Through Building Cultural Competence, we are creating a growing network of leaders who serve as champions for change in our community,” she says. “By increasing the cultural competence of leaders, we can leverage their wide circles of influence to more effectively catalyze change in our region.”
Applications just opened for the sixth cohort. “Every cohort has made a significant increase in their collective level of cultural competencies, proving the program’s effectiveness and methodology,” Thompson says, adding that research based evidence shows the effectiveness. “Cultural competence has increased 11 points overall. Based on the scale used by the IDI, any increase over 7 points is significant and meaningful.”
Thompson says companies are finding it effective to send cohorts of leaders at the same time. “The virtual format has received positive feedback,” she adds. “The program is designed to be interactive and engaging. Through guided activities and interventions, participants have learned from each other in the cohort and build meaningful relationships.”
As a previous BCC cohort participant, Anisha Bhirud, Brand Marketing & Chair of Diversity & Inclusion at Perfetti Van Melle, says her experience “has been a revelation. The medium is very conducive to gaining personal insights through the perspectives of others, particularly the small group discussions,” she explains. “Previously thinking of myself as quite progressive, the program has spurred additional reflection about gaps in my ability to validate other cultures and perspectives. I believe I have developed this skill set during the program.”
Bhirud says the cohort experience provides many alternate perspectives that trigger personal insights and spur growth. “It also helps us with collaboration on the execution of systemic change within our organization,” she adds.
One of the biggest takeaways from BCC for Bhirud was the realization that every person is an iceberg. “So, what you see on a superficial level in the professional context belies that person’s full complex identity,” she explains. “That incongruence between what is allowed to manifest superficially and what is contained underneath impedes honest communication. Understanding each other on this level is crucial to bridging cultural competencies.”
Bhirud says the BCC program has shifted the way she thinks significantly, particularly about equity. “We have focused so much on Diversity and Inclusion in the past, but 2020 has demonstrated the prescience of equity, especially as opposed to equality,” she says. “An example of this is called ‘The Box.’ We are all different heights and trying to look over a fence. Each person is given the same size box, giving each person an equal boost. However, despite equal assistance not everyone may be able to look over the fence. Equity dictates that each person needs the right size box for them in order to truly have an opportunity.”
Bhirud says she highly recommends BCC to anyone interested in expanding their perspectives as it relates to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “You’ll find, as did myself and all my peers, that the DEI journey has only started and there is a long way for many of us to go,” she adds.
The program is open to business, non-profit and community leaders from all sectors. Tuition includes two intercultural competence assessments and two individual coaching sessions as well as all materials, meals and related program costs. The program is delivered in 13 sessions over two months. For more information, visit cincinnatichamber.com/cultural competence.
Applications are due January 15, 2021.