The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launches a new program this week called Building Cultural Competence for leaders and influencers from around the region.
“When we did research on overall inclusion in our community for our Diverse by Design report, a key insight was that increasing the cultural competence of our community could be a competitive advantage,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor for the Chamber. “As markets and companies become more multicultural and more global, the ability to work across many identities and cultures goes from 'nice to have' to essential.”
Although some corporate and government entities offer implicit bias training or other cultural awareness classes, the Chamber was starting from scratch in building this initiative. It is unique in that it operates at a community-wide level.
“We worked with a thoughtful group of corporate and nonprofit volunteers to build a prototype program, which is what we are launching May 9,” says Stagaman. “The time seems precisely right, as the need to successfully and respectfully bridge differences in our community and our country has seldom been greater. Our long-term goal is to build a community of leaders who can effectively interact with our changing and challenging world and to have leaders who actively seek to engage and influence others to do the same.”
There is an application process and fee for the program, which will be led by nationally recognized diversity and inclusion experts and cover subjects like the neuroscience of bias, emotional intelligence, building rapport across cultures, conflict resolution and adaptive communication. Participants will also take the Intercultural Development Inventory and receive a one-on-one coaching session.
When the program ends in July, each participant will have developed an individual action plan to take back to their organization, business or community.
“The key strategy is to recruit leaders into the program,” Stagaman says. “While we have certainly attracted people in prominent positions in our region, we also have a wide range of individuals who have strong networks in unique sectors of our community. We believe that by raising their awareness around cultural competence, and giving them tools to be more effective, they will in turn influence others in their networks, creating a magnifying effect.”
The Chamber sought applicants from across the region and different sectors of the community; the inaugural class will begin at full capacity with 30 participants.
“We have a very diverse group with representatives from large corporations, large and small nonprofits, working media, law and law enforcement, secondary and higher education, the startup community, healthcare, real estate and more,” Stagaman says. “The age range of participants is from 26-70, suggesting that we can increase our cultural competence at any stage of life or career."
Upon completion of the pilot program, the Chamber will evaluate the results and determine how to move forward with future iterations of the program.
“The great thing about cultural competence is that it can be learned —it's not an innate skill that we are born with," Stagaman says. "Increased cultural competence can help us retain the talent we need to continue to attract jobs. It can ensure that people in our community, no matter what their country of origin, color, faith and so on, receive appropriate medical care. And it can help us build a workforce that reflects the changing demographics of our country as we reduce bias and increase welcoming people who represent different cultures and identities.”