1. So what exactly is intercultural/cultural competency?

The terms “intercultural competency” and “cultural competency” can be used synonymously.

Intercultural/Cultural Competence

  • Is a culturally sensitive mindset, skillset, and motivation (Bennett, 2011)

  • Involves several steps, one of which is learning about other cultures

  • Can be measured using the Intercultural Development Inventory®

  • Requires examining one’s own culture(s)

  • Is necessary for attracting, retaining, or effectively serving diverse employees, clients, customers, or students

Intercultural/Cultural Competence is NOT:

  • Simply learning about other cultures

  • The same thing as diversity

  • Automatically attained because of

    • membership in a minority/culturally diverse group or

    • by experience working with minority/culturally diverse groups

2. Is intercultural/cultural competency training the same as diversity and inclusion training?

Yes and no. Intercultural/cultural competency training asks: “Could culture matter here? And, if so, how?” Sometimes, culture isn’t the issue at all. But many times, it is.

Diversity training has traditionally focused on race, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and age, while cultural competency training sees each of these categories as a distinct, sometimes overlapping, culture, and begins from this neutral point.

Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants thinks of an individual’s cultural competency development in four steps:

  1. Understand “culture” conceptually and its ripple effects

  2. Understand one’s own culture(s)

  3. Understand the culture(s) of others

  4. Practice cultural bridging techniques and intercultural communication tools

We model our cultural competency and intercultural growth trainings around these steps and this framework.

Diversity training has also traditionally left people sometimes discouraged, overwhelmed, or defensive, making it difficult for sustained change and intercultural growth to happen. Indeed, diversity training has sometimes done more harm than good. Our approach of adding to a person’s presumably already robust toolkit for communication, encouraging self-awareness and curiosity, and beginning from the neutral concept of “culture”, sets us apart and sets people up for authentic intercultural growth and true development of cultural competency.

After participants are confident and well-versed in the fundamental concepts of cultural competency, we introduce the more charged concepts of privilege and bias. In this way, participant are in the mindset to be able to “hear” and absorb these concepts and integrate them into their development of cultural competency and into their work and personal lives.

One shorthand way to think of the role that cultural competency plays in the development of an inclusive community or organization is the formula below, where “diversity” is simply having a lot of different people in one place and “inclusion” is the full integration of all people into all aspect of the community or organization.

Diversity + Cultural Competency = Inclusion

3. My organization was told it needs to do an implicit bias or structural racism training. Do you do that?

It is our experience from our work throughout Maine, that diving directly into implicit bias or structural racism in our communities and workplaces without first having foundational work in cultural competency will likely backfire. Our foundational trainings prepare people to have the skillset and mindset to be able to discuss these challenging issues productively. Therefore, we do implicit bias or structural racism training as part of an on going intercultural development series beginning with the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).

4. I heard that there are a number of foreign born professionals in the Portland area who are under-employed or looking for work. Is this true, are they legally eligible to work, and where can I find them?

There are at least 500 foreign trained professionals, ranging from doctors to lawyers to engineers to business professionals, who are currently legally residing in the greater Portland area. They were educated abroad, but had to flee their homelands because of civil unrest or because of their assistance to the US Armed Forces, which put them, along with their families, in grave danger. They are currently looking to re-enter their professions, and, interestingly, many are educated in areas such as IT and STEM in which Maine is experiencing a shortage. Connect with Sally Sutton at The New Mainers Resource Center, housed at Portland Adult Education at suttos@portlandschools.org or 207-874-8155.

5. How much do your services cost? Are there any discounts for non-profits or schools?

Non-profits have had great success writing our services into grants, and we would be happy to help you craft language around that for your grant application.

We, ourselves, though, are not a non-profit, and our work, like yours, is our livelihood. Our trainings typically include two trainers (one Maine native, one from a minority group), and extensive preparation to assure the participants’ experiences are second-to-none. Combine this with the years of training and experience we have undergone to be able to deliver such top notch trainings, we charge a rate that allows us to cover our expenses and make a fair profit, so that we can continue to do this work that we love.

Please contact us for exact price breakdowns.