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Cultural competency or "equity, diversity and inclusion", is the understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and similarities within and between groups. It is a willingness and ability to draw on community-based values, traditions, and customs and to work with knowledgeable persons of and from the community in developing prevention strategies

However, becoming a culturally competent coalition can sometimes be easier said than done.  Partnerships may think that they are including cultural issues in their overall development but, may be falling short with a closer look at their efforts.

When developing as a coalition, issues concerning cultural competence should be addressed on multiple levels that might include interactions with the rest of the community or coalition partnerships.  Often times, infusing the coalition with more cultural competent efforts can be encouraged with an increased focus on the efforts. 

Cultural competence considers:


  • How people live


  • What is important to people


  • Thoughts about important topics


  • How people express themselves through art, stories, music, language, etc.


  • Customs or patterns of behavior that may not be connected to beliefs and values

Cultural Competency should permeate all aspects of your work

What does cultural competency actually looks like with coalitions and organizations working in communities?   Ultimately, culturally competent organizations and coalitions value differences and recognize the need to include all members of their community population into their work. They also emphasize the need to include organizations and groups that represent the various cultural groups in the community. 

Keep records
Make including diverse populations part of your mission and vision statement. Incorporate cultural competency concepts into your logic model, strategic plan, and action play.

Include everyone in you outreach efforts
Due to various activities that coalitions take on (i.e. assessment, strategic plan, etc.) it can be easy to focus on only the target population of the efforts. Coalitions should encourage outreach to all of the groups within the community and make it part of their strategic plan.

Inclusive language
When referring to groups in your community coalitions should use inclusive language such as “we” and “our community” rather than “those kids” or “their park.”

Committed leadership
Coalition leaders should support cultural competence and demonstrate commitment to the concept. Thus, serving as true leaders of any cultural competent efforts the coalition may pursue. 

Coalition composition
Both coalition leadership and membership should reflect the diversity in the community. It can be difficult to take seriously the cultural competency efforts of a coalition if the coalition has not attempted to become culturally competent themselves. 

Training and development
Coalition’s should provide or facilitate cultural competence training for the community and coalition members, staff, and volunteers.

Cultural Competency values culture in the delivery of all services

Culturally competent coalitions also understand that various cultural and ethnic groups need to hold viable roles in the coalitions to help determine and support antidrug strategies. More specifically, coalitions can increase their coalition competency by: 

  • Providing trainings for coalition members around cultural competency issues, 
  • Ensuring that coalition structure, practices, and policies truly facilitate effective cultural interactions, 
  • Display respect for and differences among cultural groups expand cultural knowledge and pay attention to the dynamics of culture,
  • Solicit advice from diverse communities regarding coalition initiatives and activities. 

Checking your Cultural Competency

Use the following checklist to determine yours cultural competence:

  • My organization/coalition provides trainings for coalition members around cultural competency issues. 
  • Our structure, practices, and policies facilitate effective cultural interactions among members and community
  • Display respect for and differences among cultural groups 
  • Expand cultural knowledge and pay attention to the dynamics of cultural groups in the community,
  • Solicit advice from diverse communities regarding coalition initiatives and activities.


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