Tips for Culturally Competent Outreach to Diverse Audiences

What is cultural competency? “Cultural competency isa set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations” (US Office of Minority Health). Or, “cultural competence is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths or religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.” (US Department of Health & Human Services). These definitions are important because they help us recognize the behaviors we need to employ to truly be inclusive -- essential when we conduct outreach aiming to engage underserved girls, and when we plan events for diverse audiences.

The City of Seattle lists “Six Essential Strategies for Inclusive Engagement” in their Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Guide:

  1. Build personal relationships with target population
  2. Create a welcoming atmosphere
  3. Increase accessibility
  4. Develop alternative methods for engagement
  5. Maintain a presence within the community
  6. Partner with diverse organizations and agencies

Here are a few simple ways you can apply these strategies for culturally competent outreach:

  • Understand and recognize the differences and disparities that make some cultural, ethnic, or racial groups more likely to respond to one kind of outreach than another. For example, some people might prefer printed flyers to email newsletters because they do not have home Internet access.
  • Do not hold events or programs on dates that correspond with ANY religious/cultural holidays! Always research this thoroughly before you set the date.
  • Make sure to understand that “this is the way we’ve always done it” might not work for other cultural groups. For example, try switching the time of your event to accommodate a range of schedules.