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Culturally Proficient Practices

Guidance on culturally proficient practice for 501 Commons staff and consultants is provided by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. The Alliance’s Ethical Standards for Nonprofit Capacity Building state:

"Capacity builders shall be cognizant of the cultural dimensions of their work and the relationship between their own cultural identify and that of clients and communities. Capacity builders shall continually seek to achieve a high level of competency through self-awareness, learning, and building a diverse network of colleagues and partners."

501 Commons's standards for inclusive and culturally proficient services provided by staff and volunteers is based on a framework originally developed by the Minority Executive Directors Coalition. The following describes 501 Commons’ commitment to working in a culturally proficient manner:

Step 1: Recognize your own cultural frame and identity. Consistently pay attention to your own assumptions and cultural background, and reflect on how it may affect your interactions with people and their interpretation of information you provide.

Reflect on which of the following agent and target categories apply to you.

Agent/Prividege Status Target/Limited Privilege Status

Adults Early (25-35 years), Adults Middle (36-60 years)

Children, Youth (11 – 17), Youth Adults (18-24), Elders (61+ years)

Disability Non-disabled people
People with cognitive, intellectual, sensory, physical, and/or psychiatric disabilities

Christians and secular

Other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hindu, Buddhism, and other religions

Ethnic & racial identity European Americans People of color, including Asian, South Asian, Latinx, Pacific Islander, African, Arab, African American, Middle Eastern, and multiracial
Socioeconomic status

Upper and middle class

People of lower status by occupation, education, income, or inner city/rural habitat

Sexual orientation Heterosexual People who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual
Indigenous heritage European Americans American Indians, Inuit, Alaska Natives, Metis, Native Hawaiians
National Origin US born


Gender Men, cis-gender Women and people who identify as transgender or non-binary

Each of the agent categories convey privilege which must be recognized when entering into relationships with people who are are targeted because they have the characteristics on the right side of the table. Engage in continuous learning and reflection, gaining an understanding of your own cultural identity and its impact on your relationships with others.

If you are white, it is helpful to read or watch webinars or videos on the topic of white privilege in order to understand that white privilege is not about attitude or belief systems, it simply is bestowed in US society on people who are white, especially those who are white and have other agent memberships.

Before engaging with clients it is helpful for 501 Commons staff and service corps members reflect on your own  agent or target membership and your own cultural frame of reference.

501 Commons's standards for inclusive and culturally proficient services provided by staff and volunteers is based on a framework originally developed by the  Minority Executive Directors Coalition and on the work of Leticia Nieto.  We strive to utilize a set of behaviors, attributes, and practices enabling the consultants to work effectively in cross cultural and multicultural settings. The following describes 501 Commons’ commitment to working in a culturally proficient  manner.

Step 2: Familarize yourself with the organization and the history and culture of the people with whom you will be working. When working with an organization or a person from one of the "target" categories, examine how you are  influenced by stereotypes, biases, or your assumptions. All people have implicit biases. the goals is to be a person who examines those biases so that they do not cause misunderstandings, show disrespect, or cause you to make incorrect decisions.

  • Become familiar with the history and characteristics of client organizations, including the ethnic and racial makeup of staff, board, and clients.
  • Examine both the assets and the needs of the agency and people with whom they work.
  • Build bridges across your cultural differences, recognizing that there are individual differences within cultural groups.

Step 3: 501 Commons service corps members and staff will demonstrate the following elements of a culturally competent  practice:

  • Frame issues and the consultation process in a way that values multiple perspectives.
  • Review and assess 501 Commons' consulting approaches to ensure that they are culturally sensitive, inclusive, and effective.
  • Create emotional safety and build trust by treating people with respect, listening opening, and by communicating clearly.
  • Respect and value other cultures and demonstrate an appreciation for various ways of learning.
  • Ensure there's opportunity for a variety of voices and perspectives to be considered, particularly the voices of individuals who have one or more target identities.