We are very proud of our community at Choklits. Proud because it’s where so many of us have found home. We are a diverse group. We are all different and we each have our own set of life experiences, beliefs and personalities. So, how does being so different work so well?
It works because we have common values. We believe the strength of our community as a whole lies in the power we see in and respect we have for each other. To our way of thinking, if each one of us thrives, we all thrive.
So, what does that look like? How do we ensure everyone is heard, everyone is valued and each one of us feels safe and understood?
It starts with our attitude. You’re included at Choklits from day one. There’s no proving yourself or need to make a good first impression. If you join our community as a team member, a child, parent, career or grandparent one thing remains consistent, we want to learn from you.
We want to learn from you because that’s the way we learn ourselves. It’s often said that no one is perfect and that’s true at Choklits. There’s things we can all do better and be better at. The secret is a commitment to learning everyday. The more we learn from others the more we can teach others too. It’s like life itself, the more you put in the more you get out.
If everyone who sets foot in Choklits feels welcome, valued and safe, then we know we are on the right path and we know we are giving everyone an opportunity to do their best ever work.
Culture has many themes including tradition, beliefs, attitudes, values, customs and rituals. We know that understanding our own culture is critical in understanding the culture of others.
For example, before we began the process of creating our own Reconciliation Action Plan (more here), we first looked at how we were already embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander perspectives at Choklits. What did our foundational thinking look like, and what did it reveal?
We started with our leadership team and we examined what culture means to us. Here are some of our thoughts;
“Cultural competency is the ability to understand and interact effectively with people from other cultures. To have cultural competence, you need to have a basic understanding of your own culture. (It’s difficult to understand another’s culture if you aren’t familiar with your own), a willingness to learn about the cultural practices and worldview of others, and a positive attitude toward cultural differences and a readiness to accept and respect those differences.”
“To me, understanding culture means developing your own actions to support everyone represented in the community. It means making sure that all feel like their diverse way of being are welcomed and valued. It also includes learning about others with an open mind.”
“Awareness of one’s own cultural influences, beliefs and practices and at the same time understanding different cultural values, beliefs and practices of others. It also means showing respect for diversity and interacting with others in such a way that promotes relationships and meaningful exchange of information.
“I think culture is a very important part of everyone’s identity and who they are. As this is very important to us, it is important we respect how important other people’s views, values, and identity is to them. To fully understand and embrace this, you need to be willing to learn, listen to others’ views with acceptance and an open mind, while being willing to be vulnerable when openly sharing your culture with others.”
“Cultural competence is a lifelong learning about my own views and how they influence my actions and decisions; learning to accept, celebrate and respect different ways of being; and building on my own knowledge about different cultures and traditions.”
“To me, cultural competence means respecting and celebrating diversity and valuing the differences between people. I believe it is a journey of gathering information, of personal reflection and understanding. Understanding that people come from diverse backgrounds, have different values and different traditions helps me create an environment where everyone belongs.”
“Cultural competence to myself is being aware of oneself’s history. Whether that is religion, family orientation, beliefs, traditions or culture. Through understanding our own cultural competence, we can be more open and aware of others’ culture and their beliefs too.”
We then extended the exercise to our entire team at Choklits. As part of our team meeting our leadership team facilitated group discussions about culture, encouraging everyone to share their own thoughts on culture and what it means to them. As we opened up and explained our own feelings many of our differences became clear. Many of our family traditions are different, we celebrate different times of the year and we speak many different languages at home. We all learned a lot about each other. On many subjects, we believe different things.
It can take courage to share your feelings and explain your differences but the openness and wisdom shared by our team was evidence of the inclusive environment we have created; one in which we can learn and grow together.
When you are willing to share you give others an opportunity to learn.
We also discussed the meaning of ‘cultural responsiveness’ which refers to the ability to learn from and relate respectfully to others. Being responsive, we decided, is not enough. A response is, by definition, a reaction. It requires someone or something to go first.
We are now working towards ‘cultural competence’ which is the ability to understand and interact with people or belief systems different from our own. If we are proactive, if we are open and we can improve little each day we will become competent and our whole community will benefit.
And, when our community thrives, we all thrive.
We will continue examining and sharing our thoughts as we expand and build on our cultural competence further. Until then, I’ll leave you with the question we all asked ourselves; what does culture mean to you?