Culturally Sensitive Practice & Inclusion

RDI Network
August 2021
5 min read

It is important to understand what culture means for the areas and regions in which development practitioners, researchers, and evaluators operate in, and how culture can influence development.
This shared understanding informs development practice, helps to identify agents of change and ways to respectfully partner with communities to improve development effectiveness. 
Here are some key considerations:

  • Culture also creates spaces, such as interfaith dialogues, that shape the development agenda in a mutually beneficial way. Culturally sensitive approaches are vital for addressing intimate and sensitive issues such as gender equality, and reproductive health and rights. Discussions of these issues centre on beliefs and values, including issues of religion and faith. It can also be difficult to engage individuals and communities in culturally sensitive issues and for outsiders to understand the complex cultural dynamics at work, including formal and informal structures of power. However, identifying cultural values, assets and expressions are crucial to understanding both the challenges and opportunities for development.
  • Culturally sensitive practice addresses root causes of development challenges, from within and through partnerships with individual leaders and organisations that are recognised by their communities as custodians of culture. Partnerships with cultural agents of change, such as faith based organisations, can allow development programs to reach rural communities and the most marginalised. They also strengthen the credibility of the program, and counter the perception that a program is being imposed by unfamiliar outsiders.
  • Culturally sensitive practice works to identify common goals with cultural agents of change. By surfacing shared values, it can help to bridge local cultures with international human rights principles. The process is built on respect for cultural diversity, dialogue and finding different ways to express culturally loaded issues. It takes time to build trust and collaboration between stakeholders. However ultimately, joint planning creates ownership over development programs, and leads to greater effectiveness and sustainability. Culturally sensitive practice and inclusion, also involves valuing different cultures and diversity. For instance, in the humanitarian sector, diverse and inclusive leadership teams and workplaces have contributed to innovation and improvements in practice.

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