“How do we expand our community’s leadership base?” “How do we get the next generation involved?” “When new professionals arrive, how do we help them thrive and join our community?”
Kris Parker, Purdue Extension Community Development Regional Educator, says she frequently hears comments and questions like these in her community development work. Navigating Difference, a three-day, research-based cultural competency training program offered by Purdue Extension, can help address them.
The program is designed for those who want to deepen their knowledge, skills and appreciation for connecting across diversity with clientele, coworkers and community members. Its five modules include elements from social justice, intercultural communication and organizational development. Trainers also offer a half-day interactive workshop on the first module, cultural awareness.
When the Indianapolis Public Library System’s (IPLS) director of human resources attended Navigating Difference, she knew it would help IPLS improve outreach and service to underserved and vulnerable populations. Those groups might include homeless patrons, new immigrants and refugees, low-income families and individuals, and people with disabilities, including mental illnesses that make social environments challenging.
She sought funding and advocated for the entire IPLS staff of over 600 people to take the three-day or half-day workshop.
The Navigating Difference Team recently won the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals Diversity Award for their work with IPLS. It also received the 2020 Unsung Diversity Hero team award from the Purdue College of Agriculture.
- All 600+ staff of the Indianapolis Public Library attended Navigating Difference training throughout 2017–2019.
- 108 managers and supervisors completed three-day intensive training.
- 500 staff built cultural awareness skills in a half-day workshop.
- In surveys after the three-day training, 75% of respondents reported increased confidence in taking steps to navigate cultural competence effectively.