Culturally Sensitive Approaches

Tips for Development Practitioners

"In our development efforts in poor communities, we need to be able to work with people at their own level and to find common ground. We may not believe in what they do, we may not agree with them, but we need to have the compassion and the commitment to understand them and to support them as they translate universal principles into their own codes, messages and ways of doing things. Human rights is our frame of reference. And we use a culturally sensitive approaches to promote human rights in ways that people can identify with and can internalize in the context of their own lives."

—Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director

The following are excerpted from our new publication Working from Within: 24 Tips for Culturally Sensitive Programming. These guidelines for development practitioners can lead to more effective and efficient implementation of almost any project.

  1. Invest time in knowing the culture in which you are operating.
  2. Hear what the community has to say.
  3. Demonstrate respect.
  4. Show patience.
  5. Gain the support of local power structures.
  6. Be inclusive.
  7. Provide solid evidence.
  8. Rely on the objectivity of science.
  9. Avoid value judgements.
  10. Use language sensitively.
  11. Work through local allies.
  12. Assume the role of facilitator.
  13. Honour commitments.
  14. Know your adversaries.
  15. Find common ground.
  16. Accentuate the positive.
  17. Use advocacy to effect change.
  18. Create opportunities for women.
  19. Build community capacity.
  20. Reach out through popular culture.
  21. Let people do what they do best.
  22. Nurture partnerships.
  23. Celebrate achievements.
  24. Never give up.

In addition, a training manual has been prepared than can guide development practitioners in how to integrate culturally sensitive approaches into programming.