Aligning cultural community voices with CMCCF allies and their initiatives

January 30, 2020 Manitoba’s CMCCF network of cultural communities open first dialogue with service providers and policy makers

Manitoba’s cultural communities want more of a way to influence and participate in how human services are designed and provided to their communities, families and children.

The Coalition of Manitoba Cultural Communities for Families (CMCCF) recently held its first of many mutual learning events. This one focused on conversations about core values to engage service providers and policy makers.

Identifying and exploring shared core values and acting on them will improve understanding and communications across cultural divides, several speakers said at the event, held Jan. 30 at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate in Winnipeg.

With roots in a multitude of communities, our coalition has come together to contribute to supporting and sustaining the flourishing of cultural communities and the health of their families. Florence Okwudili, Chair of the coalition, welcomed participants. “This event is the first of its kind for our coalition. We are looking forward to an exciting evening.”

The event was facilitated by four cultural communities: Filipino, Ethiopian, South-Asian, Muslim and Nigerian. Perla Javate said the four communities had been engaged in a year-long, five-element process facilitated by CMCCF of asset mapping. One element of the five is the core values in their communities. Our objective is to start a number of deliberate conversations between communities, service providers and policy makers to develop approaches that are more responsive to diverse cultural community needs.”

Bereket Abebe Assefa is an environmental engineer who is a board member of Excel Family & Youth, an agency that serves Ethiopian youth. He said our cultural communities “are quite interested in assisting diverse service providers understand these core cultural values so they can understand and learn from our cultural communities.”

Representatives of the four interested communities identified the range of human service areas and examples of service providers and policy makers they wanted to invite through CMCCF. Mengistu Assefa, a Board member of the coalition and Rashid Ahmed, a professor of nursing at the University of Manitoba, and a member of CMCCF’s Community Wellbeing Advisory Council being established by the coalition, invited participants to contribute to the new council.

In the first phase of the evening, participants were asked to reflect on the values they received in a report generated by the Barrett Values Centre’s Personal Value Assessment. They chose three core values with which they identified from a list.

Mihret Zewude, Excel Family & Youth, engages the audience in a discussion about values

Mihret Zewude, Excel Family & Youth, asked participants: “What brings us to our core values? What’s important to us? Core values are who you are and who you want to become.” Then participants were asked if those values were reflected in their current organization or community.

“The first box is about who are you and what do you value? The second box is what you see currently in your community or organization. Do any of the words you selected in the first box show up in the second box? If not, you’re saying you are not living completely and fully in the community or organization you belong to,” said Martin Itzkow, Executive Director of the coalition.

Participants then discussed how to align their actions to these core values within their organizations or communities in order to become more responsive.

In the second phase of the evening, Paul Ong from the Filipino community facilitated a unique and fun exercise. He asked participants to build current and future value and action models representing the current state of relationships among service providers and community organizations.

Participants put the finishing touches on their model representing improved communications between cultural communities and service providers

They learned to use LEGO bricks as a way to create these models to achieve better relationships. They had multiple ways to see their current ways of seeing core values being lived or desire to be lived through this ah-inspiring technique of engagement.

“Values mapping was a good learning exercise.  The values discussed are essential and common to all the communities represented.  It was nice to have the LEGO exercise and other discussions with the service providers,” said Tigst Demeke, a research scientist at the Canadian Grains Commission, who volunteers for Excel Family & Youth.

“One of the objectives of this learning event is for service providers and community members to understand and know each other better.  At the end of the day, both have similar goals and strengthening the relationship is important.  Working together is essential to understand the problems that the communities face and tackle them effectively,” Demeke said. “The CMCCF is doing a nice job in bringing together the cultural communities and service providers for their mutual working relationship.”

Demeke said he will take the learning from the evening back to members of the Ethiopian community. He would like to participate in future coalition events.

Steven Feldgaier, Community Engagement and Allies Facilitator for our coalition, said the coalition is working with service providers to develop a “community of allies who are willing to support the work and the mission of the coalition” by sharing their expertise.