I am a culture broker. I bridge, link, and mediate between different cultural communities to reduce conflict and produce change.
I decode cultural confusion.
I work with communities and organizations to navigate that nuanced area between cultures where understanding can get sticky, but also where innovation is born. More specifically, I work with non-Indigenous (settler) organizations to improve their partnerships with Indigenous people, whether formal or informal. I help them build the internal infrastructure to support change, and to manage the expectations that accompany settler-Indigenous partnerships.
Why you need a culture broker
You’re doing something your organization has probably never done before, or you want to change how things have been done. There are huge expectations attached to your work–on both sides of the partnership. Cultural concepts of relationships, success, change, work plans, reconciliation, support, development, timelines–these are just some of the things that can come up that may potentially upend your project, and create confusion in your relationships.
This is where my expertise at culture brokerage comes in. I can help you navigate those bumps in the road and smooth out the path forward.
Take these two common situations in which you might find yourself:
Your partnership with an Indigenous organization could be better
Your organization has just come to an agreement with an Indigenous organization or community to create a long-term partnership that you both believe will bring long-term benefits. Perhaps this partnership is part of a larger commitment you’re making to improving your relationship with Indigenous people and move you along the path of reconciliation. Maybe you’ve received special funding to do the work–it’s attached to a very strict timeline, and you have to account for your spending. At the start of the project relevant staff directly involved in the project receive specialized training on how to work with Indigenous people. A well-crafted work plan has been created in collaboration with your Indigenous partner that everyone agrees on. You leave your team to get to work. About six months in, at a quarterly meeting, it surfaces that some objectives of the work plan are not being met, and it looks like they never will be. A key person from the Indigenous partner is no longer on the project–you’re not sure why. Your team is stressed out because they can’t seem to get anything done and communications have become strained. Everyone is at a loss–the team is so committed to making this work, and the project is vital, and the Indigenous partner seemed really invested–so what’s going wrong?
The Indigenous Relationship Manager you hired burned out
Your organization wants to expand its work with Indigenous communities, or improve current relationships. Perhaps there is even a mandate from the powers that be that this has got to happen. You’re under pressure to make this work. There is dedicated funding on the line, and the project is very public–a lot has been invested in making this a success. You hire an Indigenous person to be the point person in your organization. They will manage all Indigenous relations and solve any conflicts that arise, craft a strategic plan, create PR documents, manage external relations with other organizations, and support people working in your organization to have better relationships. It is a big job, and it’s best to hire someone from the Indigenous community to do the work–they have the required cultural knowledge and relationships with communities. About a year in, that person comes to you saying they need a break–they’re burning out from the workload, and some things are happening at home. They take an indefinite leave of absence. During this time, relations with the communities stall. No one in the office is really qualified to take on this person’s role. Partnerships begin to falter and you hear that people are frustrated. You’re not sure when the employee will come back from their leave, and you don’t have the funds to hire someone in their absence. How could this have been avoided?
If these situations sound familiar to you, let’s talk.
If you’re just about to embark on something new and want to minimize the risk of something like this happening on your project, let’s talk.
I can help you troubleshoot what’s happening, build solutions, make a plan to manage risks and work in that exciting space where cultural contrast creates innovative cultural partnerships.