The cross-cultural ravine: Why the bridge is necessary, and how to go about building it

Jonker C. ; Cronje J.I. (2000)


This article will, therefore, focus on the topic of cross-cultural competence as essential element to social work theory and practice. Firstly, a brief historical overview of multicultural awareness and its progression from inception to the present-day context will be provided as a means of sketching the background to this discussion. Thereafter, attention will be directed at conceptually clarifying the foundations to this discussion, namely: culture, 'multicultural' and cross-cultural competence. This will in turn be followed by a discussion of the dimensions along which cultures have been found to differ - particularly in terms of values and beliefs held firm by differing cultural orientations. The discourse will then focus on the call for the incorporation of efforts at enhancing the multicultural competence of practitioners in social work training in terms of an overarching goal for such structured training as well as a few principles involved, but with special emphasis placed on the use of supervision as a tool for achieving this. For this purpose, a tricomponential model will be suggested in which value, knowledge, and skill elements will be identified as being relevant to cross-cultural competence, and the role of both supervisor and supervisee will be indicated in the application of these elements. The relevance and necessity of this cross-cultural effectiveness will be indicated by means of identifying the more global ramifications that it may bear for societal transformation. Finally, the discussion will conclude with a brief overview of certain threats to cross-cultural competence which need to be considered when discussing the issue of multicultural social work, so as not to create the impression of such competence being infallible and the social worker effectively practising it as being immune to the natural occurrence of practice mistakes.

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