Cultural Consciousness

1 minute read Updated:

It’s easy to take culture for granted, because it can be so central as to become invisible. For example, “American” culture is mostly invisible to many Americans because they can take it for granted. It is usually when encountering the culture of other countries that Americans experience “culture shock” and reflect on American culture. Most people participate in a variety of cultures, based on gender, race, ethnicity, family, profession, faith, hobbies, and more. An individual’s mix of cultures helps create their identity, and comes with a complexity of norms, practices, and languages.

When multiple cultures have the same end goal, it’s easy for people to presume their culture resembles the culture of their counterparts. For example, the cultures of DIY-individual innovators working to improve their lives and health differs substantially from the cultures of institutional legacy actors in health and healthcare, even when the end goal of improving the lives of patients is shared. One major cultural difference, in this example, is that the activities of DIY-individuals often take place outside their traditional profession (“day jobs”), as additional, voluntary effort, for which they do not receive financial compensation. Their activities may include a range of efforts, from coding, development, testing, building, and evaluating other community solutions, to collaborating, and discussing with, or helping fellow patients, etc.

For institutional legacy actors (e.g. researchers, doctors, insurers, etc), most activities related to improving the lives of patients are generally captured within their professional time. This covers core work, phone calls, meetings, travel, conferences, engaging patients, writing, thinking, and planning and implementing projects.

Some activities overlap between DIY communities and legacy actors - such as meetings between stakeholder groups, conference presentations, research design, and planning and implementing new projects. So, what happens when different cultures interact through these activities? There are places where cultural norms, practices, and languages lead to divergent expectations. For example, honoraria or compensation for meeting attendance is crucial when participation is not part of your profession, and cost reimbursement might be commonplace for institutions, but burdensome to individuals.

Rather than allow divergent expectations to undermine potential collaboration, we see numerous opportunities to better understand how shared end goals could be more strategically approached by developing cultural consciousness for the people with whom we interact in inter- and multi-disciplinary settings.

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