WMCC Promotes Diversity, Cultural Competency Effort

December 31, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan Chamber Coalition has a strategy for West Michigan’s economic success that revolves around supporting and enhancing diversity and cultural competency throughout the region.

The WMCC, a collaboration between Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and Grand Haven/Spring Lake/Ferrysburg chambers of commerce began work on its plan following the 2006 release of Michigan Future Inc.’s report, “A New Agenda for a New Michigan.” The WMCC endorsed the report and its No. 1 strategy for West Michigan’s economic success, which called for building a culture that condemns discrimination and segregation and welcomes talented people from outside Michigan.

“The Michigan Future report focused our attention on what we needed to do to build that ‘welcoming culture’ throughout our West Michigan region,” said Sonya Hughes, vice president of diversity programs with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and a lead facilitator of the report. The WMCC plan, “Strategies for a Culturally Competent Region,” is based on the premise that the creation of a culturally competent approach is critical to the survival of West Michigan’s economy, quality of life and continued success as a region.

The WMCC began by gathering information from 150 participants in 13 focus groups in all four communities to determine their understanding of cultural competency and to gauge the level of such competency in each region. Other research, such as the Michigan Future report and a National Urban League report, provided additional information, perspectives and direction.

According to “Strategies for a Culturally Competent Region,” to attract and retain talent, the goal must be to create a culturally competent region that embraces different cultures, making every culture feel accepted and equal. In order to reach that goal, the report indicates, everyone in the region must take responsibility for progress toward cultural competence. The report then spells out the steps that need to be taken by members of the community, employers, government entities, individuals, the educational community and the faith community. It concludes with action steps WMCC can take to expand, support and promote ongoing educational opportunities and pursue collaborative connections among cities, ethnic and cultural groups.

“We felt it was our responsibility to develop an action plan for employers and other key stakeholders that underscored the economic and social importance related to workforce diversity and cultural competency,” said Hughes.  “We can’t sit back and wait.  This is an urgent issue that is critical to West Michigan’s future.”    

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