Why You Must Have a “Cultural Broker”


 

 

teachers classA Cultural Broker often wears many hats, and can work in many different settings. Some work in education settings, at schools, and others work in child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health settings, and other family serving agencies, and that is the short list. There is one common thread that is inextricably woven into the abovementioned environments, and that is that Cultural Brokers build bridges and work with families.

So, who are they? The bulk of public, charter and private school systems identify these professionals as: Parent Coordinators, Family Liaisons, Family Advocates, Parent Leadership Coordinators, Parent Support Managers. In the social services fields, they may hold the title of: Family Support Services Program Coordinators, Family Workers, Case Management Specialists, Care Coordinators, and a few others, as well. Despite the array of job titles, the central functions are very similar….at least insofar as their work with families and children is concerned.

 In a school-based setting, what do they do?:Specifically, they build bridges between families and schools within the framework of 3 PRIMARY STRATEGIES:

  1. Parent capacity building,
  2. Culturally-specific relationship building, and
  3. Systemic capacity building.

These three strategies, when developed and utilized effectively, constitute a successfully reciprocal, collective and relational family-school collaboration out of which meaningful alliances are established and maintained.

These school-based staff, community-based personnel, consultants or volunteers typically, at one time, sought only to:

  1. educate parents to support the school’s agenda to improve student achievement
  2. connect parents to resources and information, and
  3. advocate with parents and school staff to promote change or decrease conflict.

That has been proven unsuccessful in encouraging family engagement nor did it raise student academic performance with any significance. Today’s new Cultural Brokers, however, promote more equitable collaboration between families and schools. This new and improved cultural brokering seeks to:

  • develop parent knowledge and capacity to support student learning,
  • build relationships between families AND between families and schools, and
  • catalyze systemic change to enable parents to influence schools.

 Cultural brokering effectively employs reciprocal, collective, and relational strategies that move beyond the traditional ‘best practices’ to become emergent ‘next practices’ in family engagement.

The Cultural Broker: 

  1. builds two-way reciprocal communication between families and schools,
  2. uses collective strategies to engage families together to support their child and all children in the community, and
  3. enables parents to build relational power with each other to change school systems to better serve their children.

Cultural brokers help parents build capacity to navigate schools to meet their children’s needs and support their learning. In lots of schools, communication still flows in one direction-school to home. More reciprocal strategies identify or build on families expertise and knowledge of their own child and community to support student success. Brokers use native language and culturally-responsive practices to provide support, facilitate and design programming to build knowledge and enhance capacity to access schools. They encourage parents to learn from one another, not just individually, separately, but collectively. There is power to change systems in numbers that present as one unified voice.

broker group

Reciprocal brokering involves building programs that are driven by parents’ needs, concerns, issues and priorities, rather than by educator assumptions about what parents should know and do. Having other parents from the community facilitate lessons and assume leadership  roles is a key to successful brokering, as it builds collective power, develops advocacy skills, leverages resources within a community,, and utilizes culturally responsive practices. Brokering is more family-centered, than family-focused, as the focus is on leadership and empowerment. No power struggles, but power sharing!

Workshops and psychoeducational, skills  building activities are co-designed by educators and parents as equitable collaborations.

To increase efficacy of both educators and parenting, cultural brokering must involve the creation or designation of a parent/family-dedicated space within the school-physical room or area. This area is not just accessible to the parents in the school, but the community at large. Events centered around issues such as transportation, housing, drug use, immigration and a wide range of others can be planned and held in this space. The room can be used as a family room for parents to gather and hang out. Yes, hang out, during school hours. These spaces help cultivate new relationships, and helps parents establish networks between parents while connecting them to their children’s learning progress at school.

space school

Giving parents a safe space where they feel welcome to sit, chat, learn, share stories and build each other’s capacity, helps strengthen communities, alters previously negative perceptions of the school, and creates community among and between parents and families. All of these aspects benefit school communities and educators who work in the school. It benefits students, as they see parents being cordial, pro-social, they are more likely to engage with their peers in more pro-social ways, problem solve more effectively positive, and then again….. When children know and see that their parents are at or near the school, or can be there at any time, they are less likely to misbehave. Everybody’s child is on theiur best behavior when their parent or a neighbor, friendly with their parent, shows up in school. So, everyone wins!

Cultural brokering involves providing opportunities
for parent voice and influence in school or district
decision-making. In contrast to typical scenarios in which
principals or district leaders make decisions unilaterally, these strategies create avenues for parents to work
together to influence change through their relationships. Cultural Brokers in schools act more proactively, as professional bridge builders between schools and families AND the community at large. With goals and objectives, as a collaborative partnership, are aligned amongst all collectively,  all eyes can focus on the ultimate goal: maximized student achievement, family empowerment and strengthened communities.

muslim parents

The beauty of  an approach to engagement that places focus on families’ voices is that we are better informed, more responsive in program designs, and can provide supportive services that are guided by family-friendly practice protocols. Broadened perspectives and cultural-linguistically responsive practices cultural brokering moves us away from what ‘they'[families/educators] can do for ‘us’ and towards what ‘we’ can do for one another.  “How do we form alliance with schools to enhance the role of educator and parent?” ……in a place where parents. educators and other neighborhood stakeholders can call the school facilities a community hub for multi-cultural, multi-generational  21st Century learning and productive global living for all.  

2 thoughts on “Why You Must Have a “Cultural Broker”

  1. JaDonnia B. says:

    Intentional, mindful, and committed to building community and cultural bridges to collaboration. If we focus on the ultimate stakeholder, the children as they are our future, with or without us, we can not only translate concerns and create transformative global communities.

    Like

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