(2) Cultural Values
The second layer is Cultural Values:
Development of cultural values
“Cultural values are the aspects of life which a group views as important and desirable. These values reflect the goals, morals, and wishes of a group, such as the way one should live, the priorities one should have, and the understanding that one has about our position in the world. Cultural values can be influenced by various features of the environment and history, including socioeconomic status, gender, race/ethnicity, geographic location, acculturation level, and religion” (López, 2011, p. 265)
As a personal interpretation of this layer, in an intervention, you are representing not only your own values, you become an ambassador of your culture. With your behaviour, your decisions and your actions, you would help the others to have an idea about the culture you are representing. When you travel, this effect is intrinsic, and your contribution could be remarkable to other culture. That is why you need to take care of the “with” with this layer. The misunderstood or abuse of this concept may unshackle, for instance, susceptibility issues that can prompt risks in the intervention.
The researcher’s intervention
A researcher needs to be aware of what are the cultural values that he is going to bring into the intervention. In this regard, it is vital to learn and be open to understanding, not necessarily accept and adopt the cultural values of the target community. It is understandable that clashes might happen between cultural values from each side and is possible also that many other cultural values coincide. The protection of this layer in the W is in the sense that you may not pretend to impose cultural values that divert from the community ones. For instance, time orientation is a big issue here. Time orientation is a standard western aesthetic value. In Tiira-Uganda, time is not necessarily gold. In Uganda, the day goes with the sun. An individual has to fulfil a series of collective and sometimes individual activities linked with a mutual benefit, that goes from the rise to the set of the sun. There is no hurry in the hour, neither in the minutes. The activity must be done in the day. And there is a collective pressure to achieve the action. Otherwise, the punishment is severe because it places the individual in risk to be pulled apart from the benefit of the collective achievements.
So what should be the position of a researcher who has the cultural value of the time? Firstly, you have to apply the first layer, critical proximity. Then after some time, you could have noticed that punctuality is not a cultural value practised by the community.
The position should be more persuasive than coercive. Time is vital when the team have to conduct a two weeks intervention with a tide agenda and demanding indicators are those who lead the kind of fieldwork approved by the donor.
Persuasion not coercion
Once in the field, and as part of the collective design of the intervention, you need to explain and persuade the participants that new rules need to be defined by the action group. The new rules indicate a redefinition of normative assumptions that the action group need to address. You can lay in your cultural values being punctual in all the interactions as leading with the example. But you should not push the people to follow your rhythm because the cultural clash will situate you very far from the “with”. They need to assimilate the risk of losing the opportunity to take the best advantage of the training, talking about the miner to miner training.
Do not pretend to “change” cultural values and make distance when they try to do the same with you. I remember a now funny but then an embarrassing situation where one of the visitors was told by a leader of the community, that if he decided to stay as part of the village community, they would find a piece of land and two wives for him as compensation. In this case, for instance, the locals saw the situation from their cultural values barrier not from the foreigner one. The proposal might be interesting for a local, but not necessarily attractive from a western point of view. On the contrary, it became a reason to generate distance and a little coldness in the relationship, because this was not understood either from a conscious state of cultural difference.
When the researcher is conscient of the concept of cultural values and the importance on finding the balance between understanding, accepting and taking distance depending on the situations, the relationship and the communicational process will improve substantially. You have to be respectful with cultural values that are might seems inexplicable and unacceptable from your cultural point of view. You must use your critical thinking but never try to interfere unless you can see things that pay in risk your life or your team´s.