I’ve been contemplating the concept of cross cultural supervision, since re-reading an article on ‘cultural supervision’ by J. Elkington (A Kaupapa Māori supervision context – cultural and professional in The Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Journal; Issue 26(1), 2014)). I really appreciated the assertion in this article that all supervision is cultural, so therefore cultural supervision and professional supervision are the same thing.  It is possible that we may be well aware of this when we engage in supervision with someone who has ‘ethnic’ difference to us, and we may be well practiced in finding the unique and the similar spaces when this ethnic difference  seems more ‘obvious’.  I wonder if we may have to work more consciously when the ethnic difference is more subtle or less apparent? 

Culture is so much broader and so much more diverse than ethnicity alone.  We experience cultural through a rich blend of birth and life-space experiences. So if we consider each supervision as a cross cultural exchange I wonder how this changes our meeting, greeting/ whanaungatanga process and even the questions we ask.  In a cross cultural perspective, each supervision actually becomes bi-cultural  – my cultural reality and my supervisee’s culture.

I find it challenging when honestly reflecting on the question “to what extent a bi-cultural lens is attended to in each and every supervision encounter” in my supervision room.  We can only truly understand or know our own lens; and do not know what we do not know about another’s lens, or cultural reality.  So to ensure supervision as a cross cultural and bi-cultural event we must hold our own assumptions lightly, in order to inquire into anothers’.  Wow – honestly that can be hard! So easy to sit here and type but so much harder to do every moment, amongst the mire of assumption and subtlety.  We embody our own culture.  How as supervisors do we manage to ensure another view has equal space in supervision room, rather than ours?  How do you do this?

Continuing to ponder on this draws me again to hold the aspiration of the ‘not knowing and enquiry stance’ in supervision. What strategies assist you to have a bi-cultural stance in supervision? How do you hold onto your ‘not knowing and enquiring’ stance?

I have no clique answers today, just reflection and questions and the reminder to the call and challenge of ensuring all supervision is bi-cultural – an exciting space to be in the supervision room……

Mā te wa