bright day environment 356977

26 November 2018 Kate Palmer

Sport and recreation has an essential role in forming and maintaining the fabric of our communities and our society overall. A vibrant sport and recreation culture can provide social benefits far beyond the sporting field – to underpin happy, healthy, cohesive and resilient communities. Sheryne Lok, WSP Opus Parks, Sport and Recreation Consultant, takes a closer look at what’s happening in Auckland.

The growth in cultural diversity has created challenges for individuals and organisations around the world. Sport New Zealand has found that despite the increase in Asian and Chinese population in Auckland, the Asian community has below average levels of weekly participation and are less likely to take part in competitive sports and activities. This coincides with research that found many sport and recreation organisations lack capability and knowledge about cultural diversity.

Because of this, I focused my master’s thesis on “Cultural intelligence and how it influences Chinese sport and recreation participation”. My thesis explores how a sport facilitator’s perspective of cultural intelligence influences sport and recreation participation in the Chinese community. 

As a starting point, let’s look at cultural intelligence.

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is often described as an individual’s ability to connect across cultures and to operate effectively in unfamiliar surroundings (Earley & Ang, 2003). It’s the ability to engage in a set of behaviours that largely focuses on an individual’s capability to function effectively across cultures.

The four elements of cultural intelligence are seen to help achieve effective intercultural experiences:

  1. CQ-Drive- One’s capability to generate strategies when interacting in new cultural environments
  2. CQ- Knowledge- One’s cultural knowledge of norms in different cultural settings
  3. CQ-Strategy- Cultural awareness during cultural interactions
  4. CQ-Action- One’s attitude and personality when interacting with different cultures (Earley & Ang, 2003).

So, why is cultural intelligence important?

Not all cultures and ethnicities are the same, so you can’t treat them as if they are. Community sport clubs and sport organisations need to be better equipped with knowledge and resources on how to engage with ethnic communities and how to increase their participation in sport and recreation (Spoonley & Taiapa, 2009).

I’ve had numerous sport and recreation managers ask me what they can do to improve their cultural intelligence and the cultural intelligence of their staff members. To start with, it means firstly understanding your community:

  • Who is in our community? Do we know your community composition?
  • Do you know the sport and recreation needs of your community? Are you meeting the sport and recreation needs of the community?
  • How else can you deliver sport and recreation to different communities?Put yourself in the shoes of a new migrant who speaks no English. How would you feel? How are you communicating with those of a different ethnic background and culture?

One great example, is the ActivAsian programme, which is run across Auckland. This programme targets new Asian migrants and Asian individuals to participate in sport and recreation, through:

  1. Encouraging sport and recreation participation (Have-A-Go Days)
  2. Improving access to sport and recreation information (helping with translation)
  3. Improving opportunities to participate in sport and recreation.

Secondly, you need buy-in from your whole organisation. This needs to encompass the attitude and values that promote cultural intelligence in order for these changes to occur.

Increasing ethnic diversity is changing the demand for community sport and the way community sport and recreation is delivered. Therefore, it’s essential that sport organisations are able to develop their cultural intelligence if they are to cater and encourage sport and recreation participation from our super diverse population.

About: Sheryne is currently working on a number of parks, sport and recreation projects, which includes: masterplanning, strategic plans, feasibility studies and needs assessments. She is completing a Master of Business, majoring in Sport Leadership and Management at Auckland University of Technology. If you would like to discuss either sport and recreation or her work on cultural intelligence, please feel free to email her.