Culture and Service: 5 Tools for Professional Public Servants


The quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is often used in the business world, but it is also very relevant in the social sector. Many times, professional public servants come from communities and cultures that differ from those they serve. Their efforts are very honorable, however, in too many instances, the culture of those being served is an afterthought.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve been a public servant. I’ve served in schools in Florida, communities in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas, in city governments, a foundation, and national advocacy campaigns, for example. I even earned a Masters of Public Service degree. Throughout all of these experiences and training, culture was very seldom discussed.

My experiences in the Delta really highlighted the importance of understanding culture. Although I was born and raised in the area, I never understood the role culture plays in developing the region and creating a great future. I didn’t see the importance of culture until I got in the trenches of development work. Fortunately, my experiences in the place I call home, taught me to always consider values, beliefs, behaviors, community histories and power dynamics when developing interventions in communities where I serve.

Below are a few tools for professional public servants who want to understand the role of culture in service. 

1. The Peace Corp’s Culture Matters Workbook

2. Community HealthCorps Training

3. Useful Concepts for the Practice of Community Engagement

4. Community Attitudes and Community Development

5. Cultural Mapping

What role does culture play in your professional public service?

Post by Andrea Price, Social Change Strategist and Radio Show Host at The Giving Net